Book-Lending Horror Stories

I was a big reader growing up. If you talk to anyone I went to elementary school with, I’m “The Girl Who Reads.” This earned me a reputation as someone who gave good book recommendations (I did!) and I became a sort of library for my peers. They would tell me their interests and I would dive into my beautifully organized bookshelves and find something they would like.

For the most part, people were great: They returned my books promptly and in good condition and we would talk about what they liked about the book. BUT, as is always the case, there are a few people who always ruin it for everyone else.

Now, without further ado, here are some of the worst book-lending experiences I’ve ever had:

Chapter One: The Broken Spine

I had just bought a paperback book that I was very excited to read, but since my TBR was kind of big and I was in the middle of something else, I loaned the book to a friend to read first. Two weeks later I got the book back and they had DESTROYED THE SPINE!

The front cover of the book was curled back and the spine hadn’t just been broken once, it was completely shredded and cracked. The pages wouldn’t lie flat against each other and now the book is wider than it should be and doesn’t fit comfortably onto a bookshelf. And it doesn't look like it matches the rest of the series!

Chapter 2: The Coffee Rings

I had loaned a hardcover book to a friend of mine, and when it was returned to me it looked perfect. A few months later I decided to read it, and I’m one of those people who takes off the dust jacket of a book I’m reading so it doesn’t get destroyed. You’ll never guess what I found on the book’s cover. There was a coffee ring right on the cover of my book! (It would actually be kind of aesthetically pleasing if it hadn’t been so insanely upsetting!)

I asked the friend what the heck had happened, and they claimed they had no idea. Sure you don’t, Jen. Sure.

Chapter 3: The Missing Pages

I should say before I get into this story that this book was in bad condition before I loaned it out. My copy of the fifth Harry Potter book is in really rough shape, because everyone in my family has read it multiple times and it’s an old version that just wasn’t made very well. There’s a chunk of pages that have completely broken free of the binding (but were still attached to each other) and I warned the lendee to be careful about that when they read.

When they gave it back the pages were gone! How am I supposed to read Order of the Phoenix for the seventh time if I’m missing thirty pages of Harry screaming at people and being an asshole?

Chapter 4: The Water Damage

This is by far my worst book lending story. I had read this really awesome series with a unique design (for some reason the books were surprisingly heavy? IDK but trust me they were cool). I loaned the first book to my sister because I knew she would like it. For about a month I heard nothing about it, but eventually I asked her if she was done, and she said “yeahhhhhh…” and left the room.

The next day I came upstairs and found the book sitting on my bed with the cover completely folded in half! I grabbed the book and stormed into my sister’s bedroom.

“What the hell did you do to my book?” I shouted, waving the hefty beast in front of me.

“Oh,” my sister sounded casual, but she was leaning away from me and laughed nervously. “You found the water damage.”


So, yeah. She owes me a new copy of that book. It’s been six years. I’m sure I’ll be getting it any day now.

Epilogue: The Destroyed Dust Jacket

Unfortunately, I myself am not without fault when it comes to book lending. One time I borrowed the concluding novel in a series from my friend (I owned all the other books in the series and intended to buy my own copy, but she bought hers first and I didn’t want to wait to read it). My friend was really excited because the inside of the book’s dust jacket had a poster of all the characters. I mentioned already that I tend to take the dust jackets off books when I read them to avoid the jackets getting ruined. You can probably guess what happened next.

I put the book in my bag, and the cover got crunched. BUT, don’t be mad guys. Since I had every intention of buying a copy of the book for myself, I gave my friend the new copy of the book and kept the one that I had fucked up a bit.

So there you have it, the worst book lending experiences I’ve ever had. If you have any book lending horror stories, tweet us at @HCWLU and use the tag #booklendinghorrorstory to tell us about it!