Thursday, October 11, 2012


It's a Fair Cop

The Chronicle, determined to make us all squirm in our seats, wants to know what books we've stolen.

Almost everybody still has a book from an ex. A smaller number have shoplifted directly from bookstores. A few, I was more surprised to discover, have even taken volumes directly from the libraries of their friends.

Oh. Oh. We're counting books from exes? Really? PULL UP A CHAIR, ladies. This might take a while. Break my heart, lose all twelve volumes of "A Dance to the Music of Time." Deal with it. "Possession" is nine-tenths of the law, you know. (sorrysorrysorry)

Okay, let's hear it. Grade school libraries? High school? While underpaid at a bookstore? From...friends? What are you, a monster? A monster who loves Alice Munro stories? A sympathetic, relatable monster?

212 Comments / Post A Comment


I heard an anecdote just today about Lacan stealing books from Paul de Man's office at Yale!


Absolutely nice@m


Books I Have Stolen:

1. High school library's copy of 'Walden.'
2. Camp library's 'The Story Girl.'
3. Trashy fantasy novels from an ex-boyfriend.

Justifications For These Thefts:

1. Twisted-logic attempt to punish school librarians for not allowing me to nap in study hall.
3. Bitch stole my copy of Watchmen. I prefer to think of this one not as 'stealing,' but as 'passively forgetting to return.'

People I Have Ardently Tried to Steal Books From Since Learning How to Read/People Who Thwarted Me At Every Turn:

1. My older sister.

maybe partying will help


I think in the case of The Story Girl, you actually rescued it.


@maybe partying will help I like to think of it that way! I feel bad for the horrible moldy-and-outdated, no-one-would-actually-ready-this-not-even-me century-old books we tossed. They were people too!


@VolcanoMouse Is this where I can confess my undying love for the Story Girl books?


@VolcanoMouse What is it with ex-boyfriends and Watchmen? I snagged his complete Sherlock Holmes but still feel cheated out of my comic :(


@VolcanoMouse Older sisters are wily and know how to watch their stuff and keep inventory. Signed, An Older Sister <3


@SarahP Books? There's more than one! a;sdflajsdlkfjsdklf...and I thought I was an LM Montgomery aficionado.

The Lady of Shalott

I have never actually stolen a book, but I had one stolen FROM me. An old roommate stole my copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is my very favourite book of all time, and I LOVED that copy. And I'm still mad that she took it from me. My BFF replaced it with a really nice copy a couple Christmases later, but....WHY WOULD YOU STEAL MY FAVOURITE BOOK OF ALL TIME??? Did you think I wouldn't notice???? She's lucky she moved to Australia (I think) and therefore out of the reach of my angry smacking hand because i miss that book.


@The Lady of Shalott If someone stole my copy of ATGiB I would hunt them down and pummel them. (It's also a very early edition with a footnote crediting the lyrics of a few different songs to their owners.)

Lily Rowan

I'm pretty sure my only "stolen" books are from my parents' shelves, and I'm equally certain they would have given them to me if I had asked. But I don't usually ask.

Nicole Cliffe

@Lily Rowan Giving birth implies consent for book-taking.

Lily Rowan

@Nicole Cliffe Sure, you say that NOW....

Beatrix Kiddo

@Lily Rowan Me too. I take books from my parents, and other people take them from me later.


@Lily Rowan - My father had a small but distinguished collection of mid-century SF books. I say "had" because they are now all on my own bookshelves.

After Bradbury died, we were chatting on the phone and my dad said, "I wanted to re-read The Martian Chronicles but I couldn't find it on the shelf," and I felt terribly guilty and fessed up. So I mailed it back to him. And then he sent it back a week later! Awwww, my dad, you guys.


@Lily Rowan When I was home this last time, I ALMOST stole "History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters". But I couldn't bear the thought of my dad looking for it and not finding it, so I didn't. My mom on the other hand always accuses me of "stealing" books I orginally bought myself and she borrowed, pulled into her pile and now thinks are hers. So she's fair game, I'm allowed to steal anything.


@Lily Rowan I have been raiding my parent's old school books, and my mom's old mysteries, for pretty much my whole life. They met getting MAs in English and apparently never got rid of anything, so there's a whole basement full, guest room full, family room full... Not sure they've noticed.


@themmases The only books I'm not allowed to steal from my mom are her college copies of Ulysses and Selected Shakespeare. But the little cursive notes she wrote are so cute/helpful!


@E Love that book! I've been wanting to re-read it for awhile now.

maybe partying will help

The only books I own that are technically stolen property came from elementary/middle school classrooms. I AM SO SORRY, TEACHERS PAST. But I still reread my copies of Dunc's Halloween, Upchuck Summer, and the novelizations of Steel and Hook.

(Little me had no actual taste in reading material. Big me apparently doesn't either)

To date I have had two books "borrowed" where borrowed means stolen because goddammit it's been almost five years for one and three or so for the other.

Princess Slayer

@maybe partying will help Oh yeah, I stole a classroom copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins from my obscenely expensive private elementary school full of snobby children, and that full sentence is exactly how I justify it to myself every time I look at the book.


A YA memoir about how horrible the Cultural Revolution was, from Mrs. Boonshaft's 6th-grade classroom.

An academic book about cell phone culture in Japan, which the professor I worked for in college lent to me, and which I keep meaning to return because I kind of want her to write me a recommendation for grad school.


@cuminafterall I'm not even that interested in East Asia!


@cuminafterall Oh man, are we counting "accidentally" stolen books?? The number of books I have not intentionally stolen but simply failed to return is massive.


@Titania Yeah, this is how I have a copy of Marni Nixon's memoirs. (Dear A, if you're reading, I need your new address!)


@Titania I thought the vast majority of stolen books were accidentally stolen? I have (someplace at my parents' house) a YA book about King Arthur that once belonged to my third grade teacher. My copy of Sense and Sensibility once belonged to my neighbor, who generously gave it to me after I kept not returning it to her because I loved it so much. It's a very nice copy, but for some reason her generosity annoyed me.


@cuminafterall Red Scarf Girl, right? East Asia!


Like a serial killer whose victims blend and overlap, I wouldn't know where to start.


I have 3 siblings, so I have had SO MANY books stolen from me, it's hard to keep count.

Which means I do not steal books from people/places. I know how it feels and it's rotten. :(


@SarahP No it's totally fine that you took without asking and then lost book 4 of the Sandman series, I guess I'll just have to buy a new one, even though they've since reprinted them so the spine won't match the spine of any of the others, whatever, what's a book between friends



@SarahP But we would not have to steal if you would just be a reasonable person and trust us with your copy of Goblet of Fire!

