When Bad Things Happen to Good Books

August 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe, Reading | 21 Comments
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A while back, the Tuesday Thingers blogged about book swapping. In my post, I specifically mentioned lending my copy of Aberrations by Penelope Przekop to a friend of mine named Marjorie, and that when I lend a book, I do so being okay with the fact that it may come back to me damaged or not at all. As it turns out, that was a prescient post. Marjorie took this book with her on a business trip. As with her other previous trips, she writes up really fun stories about her time away and sends them out to all of us. Here is an excerpt from this trip that directly relates back to my book:

I guess I’ve passed the point where I get carded, even occasionally and when in soft lighting. That’s okay though, because I get to remember watching Wonder Woman and Simon & Simon. And that’s Important.

A band is about to start. I think the chances of this being music I would actually enjoy are very slim. Especially given the crowd. They all seem to be middle-aged work friends with their work outfits still on. The conversations around me involve:

• Teenaged children
• Wine
• Email
• Wraps (whether wraps as in food or clothes, I can’t tell)
• Huckleberries (I swear to god, this was a full half-hour discussion)

I’m clearly the best-dressed person here. I’m wearing a shirt with puffed short sleeves, thin navy stripes and a white collar and cuffs. My jeans are very dark-washed and are long and narrow at the ends, and I’m wearing navy round-toed pumps.

I ordered salmon on a bed of arugula with a bright red chili sauce on top. I finished the lobotomy book and am reading a book I borrowed from my friend, called “Aberrations”.
Oh goodness, this lady that is about to play the piano has on a bizarre black velvet outfit with matching headband and frizzy hair. I’m having serious doubts about what this music will be. Turns out it’s classic jazz, so I decide to stay.


A bee started bonsai diving at my food and my borrowed book flew up in the air and came down on my salmon, splashing my splendid shirt in the process. I finally managed to trap it in a glass of water with a saucer over it, but it wasn’t soon enough to spare my friend’s book.
Oh man. I hope she’s not pissed, because it’s pretty royally f***** up with bee sauce.

I only wish that I had a video of Marjorie telling me this story in person. She is a wonderful story teller and was probably a renowned tribal story teller in a previous life. I almost peed myself when she told me that her significant other said, “Uh, I think you owe Jennifer a new book.” Not at all. She really loved Przekop’s novel and that’s the most important thing to me. Now I have another story to go along with the book. That’s worth much more to me than the ARC. I’ll happily buy a brand new copy of Aberrations, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to look at the book without thinking about bee sauce.

Do you have any funny stories about book lending gone bad or has something bad ever happened to a copy of a book you borrowed from someone else? I’d love to hear your stories.



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  1. This is a good story! It would be hard to look at the book without thinking about this again, that’s for sure.

    Mine is a book I borrowed from a good friend. New book-hardcover. I decided to take a nice relaxing bath. When I was done reading I put the book on the tub ledge (I have done this a million times with no consequences). Well this time I’m positive the book decided to jump in-there is no way I could have accidentally nudged it. lol. My friend said not to bother buying a new one but hey come on-it was a new hardcover. Of course I bought her a new one and that was the end of that.

  2. It’s not nearly as entertaining, but my husband is a little OCD about his books. He’s a purist–you don’t break the spines, you don’t write in them or bend pages…basically, when you’re finished with it, the book should look like it has never been read. This means that whenever we’re both interested in a book, we generally buy 2 copies of it because he knows what I’m going to do to mine, and he’s SO not okay with it. He’s also not a big fan of lending books to friends…

    But when my best friend (who is VERY OCD, in an almost clinical way) asked to borrow one of his books in college (I don’t even remember what it was now), he figured that if he were ever going to loan a book to someone, she was the safest bet.

    Not so much. She wouldn’t even tell us what happened to it–she just showed up a few weeks later with a fresh new copy for him and said it was best if he not see his old book in its current condition.

    Me? I don’t mind the occasional coffee drip or food stain–I think it gives them character. I have, however, dropped a few books in the bathtub…that’s a hard one to come back from.

  3. I generally don’t loan my books out, but that’s a great story. If I were to loan a book out and have it come back damaged like that, I’d want a good story to go along with it, which it sounds like you got. Character is one thing, but that looks like a whole cast of characters.

    I’m glad everything worked out for the best, though.

  4. My books that I’ve lent that have come back to me damaged (or not at all) don’t have good stories like that – more often they had a cat knock a glass of water on them or got left by the pool when it started raining. And never with an offer to replace.

    These people are now on limited borrowing privileges. 🙂

  5. LOL! Great story. I can’t think of anything like that.

  6. Thankfully, she never offered to actually give me the book back. 😉 I would have had to have said no. I can’t imagine ruining a book and not at least offering to pay the owner back. I was loaned the audio version of Eat, Pray, Love and after I threw the last disc I listened to around my car in disgust, I bought a new copy to give back to my co-worker.

