“Thank you so much,” you say when somebody lends you a book, unsolicited. You had told them at some point the 500 page biography on Lord Byron sounded interesting. Their response, apparently out of generosity (but really out of desperate loneliness), was to force the tome upon you. “I hope you like it,” their voice says, but their smile says something else: “Read it and talk to me about it.” You should not read that book. Here’s why.
Reading is very personal. You spend all this time putting another person’s thoughts into your head. The author helps you create a world to live in, no matter if the book is speculative fiction, psychological realism, nonfiction, etc. It’s a private psychic connection you share with another person separated by time and space.
But okay, returning to reality for a second, you can’t then take that author-reader relationship and make a menage a troi out of it. Author-reader-reader relationships are not the same. Things start getting muddled. The other reader’s imagination is not quite the same as yours. You might even get jealous of their reading of the book. All of a sudden, the other reader’s relationship with the author seems much more fully realized than yours.
That’s what happens when you force someone to read one of your favorite books. You put them in a position you actually don’t want them to be in. You don’t actually want that person to have different opinions on that book than yours.
If you happen upon someone who also loves your favorite book, though, then that is a different story. It’s a special kind of satisfied when I meet someone who also, independent of my involvement, loves Frans G. Bengtsson’s The Long Ships. I could talk about Red Orm for hours because he’s a person in my head, and he also happens to be a person in that other person’s head.
The other major reason you should never ever lend someone a book without them asking is time. If you’re lucky enough to be a speedy reader (not a speed reader–those people are wrong, sorry), then you don’t have to worry about a book soaking up swaths of your free time. But for the rest of us plebs, reading a book is a major time commitment. If you only have a half hour to read every day, then it could take you weeks to finish an average-sized book. Compound that with your TBR (to be read) list, and you’re looking at a pretty serious reading timetable. There is no room for that collection of cat essays your friend has lent you. No room for cats.
So, no, friend. I do not want that book. I do not want it. Not even a little. Not only will it take up space on my TBR list, it will also force you into a jealous rage because my relationship with the author will be different than yours. You will hate me. You lending me that book will the death of our friendship. Lending a friend a book, unsolicited, is like unraveling the fabric of time and space. You, book lender, are a destroyer of worlds.
Feature Image Via iStoryBooks