*lingering Feelings*
*or am I just an unreasonable person*


@VolcanoMouse Aw, I always loaned them when asked, though!


@SarahP NOT SEASON OF MISTS! Nooooooooooo!


@SarahP Ughhhh. My friend keeps telling me that I did not lend him my copy of The Quaker City: or, The monks of Monk-Hall, and while I don't want to call him a liar, HE IS A LYING LIAR.


The OED. Srsly.


@purefog Wait, really? How did you even pull that off?

crane your neck

@purefog So many questions!


@Hammitt With a wheelbarrow, I'm guessing. (Please say it was the full version...)


In fourth grade, I remember quite clearly taking a copy of a book called "Tuesday's Child" from my friend Nadine, for reasons I absolutely do not recall. She never to my knowledge noticed or asked about it, and neither did my parents. Sorry, Di. Mostly I just steal books from my mom, which I don't think counts, although she disagrees. She still invites me home for Thanksgiving and stuff though so I don't think she's too upset about it.


A guy I was dating left the Hitchhiker's Guide anthology at my apartment...over a year ago. I'm pretty sure it's mine now.


@ImASadGiraffe This kid I HATED in 8th grade borrowed my copy of the "bible" - the entire hitchhikers series plus other stories, leather bound, gilt edged. (I never once indicated I wasn't a nerd) And then lost the fucker. After I bought a replacement (the shitty, nonleatherbound type) he offered me $10 for my trouble. Dick.



Does Axl have a jack?

@Hammitt The dude I dated in high school borrowed my Complete Hitchhiker's Guide (not the pretty leather bound one, though) and did not give it back when we broke up. He messaged me randomly on Facebook a couple of years ago to apologize for being a dick (over 10 years later?), and I really wanted to reply that I would only forgive him if he returned my damn book.


@Hammitt That was the version that was left at my place. To be fair, he was a terrible person and I'm not sorry he left it.


@Hammitt I got that fancy copy at a yard sale! So beautiful! I am sorry for your loss. Also, you reading Hitchhiker's guide in 8th grade is awesome. I'm wondering when would be best to introduce it to my future child.


A friend leant me a book and I promptly forgot (it was more of a "you have to read this" thing than a "please please let me borrow your book") about it until she asked a month or two later if I had gotten around to reading it. I flipped the entire house apart looking for the thing before I was forced to conclude that I had probably returned it to the library and needed to buy her a new one.

The worst thing was that I had forgotten the title and had to ask her what it was during the "look I lost your book" conversation.


@OhMarie Oh man that sounds awkward. I once returned a book my supervisor had lent me to the library in a stack of other books, that was pretty worrisome! But I went and asked the next day and the library people produced an enormous bag full of erroneously returned books and fished it out. I would love to see what else was in that bag.


@katiethegreat Ok, I am an idiot, because this did not even occur to me but now that you say it obviously this must happen all of the time and there must be a plan for it.


Well, I'm an asshole, apparently. Because I have like 100 books that aren't mine.

Now, okay, some are grad school books, which were either handed to me by an advisor with a vague 'give this back when you're done' or stuck in my mailbox with a friendly note about how they'd help my research. Those I don't feel guilty about. I fully intend to return them. Someday. Maybe.

Two from one of my college libraries that rather foolishly had no clear check out/overdue system that worked. Okay. That's a lie. They HAD a system, but from the hours of 6pm - 9am they had no one monitoring anything so you could just kind of take books. And since I had SO MANY overdue fees I... well, just took books. And FULLY INTENDED TO RETURN THEM ALL. But then didn't return two. I'm an ass. That library now has things that beep when you remove unchecked out books. Clever cats.

One from my other college library because I had already paid the replacement fine when I found it. SO I guess I bought that?

At least one from the DC public libraries. I don't know how I have those, but I know I do. One is a children's biography of Jane Goodall that I checked out age 17 because she's so cool and apparently I didn't have the attention span for grown up books? There must be an OUTSTANDING overdue fine, since I haven't lived there since I graduated from high school nine years ago.

My boyfriend's copy of Scoop, which he has kindly asked me to return and I really really intend to really when I remember one of these days.

Any book of my sisters I was interested in. Ditto my brother, parents, and best friend.

I reiterate: I am clearly an asshole. A raging one.


@Hammitt Oh man, I have so many grad school books. I don't even go to that school anymore and the thought of taking them back there freaks me out, so my boyfriend finally just offered to take them back because he loves libraries/is actually a good person. A forgetful good person, since they're still in our living room, but I'm holding him to it.


a former-fling-turned-friend lent me a couple books, only to tell me that I could keep them since he was moving and didn't want the clutter. so I was saved from falling into theft. but then the one book (collection of flanner o'connor short stories! that i loved with all my heart!) was "borrowed" by a roommate who ended up becoming (more than) slightly psychotic, so I left my living situation without the book, in the interest of personal safety. but i still dream about sneaking into my old apartment to steal it back. mmmmflannery o'connor...

fondue with cheddar

It's not really stealing but I felt ashamed nonetheless. When I was in first grade I took a book out of the school library. I forget what it was, but it was a Disney hardcover book and I think the cover was purple. Anyway, I brought it outside to read and left it on the back step, after which it rained. The book was still readable but it was warped and damaged. My mom had to buy the book from the library and there it sat, on a bookshelf in my bedroom, a constant reminder of the time I carelessly ruined school property.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I did this kind of! Except in college and it worked out. I had a Kierkegaard book in my backpack next to a bottle of water, and the water spilled and "ruined" the book. I had to pay a fine to replace it, but it was still totally readable and I got to keep it.

maybe partying will help

@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325)

Once I was dogsitting a pug and it gnawed a hardback library book which I then had to pay for. I wouldn't have minded as much if it had been a book I actually liked and wouldn't have minded keeping, but it was that Drood book by Dan Simmons. :/

fondue with cheddar

@smidge D'oh! Did you like the book at least?

My ruined book was one of those big hardcover books from that book club where they sent you two books every month or whatever, and they were all Disney, Dr. Seuss, and Berenstain Bears. So I had a whole set of books that exact same size and shape, and they all lined up neat and perfect except that one. I've always been a little OCD, and that always bothered me on top of the guilt.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) I haven't exactly, er, read it, but I like the idea of Kierkegaard at least.

fondue with cheddar

@maybe partying will help GAH stupid dog. Whenever I went to friends' houses and observed all the chewed books, shoes, and Barbie feet, I always silently thanked my parents for not getting me a dog.

@smidge Haha, I've got books like that. Lots of philosophy, though no Kierkegaard. Maybe you'll read it in a decade or two and wonder why you hadn't done so sooner.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) The school library book I lost was, as far as we could ever tell, accidentally returned to the public library. My mother's still irked that they apparently kept it even though it was clearly labeled as belonging to my elementary school. But I really liked my school librarian and it was SO HORRIBLE to have to confess that I lost it, even though she was nice about it.