  7. Your poor book! That’s a great story though.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any funny ruined book stories…just sad ones. I stopped lending my books to people after a brand new Babysitter’s Club book came back to me with the cover nearly torn off. I was seven, and I cried when my friend returned it to me. I hadn’t even read it yet!

    You might be interested in my latest contest if you haven’t already entered — I’m giving away a signed copy of Aberrations. Bee sauce not included. 😉

  8. Oh my. I’m glad you’ve found the humor in it. I’ve lent out a number of favorite books I never got back and I don’t seem to mind. Just every now and then I think of the book, wonder what happened to it, remember and shrug. Besides, my mom once advised me to never lend out those things I would be really bothered to not get back.

  9. Sadly I don’t have any funny stories. I had once lend one of my favorite books to one of my friend. After about 2 months I asked her to return it if she has finished reading it. She said she has lend it to another friend of hers. Can you believe that? Without even letting me know. And then she said she has misplaced it. After 3-4 months, she returned it without the front cover and in a very bad shape. 4-5 pages had come loose. And she just apologized for the delay in returning, not for ruining it. I have never lent anything to her after that. Sad memories.

  10. Ruth and Violet, I am so sorry! I had an experience like Jena’s. I loaned my copy of Generation X by Douglas Coupland to my brother only to find out later that he passed it on to someone else. I couldn’t believe he did that. After that happened I adopted the “it’s gone forever” if I lend it out attitude. That helps me determine whether to lend a book or not.
    Ruth, I thought about entering your contest, but I would feel bad if I won over someone who hasn’t read the book already.

  11. That’s hilarious! I’m sorry your book got jacked up, but it’s great that you can be so laid back about it. It was a an accident, a hysterical one at that, after all. Good on you for taking it all in stride.

    My husband once lent one of his books to a coworker. The coworker assured him he’d take the best of care with his book, but alas that was not the case. When the book came back the cover was all chewed up and pecked at, plus there were small chunks missing out of the outer page spine. Seems the coworker had a parrot, and apparently the parrot liked to eat books as opposed to reading them. LOL Hubby was pissed beyond pissed, and to this day does not like to lend his books to anyone unless he really knows them. hahaha


    littleminx at cox dot net

  12. I have a friend who had a copy of my novel, which she was reading for our bookclub. She left it on the corner of her sofa one night and woke up the next day to find the book no longer had a cover…her new dog had chewed it completely off! (I wonder if that’s a canine comment on my writing??) So she turned up to our bookclub meeting with just the guts of the book. It looked so sad. Wish I had a pic of it. Great story.

  13. What an aberration! A friend’s dog chewed up a couple of the Lord of the Rings books I lent her. She replaced them with a beatiful hardbound copy of the trilogy, so sometimes these accidents become blessings!

    What a fun story!

  14. Great story. Marjorie sounds like a very interesting person and a great friend!

  15. It sounds like animals like to eat books! I’ll be sure to remember that. At some point I’m sure that we’ll be getting a pet. I’ve never had one before. The parrot is what really kills me, Rebekah! Shana, Marjorie really is a great friend, but I won’t be lending her my copy of The Other Queen. 😉

  16. I’m glad you’ve found humor in this situation. But the poor book…

    I have a similar story that concerns my poor copy of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I was reading it on vacation in Thailand. Actually I was dozing with the book on my lap while I was laying on the hammock. It was too late when I heard the splatter–the book has fallen into the swimming pool when I turned around. I retrieved the soaked up piece of pity and dried, page by page, with the blowdryer back in my room. I didn’t want to buy another copy because I read it half way and I have grown emotionally attached to my book. (I know, it’s weird)

  17. I lent (or so I thought) a series to a friend, who in turn told several people how generous I was to give him the set (I thought he was kidding). He just moved away with my books, so I guess I was generous and he wasn’t kidding. Oh, well – several good friends moved away with an even better friend. It’s all good.

  18. I love this post! We will be in the ‘Burg the weekend of Sept 13 for the Georgia Tech game. I’m not sure how much free time I’ll have. I hope to get up there in October, too.

  19. Funny story, the picture makes it!

    I don’t have a story that can compare to bee sauce! I’ve lent books that haven’t been returned … just makes me wiser about who I’ll lend to!

  20. Lol that is too funny! I’m a bit stingy about lending out books…. something always happens and I never see it again.

    A long time ago I let my grandmother borrow “The Horse Whisperer”….. never saw it again. Oh, I lent my brother “Beowulf” for school a few years ago and he left it on an airplane. More recently I let one of my best friends borrow Meg Cabot’s “Size 12 is not Fat”. I recently asked about it and she said another friend had taken it from her room, and I was better off buying another copy!

  21. […] The Literate Housewife Reviews to read about the sad, saucy adventures of her copy of […]

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