The Pressure of Lending


I am not sure about the sentiment, but it is still a nice way to sign a book, I think.

Much as I like the inscription though, and much as I want to underline and copy out clever paragraph upon clever paragraph of How Should a Person Be?, it is not a book I would ever lend out. It's just too risky.

Book lending used to be commonplace. We spent hours browsing in libraries, we raided our friends' bookcases and we lent and borrowed with abandon. Nowadays though, as fewer and fewer paper books are bought and spare time everywhere is swallowed up in screens, lending books is becoming less of a habit, and more of a statement. 

A few weeks ago I mentioned How Should a Person Be? to someone I volunteer with once a week. By the next week, he had trusted my taste and bought a copy for his wife, who declared it 'a bit weird'. He was disappointed that his gesture had fallen flat. I was responsible, and 'a bit weird' in association. 

Reading physical books is becoming an increasingly niche pastime I think, and like all niche pastimes, is open to be judged in a way that more common hobbies (such as playing sport or eating in nice restaurants) are not. Every time you reveal what you read and what you care enough about to buy a real copy of, you expose a part of yourself. 

The unfortunate consequence of all of this is that despite its fascinatingly unusual structure, matter-of-fact insightfulness and hilariously inappropriate chapter titles ('Interlude for Fucking' being a good example), How Should a Person Be? will probably never leave my bookshelf. There's just too much to be presumed from it. 

All this of course makes it all the more incredible that Sheila Heti wrote it at all.

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  1. Love this post! There are certain books I not only don't lend, but keep wholly secret. Too heart on sleeve, or something...

  2. I hear ya! Though I initially read the title of this post as, "The Pleasure of Lending," which also sounds right up my alley (may in fact be in the process of writing a post on it myself).

  3. Oh, I can relate to this! I work in a library in a little small town and sometimes the books I recommend are rudely unappreciated...I will recommend something to you, though, a gem that I just finished reading: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I thought it was lovely.


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