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On The Pressure Created By Lending And Sharing Your Favourite Books

A photo of a copy of Jane Eyre with a chain and padlock around it.  The cover of the book has a key on it.

When writing my general discussion post about lending, I realised there was a whole other subject involved that deserved it’s own piece.

There is just something different about lending a favourite book compared to lending a book you aren’t so keen on or are yet to read. As I said last time, it feels worse if someone doesn’t like a book you lent that you love, because it’s almost a personal affront.

There is likely more pressure on the receiver’s end, too. If you know the book you’re borrowing is your friend’s favourite, you’re more likely to make more effort to read and hopefully enjoy it. You’ll try to read as much of it as you can stand, even if you hate it. Either that or it feels easier to be dishonest and say you’re reading it, even if in actuality you speak the truth and tell them it wasn’t a good match. It’s rather like when you’re gifted your own copy. I gave Pride And Prejudice to my mother and she spent an age over three chapters. When I asked about it she said it wasn’t for her but she was keen to let me know she’d read those three chapters regardless. I know she felt pressured to try it.

And who doesn’t want to please the person who gave you the book?

Could lending your favourite book ruin a friendship? Not by itself and certainly not unless you lent an edition worth a good deal of money that the person subsequently lost. But if you lend your favourite book and your friend dislikes it, that’s a small sign of difference. And if you love books and it happens often you might find you’re not as compatible as you thought, that the discussions each of you want to have do not match often enough.

To end this post I’m going to speak of something that happened early on in my relationship.

This is a particularly personal experience to recount because my boyfriend’s favourite books are those of his ex-girlfriend. She had introduced him to them. I received the books (a series) as a gift one Christmas, something we’d already discussed, and to be honest it would have been difficult to even consider not giving them a go (in part because the genre is one I enjoy). But of course with the books being a legacy of sorts, I did feel pressure to enjoy them. I felt the want to please. I think most people see the goodness in not being negative of a partner’s past relationships, especially if there is nothing to speak of anyway. But still I did feel pressure and, good books or not, it was an awkward situation. In a way it still is, even if I’ve happily incorporated the books into my reading and do enjoy them a lot.

It’s personal, it feels a lot like you’re giving a part of yourself to the other person, and it is so different to recommending a book you’ve not read. No one’s going to stop lending because of it, but it’s a concept worth thinking about.

Over to you – how do you feel about lending favourites?


Laurie C

June 24, 2013, 11:28 am

I try to only lend a book if a friend or family member specifically asks for it, but sometimes I can’t help myself! I actually have a book someone lent me that is quite long and hadn’t made its way up my TBR list yet. I had only mentioned that I’d been “thinking of reading that”. Now I’ve had it for a few months and still haven’t read it!


June 24, 2013, 1:06 pm

I would say I am more into recommending favorites than lending them, but the outcome is the same. If they don’t like the book, I feel sad and disappointed. I had two people simply be unable to read all the way through The Knife of Never Letting Go, which really disappointed me. I didn’t feel like it made us more incompatible though. Reaction to books is such an individualized thing!


June 24, 2013, 2:11 pm

I’d rather recommend a book than lend one. It does make a bit nervous though. There’s always that “oh my gosh I hope he/she likes it!” feeling :)


June 24, 2013, 4:12 pm

I am a bit of a pusher, I’m afraid. I send my favorites to people sometimes, for occasions like birthdays. I don’t tend to lend out my favorites, but buy another copy for someone, in the hopes that if they don’t care for it, they’ll pass it on to someone else. I’ve even done this with my kids–I bought a paperback copy of Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World to give to Eleanor, rather than letting her borrow my copy. She might have taken it off to Iowa, and then I might have needed to re-read a passage!


June 24, 2013, 5:59 pm

I’m not sure I ever have lent a favourite book out to people. Then again most of friends don’t read. Part me is scared to pass on books I love because if someone else hates it I think it might spoil it a little for me. I think this fear comes from something similar happening when I’ve shared films I love. So I find it safer to pass on books I enjoyed while keeping hold of my all-time loves unless someone begs to read it.


June 24, 2013, 8:56 pm

I couldn’t bear to lend someone my only copy of a favourite book, mainly because I just know I’d be consumed by the urge to read it as soon as it left the house! On the other hand (I’m with Jeanne), I have bought copies of favourite books for people. Even this is a risky business: the books I buy for others tend to be either acknowledged bestsellers, or at the lighter end of the spectrum – I bought a copy of Monica Dickens’s ‘Mariana’ for a colleague as a farewell gift, for example, and fortunately she loved it. The same with ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’ for my mum. I’m always nervous about recommending something particularly close to my heart, though. There are some authors and characters whom I love so fiercely that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend someone else not loving them in the same way. :-)


June 24, 2013, 9:39 pm

Both my friend, Kitty and I dislike each other’s favourite books. I actually wrote a blog on hers.

Enjoyment is so dependent on where you are in life, what pain or pleasure you are experiencing and in general, how you percieve the world. It is nigh impossible to replicate this with another person, unless you are relatively similar and read the book within quick succession of each other.

Almost everyone I recommend Persuasion too doesn’t enjoy it as I did. I read it a long time ago and I see that as the reason – same with The Alchemist, which if I read now I would find overly sentimental, I read it at the perfect time in my life.

I also find my more introverted friends like different books I love to the more extroverted ones. There is so much to factor in. I actually try not to be too enthusiastic to certain people about what I love, because when they don’t feel the same way it almost feels like a judgement – which is paranoid on my behalf I suppose.

I don’t think a friend disliking my taste in books would end a friendship, I would value their differing taste – it’s the perfect situation for a friendly and stimulating debate, and they may throw up some valid points you never really thought of.

Jenny @ Reading the End (formerly Jenny’s Books)

June 25, 2013, 12:24 am

I’m a pusher too, like Jeanne. I push and push and push — sometimes it is obvious Legal Sister wishes I would chill out and let her decide for herself. It’s the most obvious manifestation of my basically bossy character. :p


June 25, 2013, 7:21 am

I so agree with the sentiment about sharing a bit of oneself – I am often reluctant to recommend books to certain people, not solely because of divergent taste but because it is crushing when/how they dislike something I loved.


June 27, 2013, 7:29 am

I don’t have so many friends who like reading, so I don’t lend a lot of books, and obviously I don’t borrow them either.
Time ago a friend lent me some books that I found horrible!! But well, that didn’t mean we were going to stop our friendship, it was just that our tastes were not the same, so we stopped lending and borrowing books ;)

And about your boyfriend, my first reaction would have been to throw them trying to hit his head, causing as damage as possible :P I’m not very polite when the ex-girlfriends’ stuff comes up…

Literary Feline

July 2, 2013, 9:29 pm

I do find it hard sometimes to lend favorite books to others. There’s the physical aspect (I have rules I make very clear up front) and then there’s the pressure–will they hate it? I don’t want them to feel bad for not something I liked.

It doesn’t bother me so much when it comes to friends or acquaintances in terms of my taking it personally if they don’t like a book I loved. But when it comes to someone close to me–like my husband–I can sometimes take it personally. There are certain books I won’t let my husband read because he is so hard to please and I don’t want him hating the books I love. I feel hurt, when he doesn’t agree with me about a book. Silly, I know, but true. I think it’s why I keep putting off reading Jane Eyre with him. LOL



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