If you’re anything like me, there’s no such thing as having too many books. I love books. I want other people to love books. But I want them to love their own books, not mine.
When a friend asks to borrow a book, I get the same feeling inside that I would if a stranger asked to borrow my wallet: initial bewilderment, followed by suspicion and distrust.
My aversion to loaning out my books is not only because my books are filled with highlights and notes that I may wish to consult at a moment’s notice, or that I fear that some miscreant will crack the spine or dog-ear the pages. I don’t like to loan books because I know that once a book is borrowed it rarely returns.
C.H. Spurgeon, who had a personal library of 12,000 books, was especially aware of the problem of unreturned books.
In a letter dated October 9th of 1886, Spurgeon wrote:
I do not like being security for a man that he will return books, for no ordinary mortals ever do so. Please hold me harmless by scrupulously returning each vol. intact and with promptness. I don’t like it, but I have done it for you. God bless you.1
During an address to his beloved Pastors’ College, Spurgeon said:
…If you feel you must have more books, I recommend to you a little judicious borrowing. You will most likely have some friends who have books, and who will be kind enough to let you use them for a time; and I specially advise you, in order to borrow again, to return whatsoever is lent, promptly, and in good condition.
I hope there is not so much need that I should say much about returning books, as there would have been a few months ago, for I have lately met with a statement by a clergyman, which has very much raised my opinion of human nature; for he declares that he has a personal acquaintance with three gentlemen who have actually returned borrowed umbrellas!