@maybe partying will help I kind of liked that book... That being said I left his book about the Franklin expedition in the bathroom near the science library. It was a fancy interlibrary loan from I think Yale (Im in Canada for the record) so I was worried that the fines would be incredibly bad. And yes I am the type of person to order light reading through interlibrary loan. I also didnt finish the book. Fortunately, some kind soul returned it to the library for me.


@maybe partying will help Wow, that book is awful. For some reason, I finished it. And then gave it away with the warning that "this book is terrible."


@faience Was it a children's book about the expedition, complete with photos of the exhumed corpses? Because everyone I know who read that book still remembers it vividly, me included.


@whateverlolawants ok thats awesome. And sadly no. I do vividly remember a book I read as a kid about the Arctic where everyone gets scurvy. I also had a prof who did some analysis of remains from the Franklin expedition and helped determine that leading poisoning was a contributing cause. Its become a hobby of mine now (for reference: http://arctic.synergiesprairies.ca/arctic/index.php/arctic/article/view/1089).


@faience Nice! Someone on here (sorry, can't remember who!) wrote poetry about the Franklin Expedition. It sounded really cool.

maybe partying will help


I was so sad that it sucked! I like Simmons (with reservations), I love Wilkie Collins and Dickens, I enjoy historical fiction...it should have been great! INSTEAD IT WAS TERRIBLE. :(


A teacher loaned me a copy of "Moccasin Trail" to read over the summer between fourth and fifth grade. I kept forgetting to return it and felt so guilty about it I couldn't even bring up how much I loved "Moccasin Trail!"

I took a reasonable number of books from the used bookstore I worked at, where I was allowed to borrow any book I wanted for any amount of time, so I could say I'm still just "borrowing them." These included titles by Italo Calvino and Donna Tartt among others, also two pop science books about how the brain works (Proust and the Squid and something about the nature of love) which I can wholeheartedly guarantee that NO ONE was ever going to buy from that store. Ever. Well maybe in ten years. But I could take better care of them.

My roommates boyfriend lent me his copy of Tartuffe when I was in college and by the end of the year we had become less subtle and more ... outright enemies, if you will. I took his book to Powell's and sold it.


Still mad at the former coworker who absconded to Boston with my copy of If on a winter's night a traveler...

On the non-book-stealing front, in elementary school I was accused of stealing a book - I was certain I'd returned it - from the school library, forced to pay for the replacement costs, and banned from borrowing for almost the entire school year, until the found the book wedged between the book returns and circulation desks.


@Vicky Johnson In elementary school? That's pretty harsh for a population known for losing, like, everything. Also, the fuck kind of school punishes kids by denying them access to books? Or am I just really wrong about my assumptions regarding what schools are supposed to accomplish?


@Vicky Johnson That happened to me in high school, so it wasn't as traumatizing, and they didn't ban me. But it was so ridiculous. It was my sister's book and I read it too, then returned it. I STILL remember putting it in the book drop all these years later. And yet they sent my sister a notice, so I had to go in and talk to them. The woman was completely unreasonable and also got super critical of my hyphenated last name. I don't remember if I had to pay, or if we just somehow got out of it.

The book, by the way, was Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher's First Year. And it made me want to be a teacher.


@SarahDances Oh, and when I was 6, my mom punished me by not letting me read for a whole day. It was a great punishment for me, and when she went outside to send my dad off to work, I snuck in a quick book.


@Vicky Johnson Finally (and I'm sorry for all the posts but I am enthusiastic about this topic), I should add that my high school had a large, beautiful library with thousands of books in great condition. That virtually no one checked out.

Two reasons:
1) The librarians were mean, as I demonstrated above, and
2) We were not actually allowed to go to the library during lunch (even though it was across the hall), so unless you browsed during your 7-minute passing period (humongous school, so probably not) or went with a class, you had very little chance to even go inside.

lasso tabasco

My copy of Pride and Predjudice was stolen from the bookshelf of my sixth grade classroom. Oh, the guilt just torments me!


Not stolen precisely, but in elementary school I had to pay the library for a lost book (sadly, I forget the book). Over a year later, my mom and I were making my bed and found the book under the mattress. Turned out I had hidden it there in emulation of one of the members of the Babysitter's Club who hid books so she could read after lights-out. (which one??? I forget that too.)


@TheBelleWitch Mallory? Or are you thinking of Claudia's junk-food-hiding?


@whateverlolawants Claudia hid books too! Her Nancy Drew books, I think? Some kind of mystery books that her parents didn't approve of anyway.

Queen of Pickles

Never lend people books! At least, not books that have immense emotional value. (Why does anyone do this?) Whenever someone presses a book on me - "You've got to read this! It's my favorite copy of X that I've had for always and it's an amazing book and you'll love it!" I outwardly smile and inwardly quail.

What if I lose it?
What if I get ketchup on the pages?
What if they don't agree that dog-earing the pages is a sign of affection?
What if I never read it, and they keep asking if I've read it, and I have to keep saying no?

I can't remember any stolen books, but I do have a list of awkwardly-borrowed books. Whenever I see one in my house, there's an aura of guilt floating around it, like a tiny sad ghost.

fondue with cheddar

@Queen of Pickles I don't lend people books because nobody ever takes care of my stuff as well as I do. I'm kind of OCD and overly cautious about dog-earing the pages, breaking the binding, curling the pages, getting food/crumbs/hair in it, etc. It's horrible, I don't know how I even live.


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) more to the point, how do you read?


@fondue with cheddar (formerly jen325) Breaking the binding is possibly my favourite thing about having books as objects. It's so satisfying! You can tell how well a book on my shelf has been read by the creases and rips in its binding.

fondue with cheddar

@PistolPackinMama Very carefully! If it's a small paperback book I won't open it more than 45 degrees. I KNOW...it's completely ridiculous! I'm so conscientious and deliberate about how I do things that it sometimes makes it hard to do things. It's definitely a Problem.

Have you seen the movie Memento? You know the book his wife read over and over again, and it's all fanned and dog-eared? It KILLS me.


@Queen of Pickles Oooh, or the time where a friend leant my husband his extremely old, battered, beat up, and nearly dead copy of American Gods, and when I picked it up off of the shelf the binding finally gave up and split down the middle?

I was not to blame, the book was on its last legs anyway, but I REALLY did not want to be the person who was actually responsible for the book being in 2 pieces. It's still on the shelf, unread and unreturned. :(


@Queen of Pickles Yes!!

