In answer to the quibbler’s request for advice on how to avoid lending a book to an unreliable borrower, here is a list of possible excuses that can be employed in that situation. This is a fraught bit of book etiquette in itself.
1) The white lie: “I can’t, it’s not mine. I borrowed it from a friend.” This only works of course if the book in question doesn’t have a bookplate with your name on it in the front.
2) The honest (ish) approach: “I’m sorry, but I don’t lend books. I’ve had too many unreturned and it gets awkward so now I don’t do it at all. Not that I don’t think you’d take care of it, of course…”
3) The prevarication: “Yes, of course you can borrow it. I’ve promised X that they can have it next, but after that I’ll give it to you.” Then hope they forget about it; if they ask again later say “X has still got it: they’re terrible at returning books.”
4) The slightly confrontational approach: “Oh, so you’ve finished my War and Peace then? Could I have it back?”
5) The ‘I don’t care if I never see you again’ approach: “No, because last time the book came back looking like a hamster had nested in it.”
Can anyone think of any more?