Related: If I loan/give you a personal copy that has already been dogeared and/or be-spattered and/or rendered all wavey from being dropped in the bath, this is a sign that I consider you a good and close friend. (If I you're more of an acquaintance, I will absolutely buy a new copy to loan you.)


@Queen of Pickles
This is why I like to just give people books now! Totally freeing, happy feeling, and if later it turns out I just really need to reread it, I can get another copy from the library or buy it again and ensure it stays in print.
This policy doesn't work for rare or hard-to-find books, of course, but certainly for most fiction -- it's the best!


I remember being so mad in elementary school when I was accused of stealing a book I had totally returned to the school library. (It was a Shel Silverstein book and I loved those but I was emphatically Not A Thief.)

Turned out some punk kid had just swiped it off the shelf of returned books that hadn't been checked in, leaving me with the overdue fines and the false accusation.

fondue with cheddar

@anachronistique Shel Silverstein were my FAVORITE books in the elementary school library.


@anachronistique Once I had this problem at my college library, they actually wouldn't give me my grades until I returned the book (which I had already returned!) or paid the replacement fine, so I went and looked on their shelves and they had actually reshelved it! I just brought it up to the desk and was like, seriously, how did this even happen. I don't even remember what book it was.


I put bookplates in my books, when I remember, in the hope that I will get them back when people borrow them. Or at least that they will be wracked with guilt about their theft/extended borrowing.

I once loaned Howl's Moving Castle to a fellow grad student who took it with him when he moved to NYC. He actually mailed it back! I was thrilled.

Pocket Witch

I might still have a copy of Emma & I by Sheila Hocken that I borrowed my fifth-grade classroom's library. I kinda hope I do, because I liked that book.

I also have a rubber stamp that says "Dieses Buch gehört ______", so now I stamp my books before loaning them to people like my sister. One time she left a book on the floor, and her cat used the front three pages as a scratching post.

Quinn A@twitter

Mostly people steal my books. *pouts* I did, however, accidentally steal a collection of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books from a library. It's been years and I still feel intense guilt about it.


My copy of Another Country (*looove*) has "Property of [highschool name]" stamped in it.

I guess that means my copy of Another Country is really [High School's] copy of Another Country.


@PistolPackinMama It could have been purchased in some kind of sale! My mom loved library sales so I a bunch of my copies of kid's and YA books have all kinds of illicit looking stamping and binding stickers.


@OhMarie It could. But it emphatically isn't. I know this because it has my penciled in notes from Mr. Powers' AP English class ca1992 in it.

I totally stole that book by failing to return it when we finished reading it in class.

crane your neck

I tucked THE NEW DOUBLESPEAK by William Lutz under a seat in our car on a long road trip and had to confess to a favorite librarian that I'd lost it. I think it was $26 to replace, which was five hours at minimum wage--it seemed unbelievably expensive. But years later, I found the book under the seat and was overjoyed! It's out of print and I'd never been able to track down my own copy. I used it as one of the texts for a language class I taught that year, tying it in with a reading of The Patriot Act (OK, now you know this was ten years ago). I could never decide whether I was supposed to return the book after all that time.


Old Bricks

OMG. I once stole a paperback copy of Still life with a Woodpecker, which is such a wonderfully bizarre book. It was in a coffeeshop in Japan, and I justified it by thinking that nobody else would be able to read it. The coffeeshop had random books to make it look cozy, but they were all ridiculous books in English and French, including an unauthorized biography of David Duchovny that I also desperately wanted to steal.


@Old Bricks Still Life with Woodpecker was one that was stolen from me, but it wasn't from a coffeeshop so I won't blame you.


@mustelid I'm down to only Wild Ducks Flying Backwards because ALL my other Robbins books were stolen in college.


@Old Bricks There were a bunch of old books at a breakfast restaurant in a small Ecuadorian town like that. I read like half of American Pastoral in one sitting. I almost took it, but I decided that there were a lot of tourists and ex-pats and I was leaving in a few weeks and could find it at the library back home. I was not the only English speaker to come through there.


While underpaid at a bookstore. I think I have a few that were borrowed from friends that I've forgotten to return, but I figure we're more or less squarsies there, since the same friends have a nebulous number of mine that they've forgotten to return.


I like this game. I used to steal books from my high school library (it was private school, and no one used the library for its fiction section anyway). One day my mom got an overdue fine notice for a book I'd actually checked out, and she scoured my room for anything with a library sticker and returned them all. The ones that escaped her gaze, and which I still own 16 years later, are Come Over, Come Over by Lynda Barry and Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle. I'm still mad about losing The Grounding of Group Six with library binding, though.


I have a Mira Nair book that A GUY loaned to me about a year ago. I had held off on reading it at the time, and then he never came to claim the book before moving to Berlin for the summer. I read it after he left and really enjoyed it! Now he is back, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will try to get the book back, and we will just end up confessing our undying love for each other, or something.


A couple books from a high school friend, two books from the main library in Quincy (I've avoided that town like the plague since I moved), a book from someone I'll probably never see again, a self-help career book from a boyfriend who told me, "Read it when you're ready," and then dumped me a month later; none of these were on purpose, they just sort of happened by accident? All were borrowed books I never was asked back for.

OH YEAH SarahP we need to get together because I have some of your books and I've finally finished reading them.


@Nutmeg Ha ha ha ha ha ha "read it when you're ready" from someone who later breaks up with you sounds like one of the most condescending things ever!

Yes to getting together and to book-returning, though you didn't steal them, you asked very nicely. (See everyone? I share!)


I unintentionally stole my ex's copy of The Social Life of Things, ed. Appadurai. Which is frustrating because I have zero intention of ever reading that book now that I'm no longer pretending to be an academic (obviously I never read it while still doing that or dating its owner).


UGHGHGHG I am the biggest jerk in the world. In high school, my best friend lent me her really nice, new hardback copy of The Mists of Avalon, which I not only didn't read, but then left to get all grimy in the trunk of my car. When she asked for it back, I was so embarrassed by its condition that I kept putting her off until she gave up. I was maybe 16 at the time, and this still haunts me at 25. Whyyy was I such a jerk? I really should have bought her a new copy.
High school is apparently not a great time to lend out books because shortly thereafter my high school boyfriend borrowed my copy of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair and promptly dropped in it the public swimming pool. I deserved it, though, as evidenced by the aforementioned bookcrime.
In college, a friend borrowed my copy of Middlesex and grimed it up to the point that I just let her keep it. The circle of life.


When I was in college, I had a friend who worked at a corporate used book store. If she knew you, you could bring your GIANT stack of books to her to pay and she would ring them all up for, like, a dollar total, and send you on your way. I think I acquired about a quarter of my current library this way. I don't feel too terrible about this, but I still feel awful about the copy of "Island of the Blue Dolphins" I accidentally stole from my 6th grade classroom library.

rianne marie

@MsGray I think I stole a copy of Island of the Blue Dolphins from school too!!
That was my favourite book ever for about a year. I still remember pretty much every scene


@MsGray I have had a lot of people abuse their discounts for me over the years, but never like THAT. Envy.


I still have a copy of The Westing Game that I forgot to return to my 7th grade teacher. I was going to return it in 8th grade but it was awkward and I put it off and eventually I was cleaning out my room and there it was with HENGARTENER written on the foredge. I'm sorry Ms. Hengartener :(


ALSO I just remembered that I have a book lending/stealing conundrum. I lent a rather large amount of books to a friend last year for two classes that he was taking. After the quarter was over I was all "hey can I have my books back" and he was like "sure" but then he kept forgetting or whatever and I never got them back. Now we're kind of not talking and I still really want those books back (one of them is a textbook! so expensive!) and I want to hound him for the books until he gives them back to me but that would involve breaking the silence which I really have no desire to do because then we would start talking again and I am kind of trying to friend break up with him. Should I break into his apartment and steal them back?


@VDRE That's a book worth stealing if there ever was one.


@VDRE My husband once slept with a girl (a previous hook-up who had called him TWENTY-SEVEN times the day after they hooked up) to get a political theory book back, and henceforth he has been affectionately know as "bibliostitute."

In short, it all depends how committed you are to getting them back.

Lisa Frank

An ex-boyfriend broke up with me (over dinner) (that I ended up paying for) and asked if he could hold onto my copy of Guns, Germs and Steel, you know, because we were going to be friends. A few months later when I emailed him to ask him to return it, he left it on my doorstep, no note.


@Lisa Frank I just de-lurked to say that I have ended up with my ex's copy of Guns, Germs and Steel, I started reading it, got halfway through and we broke up.
Now it sits on my desk, a reminder that I'll have to see him again one day. Ugh.

Bob Loblaw

I worked in a cafe that was connected to a bookstore and the ONE PERK which made the terrible pay and tedium worth it (to me) was that we could take home the advance copies of books, to keep. At least I thought it was to keep. Apparently we were supposed to bring them back? Or people just did bring them back? Anyway I wound up with so many of them, it just felt awkward to bring them all back, so I kept them. So. . . accidently stolen! The end!

Also, sometimes I get drunk and insist someone borrow a book I love and then forget who I lent it to. This is why I have started buying every copy of certain books I find at used bookstores, so I have several to give away and not worry about getting back. I think I have 6 copies of Dylan Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood'. No one has wanted to "borrow" one yet, but I'm ready!


Ha, like I bought any of my books. P.S. Don't lend me books.

Kate Kittenheart

Bulfinch's Mythology and a collection of short stories by Tennessee Williams, both from my high school library. I still have them. The new "librarian" at the time was going to THROW THEM AWAY. I don't think she had any kind of library science degree, but I could be wrong.
I'm not sorry. I should have taken more.


I borrowed Haruki Murakami's "The Windup Bird Chronicles" from a boyfriend before a 3-month overseas trip, and broke up with him pretty much as soon as I got back. The book is still with me, but he was never going to read it anyway.


@SarahDances Oh damn, I *just* borrowed this book from a guy I've started casually seeing. This does not bode well.


I've got textbooks:
1) My high school boyfriend's British-lit book. I didn't steal it, I think we just must have switched at some point (and not returned the books before graduating: bad!). I didn't realize it until I opened the book ten years later and saw his name inside the cover. That was weird. 
2) My ex-husband's calculus book. Now I have three and he has none. Maybe he'll wish he'd been nicer to me the next time he needs to find the area under a curve. 

My mom and I keep stealing a cookbook from each other. It was published by a meat company and called, in a foreign language, "Unforgettable Dishes in the Opinion of Three Husbands." When she helped me move a year ago I found it in her suitcase and took it back. I don't even eat meat, or have a husband. What is wrong with me. 

My old boss tried to steal my leatherbound, gold-embossed copy of The Canterbury Tales by forgetting to return it to me before I moved away. I called her up at work and made her mail it to me across the country. I haven't cracked the pages since, but it looks good on my shelf. 


There was a time when I was the sort of 17 year old who shoplifted Foucault from chain-stores.

Blackwatch Plaid

@leon s We have that in common. Did you also justify it as being vaguely poetic?


@Blackwatch Plaid My dad always talks about Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, which came out when he was a teenager, but never elaborates on how he got his hands on a copy.


When friends sneakily steal books from me, I sneakily steal them back.

It's the rush of theft without the moral downers. I'm exactly like Bruce Wayne at the start of Batman Begins.


Though a book-stealer myself, I am still SO IRRATIONALLY ANGRY about the stack of books I lent my high-school best friend, just around the time we stopped talking so much. I figured I could just take them back one by one from her room each time I visited? No, not so much. Miss yu, hardbound Amy Hempel collection :(

My favorite, favorite book that I've stolen was from the public library in my college town, who was so overprotective of Song of Susannah that they sent a collection agency after me for the amount of $8.20. It got to the point when I finally moved back there years later, I paid the stupid fee online just so I could check out books without having to borrow friend's cards.


@MassCasulty One of my exes was obsessed with Amy Hempel, and had a particular copy of one of her books that he carried around with him all the time. He used to give it to girls he wanted to have sex with, hoping they would find him literary and sexually appealing as a result. On the night he broke up with me AND admitted to cheating on me ON MY BIRTHDAY, you can bet I stole that book right off his desk and put it in my purse when his back was turned. A few weeks later he texted asking if he had left it at my place. I "forgot" to ever answer him.


That said, I have since read the book, and Amy Hempel is, in fact, excellent.

Ex's lit tastes: + 1
Ex's character: - ∞


I stole a book from my boss. He lent it to me for a work thing then quit before I returned it. So, I guess it's mine now?

Mostly, I don't lend books out. A friend of mine has my copy of Michael Crummey's Galore and I KNOW she isn't going to read it, so can I please have it back? A previous roommate also stole my bread machine cookbook, for which I have never forgiven her.


How about a super-sad book story?

I had this friend who was a dude. One of those super-intense, thinking-all-the-time, broody kinds of dudes. I was just getting to know him, and I loaned him my copy of Geek Love because we had somehow gotten into a super-intense conversation about prostitution or ambition or The Man Keeping Us Down or whatever you talk about when you are 24. I don't really remember.

Anyway, I loaned him the book and then he died of a drug overdose about a week later. So I guess painkillers and gin stole my book.


@blueblazes Oh, I'm so sorry. That is super-sad!

Another sad story: my best friend died a year and a half ago, and when they were going through her stuff her mom invited me over to pick up anything that might have been mine (we had been best friends for about ten years and swapped a lot of stuff) and to take any of her books or other media that I wanted or had a special memory about. I found so many books that I'd forgotten I had lent her, and I doubt she read a single one.


@frigwiggin Wow. That is a very moving and sad story. I hope you are ok.


@CrescentMelissa Oh, yeah. I mostly think of it fondly, because she was such a contrary person that the more excited I got about a book that I wanted to lend to her, the more determined she would become to never ever ever ever read it in a hundred thousand years. So, y'know! I miss her and her stupid bitchiness.


@frigwiggin @blueblazes Jesus. I'm so sorry guys. One of my best friends died of an overdose 3 years ago. When another one of our closest friends went to rehab (coincidentally the same week, it was a fucking shitshow) me and his mom brought him a bunch of his stuff. When I was going through the box of books, I found one of her favorites ever, on Buddhism (I'm somehow blanking on the exact title). We used to borrow each others books and stuff all the time, and she had given him her copy. I started flipping through it and got to the only dog-eared page. It was the beginning of the chapter on "Craving". Broke my heart into a million pieces.


Does it count if most of the books I have currently that aren't mine are books that were loaned to me like "you should totally read this" that just never made it back to their owners, who I am still totally in contact with and could return them to anytime?

No? Yes? I also still have a book that belongs to my Imperial Russian History professor which he actually made me place my hand upon and swear I would return it upon pain of karmic retribution, but when I emailed him to say "when's a good time to return this" he didn't reply so I never did. Oops.

Anyway, I have the worst book-stealing story in the world and LET ME TELL IT TO YOU. When I was a kid I had like, 123501295 books, Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, tons of sets, lots and lots of kids' books and YA, because I was the firstborn and my mother went crazy (also a book lover). Well, I also had this little sister, 6 years younger than me and something of a jealous type (my brother and I were not very welcoming to her when she was 5 because, well, we were preteens by then, and she was annoying to us), and so one day when I was out playing with friends, my bratty little sister went into my room, took as many books as she could, and then went with scissors into HER room and CUT THE COVERS OFF ALL MY BOOKS AND SHREDDED THEM INTO LITTLE TRIANGLES AND SQUARES OF BOOK-COVER-PUZZLES. ALL OVER THE FLOOR.

I have never seen my mother get so angry. There were angry tears. I think my sister still holds the record for being grounded the longest in the family. And my book-loving mother painstakingly taped all those book covers back together for me, because I was a sobbing heartbroken mess when I came in and saw it.

I'd say that counts as stealing. SHE STOLE THOSE BOOKS IN THE EMOTIONAL WAY.


@Scandyhoovian Holy shit. That is like...some Beezus and Ramona shit right there. (Am I remembering that right? With the autograph book?)


@frigwiggin I ... think so? It's been ages since I read that, so I am fuzzy.

P.S. I totally love my sister now and we grew up to be best friends after we got over the bad years and destructive tendencies! Yay personal growth and forgiveness!


@Scandyhoovian My face was like :-O while reading this. Poor books.


@meetapossum I still have the shredded-and-taped copy of Number the Stars in my possession (I've replaced pretty nearly the rest of them over time) and it has become sort of a Thing I Want To Keep Forever, just as a weird reminder talisman thing? I just can't bring myself to get rid of it.


@Scandyhoovian Oof, that's horrible. All my little sister ever did was undress all my Barbies, gnaw on their feet, and hide them under her bed.


@Scandyhoovian Wow...WOW. Poor books! Poor you! I have had my own emotionally-scarring-little-sister-book-vandalism experience, but it was not nearly that calculated or extreme. Lil sis was just a slob who "borrowed" my dearly beloved copies of the Lord of the Rings books and lost them in the bottomless pit of her room for a while. By the time I finally got them back, they were a raggedy, stained, mangled mess. I complained BITTERLY to my mother, whose idea of a rational and fair response to the situation was to buy a brand spanking new set of LOTR books covered in pictures from the then-upcoming movies...and give them to my SISTER?!?!?!!???! I got to keep the trashed ones. Ohhh the injustice.


@Scandyhoovian Holy cats, speaking of Amy March...


Stole soooo many from Mrs. Harrison's Fifth/Sixth Grade classroom. Still have many. Sorry Mrs. Harrison. You knew a lot of good books, but you were such a bitch sometimes, and never loved me the way Mrs. Ottewell had. Why? Also, you occasionally said appallingly racist things.


Ahhh, I have so many accidentally-stolen-from-friends-and-relatives books on my shelf. Like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles from a college friend who lives a couple of hours away and who I haven't seen in at least two or three years. I didn't even like it! I should get together with her and give it back. I don't feel bad about the copy of House of Leaves that I borrowed-stole, though. I bought it for a friend for his birthday, asked to borrow it when he was finished, and then he turned into (more of) a jerk and ha ha, I paid for it anyway, it's mine now!


@frigwiggin Oh! Oh! Also! My boyfriend kept a copy of Memoirs of a Geisha from the local library for at least ten years. I actually grabbed it and took it back a year or two ago and explained to the librarian what had happened--surprisingly, it was still in the system, so she checked it back in and that was that. I was a little sad that she wasn't more amused/impressed, though, she just kind of gave me a disinterested/confused stare and then scanned it in. :( What an anticlimax.


About 1/5 of my erotica collection is books I stole from my mom at age 11 or 12, and have been too ashamed to ever return. Plus, those stories are FORMATIVE. I need them. This whole story is gross, morally and otherwise.


Also! I have a friend who is very flighty and forgetful and I loaned her a bunch of books before I realized JUST how flighty and forgetful she is and then SHE SOLD THEM ON EBAY thinking they were hers.

So now I don't lend books to her. I rarely lend books to anyone, really, unless they're blood related or so close of friends that I feel comfortable barging into their home and taking it back.


More like, which books have been stolen from me?

Like my copy of Catch-22 that I never got to read because it disappeared from my parents' house shortly after the Christmas I got it. And I know you took it, Cousin, because you're the only one related to me who reads besides my mom. And even though you say you didn't, the fact that you have admitted that you somehow have two copies leads me to believe otherwise.


@meetapossum In a Dark Wood, twice, I think both times by my sister.

I think your cousin really doesn't know she took your copy (though she totally did), because no knowing criminal would later admit to having extra of the thing they stole.


Um, books from exes don't count when you try to call/email them for an entire month to come get their shit and then they don't.


I borrow books from critically ill people.


Also, every time my school got a class set of some paperback or another and assigned it, I ended up "forgetting" to return mine. So I have all the books I was assigned, and they all have my school-at-that-time's name written down the side of the pages.

Baby Fish Mouth

How about books you wish you had stolen? I repeatedly checked out a Florence Nightengale biography when I was in elementary school and it was my favorite book. All I remember is the book was green. I can't find it on Amazon and haven't really searched real hard elsewhere.

Baby Fish Mouth

@Wiscowhitney Nightingale. Jeez, considering how much of my childhood I spent obsessed with her you think I'd remember how to spell it.


@Wiscowhitney I wish I had stolen The Haunting of America from my elementary school library, because I was the only one who checked it out the entire time I was im elementary school, and I checked it out like once a month, and no one had checked it out for like 20 years before me.

But if I'd stolen it I'd probably be ashamed that I stole it and would transfer the shame to the book, so actually I wish the librarian had just given it to me.


@Wiscowhitney Ooooh. Great point. I was the only kid reading most of those books in the school library. I wish they were mine now. Especially the biographies! Was it one of those "Young So-and-So" books from the 40s or 50s? My school had a lot of those.

And this reminds me that there's the books about a family of bears doing wacky shit that my mom swears are in the attic, but I have never found up there. I haven't seen them since like 1992 and I want to read them again, dammit.


@Wiscowhitney I spent YEARS dithering over whether to steal Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean, from my local library. It was out of print for a long time and this was before the used sections on Amazon and other sites were at all useful. Plus it was a hardcover with the original gorgeous cover art. Aaaand it was my very favorite book of all time - but could I deprive the citizens of my town of the delight of my favorite book? No, no I could not.

Luckily it came back into print recently in a nicely sized trade paperback (albeit with jacket design that isn't nearly as pretty) so now I have my very own copy and can tell everyone to buy it. Happy ending!


I still have a former coworker's Y: The Last Man. I meant to return it several times but still it sits on my shelf.

Also: three of my friend's Anne books, because she moved, and then I moved, and then I kind of forgot they weren't mine and ... ::hands::


I am a chronic book stealer but the worst book crime I ever committed? I was acquainted with this girl who was Much Cooler Than Me and went to her apartment a few times and would just gawk enviously at her personal library of perfectly cultivated titles. She let me borrow "Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore, but then she never invited me back and I kind of took it as a personal insult, because, you know, hyper-sensitive college years. And then when my apartment got invaded by giant, Nascar-fast cockroaches I sort of ... used the book as a projectile weapon in the war? So the dust jacket got pitched because, you know, roach guts. I still have the book, though, and could probably weave a new dust jacket from all the guilt the incident's generated.

Consolation: when I lost my heavily-annotated-by-both-me-and-this-physics-student-I-was-hooking-up-with copy of Gravity's Rainbow on the CTA a year later, I considered it karmic retribution.


One of my friends stole my copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (I lent it to her and she returned the other book I'd lent her but never gave that one back!), and so I quietly swiped it back earlier this year. Previously when I asked her for it back she stated that it was her copy. I would believe this, because she did have a copy, but mine had a nice note written in the front by the relative that gave it to me, and I found it very suspect that her uncle would also have given it to her and written the same note on the flyleaf...

anyway, I don't think she noticed, because she has two copies of it, but I felt vindicated. :P


Oh my god, I took a huge art book out on an ex-boyfriend's library card and I still had it when we broke up...and I didn't return it for like six months. Not intentionally, I swear.




I joined my high school recycling club to impress a hunky male teacher (HAHA), and boy did I have the last laugh when I ended up swiping a bunch of old books from a storage room. I also may have stolen some Post-Its!

Here is a very partial list of books that I have snagged (from high school storage rooms, from people I know, from two very dear professors that never asked for the books back and I forgot about them): "All Quiet on the Western Front," "This Rough Magic" (Mary Stewart, how I love you!), "This Sex Which is not One," "Write Source 2000 (stole that one from Mrs. Reilly, 7th grade), and "Kitty Foyle" (stolen from the university English dept.'s SITTING ROOM).


@cocokins For the record, nothing boils my blood more than having a book stolen FROM me. So, I don't know. I've pretty much stopped my book-thievery.


"Never loan a book to someone if you expect to get it back. Loaning books is the same as giving them away." - Douglas Coupland

"It's a gift. Never lend books." - William Adama

(In other news, I am two completely distinct kinds of nerd, apparently.)


@katekari I've finally learned my lesson and now just buy used copies of books I like and give them to people instead of lending.


I stole a couple of romance novels from the library once. Porn for 13 year old girls! I wish I could remember what happened to them.

My family (parents, grandparents, various aunts and uncles) share books pretty frequently, so it's not uncommon to have a book taken by dad, read by everyone, and returned a year later by grandma.


@Inconceivable! Ha! I remember constantly sneaking looks at "Forever" in the library when I was 13. I was too afraid to steal it because, of course, the embarrassment of anyone catching me with it would have surely killed me.


@katiemcgillicuddy @Inconceivable!
I think we would have been friends, if we could have somehow bonded over this secret love (but probably couldn't have even talked about it.)

rianne marie

I discovered a Nora Roberts novel in a classroom in grade 9. Started reading it, stole it, and then secretly read Nora Roberts without letting a single soul find out about it for years. I was a closet romance novel reader.

rianne marie

@rianne marie Also, when you own a bookstore and want to return books to the publisher for whatever reason, a lot of the time you just have to tear off the covers and mail those back. Ridiculous, am I right?
For much of my childhood I had a pretty large collection of great books with no covers. Technically stolen from the publisher, but seriously! Publishers tell bookstore owners to destroy books!


@rianne marie I stole a V.C. Andrews book from my elementary school. I mean, I think it belonged to a teacher or classmate, but still! And I think my mom threw it out.

cecil hungry

I'm just really excited someone else has read all 12 volumes of A Dance to the Music of Time! SO GOOD!

Also I have about 25% of my sister's books. It's her fault for moving across the country--now I have unfettered access to everything she didn't take with her. If she'd really wanted them, she wouldn't've left them, right?


Eight years ago I loaned my copy of Under The Banner Of Heaven to the wacked-out ED of the highly dysfunctional non-profit where I was working, and she NEVER GAVE IT BACK.

Around the same time, I loaned brother stonefruit my copy of Tomcat In Love because he was going on a road trip to Canada. He up and LEFT it in Montreal.

After that, I started writing my name in any book I loaned to anyone.

I think my ("my") copy of Troubling A Star may actually belong to a close friend but she's never tried to claim it and I can't remember if I bought it.

Also in high school I stole my French teacher's cassette tape (K7!) of the Jacques Dutronc best-of compilation. I lied through my teeth and told her she must have misplaced it. She was a wretch but I shouldn't have done that.


@stonefruit We always had our German teacher make copies for us of her weird German rock CDs. But I bet some of the kids just stole them.

I write my name in books too. Do you think someone would actually contact you if they found it? Or is it a reminder to your friends?


@whateverlolawants It's a very uncool, passive-aggressive reminder to my friends that they don't own these books. At least, that's my intent.


For everyone who thinks that whoever they stole the books from doesn't remember: I remember every book that was stolen from me, and who stole it. Just FYI.

Also just totally asked for the current address of the friend who lent me two books in 2007 when I visited her in Norway, and I never shipped them back to her. They were the the only two books I ever stole and this post made me feel really guilty about it.


A copy of "Why I Am Not A Christian" from my college's library, still sittin' there on my shelf. I was a recently lapsed Catholic at the time and oh boy are there some angry little notes in the margins.
A copy of Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" that I ACCIDENTALLY stole from a beach house I was renting with some buddies. I still feel bad about that.


The Baker's Dozen Cookbook, from a former roommate, because I used to be passive-aggressive and SHE NEVER BAKED WITH ME!


I have a copy of Guns of the South that I "borrowed" from a college friend and never returned. I have no justification for this, but I do reread it every couple years.

I had a copy of The Outsiders that was absolutely perfect -- it had unusually good cover art, it was just the right size, it actually fit in my pocket! I lent it to my high-school boyfriend and the son of a bitch kept it.


I borrowed Psychoanalysis of Fire by Gaston Bachelard from a boyfriend I was in the process of having really bad times with. He got it for free as a desk copy, and he visibly didn't want to lend it to me even though I had to read it for a deadline and he had already read it. He was very cold about it. So when we finally did break up, even though I made a big deal of returning everything else he left behind in my apartment, I have to admit that somehow Gaston remained with me!

Don't think there is anything else though. Unless you count books from my grandmother's house. But she had already explicitly said "take whatever you like." Azuela, Los de Abajo! Cellini, Autobiography! Good stuff. Go grandma.


@harebell When I was 19 or 20, my grandmother let me take several of the books I read every year when I visited. She also let me take a ton to sell on Amazon or to Half-Price Books. That was nice of her. And she died a few months later, so my family got all the rest. But for the preceeding decade, we'd mostly been buying her books that she'd like, but also we'd want to own someday anyway. Same with perfume.

(Sorry for the deleted comments. I misspelled stuff and can't edit on this browser.)


Is forgetting to return really the same as "stealing" a book?

Someone forgot to return one of my then-favorite books ever, which I had lent, Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It's been a good ten years now, we've both moved several times, and technically I would still love to have it back, but there is also something good about the unfinished feeling hanging between us, like an invisible cobweb thread. Even though we may have lost touch... we are still sort of connected because she's still got my Murakami book!

(And she was ridiculously generous to me all the time, so it's not like there can be a grudge).

Tits McGee is on Vacation

I borrowed the first 4 Song of Ice and Fire books from a friend years ago and always forgot to return them. I finally remembered in Jan and he told me to keep them b/c his brother got him a nice set for Xmas... so accidental stealing turned gift?

Also Profiles in Courage.

Mostly I just get books taken from me and then I see them on friends bookshelves later and have a pang of book grief.


Last summer, I stole a falling-apart paperback copy of Vilette from a rental house! I felt extremely conflicted about doing so, but I was in the middle of it when it came time to leave and asked my mom (who was renting the house) what I should do. She insisted that the owners had stipulated that the particular bookshelf it came from was under a leave-one-take-one policy, so I did that. Uuuugh, I still feel like a dick about it, though!

On the other hand, a friend that lives in the same city as me but hasn't spoken to me for years still has my damn copy of Lucifer Rising. It's not a very good book, but it is ridiculous and it belongs on my bookshelf!


@quatsch I know I've told this story before, but in college, this former best friend of mine drove off from me very dramatically, and my copy of Jon Stewart's "America" was in her car. I emailed her and asked for it back a few times (girl OWED me, big time, anyway) but never got it back.

And then this summer, 4.5 years later, she reached out and apologized, and we have become friends tentatively again. I've told myself to get over the book and not bring it up, but part of me still kind of wants to. I bet it's super cheap on Amazon, so I should just order it. Or look at it again and see if I even want to own it.


@quatsch A friend dumped me while I still had her copy of The Poisonwood Bible. She'd just left for a semester abroad and I ended up mailing it back to her mother.


I'm not sure if there are any books I've "stolen." I still have some books I borrowed from my cousin probably a decade ago (including Eat Your Poison, Dear by James Howe, but since we still regularly exchange books, I consider the possibility of returning them to still be present.

I do, however, have a Messiah score that my mother forgot to return to her college's music department.


What about the opposite of book stealing -- having books returned to you that weren't yours? I had an ex to whom I had given a bunch of awesome books for a present, only to have some (but not all) of them returned to me when we broke up a few months later.

It could have been out of spite, but I think my built-in mean detectors would have given me an inkling of that. I honestly think they forgot or just didn't pay enough attention to remember that I had given them to them. This is how I rationalized keeping them after they had been "returned" to me: if they were daft enough to not remember the awesome present I had given them less than three months before, then they didn't deserve the awesome present in the first place.


@phthalocyanine Some people give back presents when they break up, so perhaps he remembered.


@whateverlolawants But what was weird about it is that they seemed to genuinely think they were mine. Also, if it were the general returning-gifts principle, wouldn't they have returned all of them?


@phthalocyanine That is weird!


A guy I was (seeing? boning? mad about? all of the above?) loaned me a copy of a book on Zen Buddhism at once point and I never gave it back. It's been almost 10 years and I still have that book, though I've never read it. Then again, we're engaged now and live together, so I maintain that it doesn't count as stealing anymore.


For me it's movies. From my last relationship I inherited the Alien quadrilogy box set, Three Spike Lee Joints, and his entire collection of Wii games which I sold for $80 and bought myself a ticket to see Margaret Cho.

Maja D.@twitter

OH OKAY, it is time for this story.
I had an internship just after college, and it was a total shitshow — try as I might, I couldn't please my boss (a combination of my ignorance and her ultrashort fuse). She fired me. I was devastated (surely, I would never succeed at anything, ever!). And then I realized I still had her copy of Angels in America. I resolved not to return it, because the idea of having to deal with her again about something so minor gave me the serious creeps. But then! She emailed me! And asked for the book back! Because I had not been humiliated enough! I still get resentful when I think about Angels in America, which is a shame, because of course it's incredible.


My boyfriend apparently used to steal books or get them from his friend who worked at a bookstore. I raised an eyebrow upon hearing that. He also stole one from the consulate office of his home country, which didn't bother me, because it was from the 70s and about a topic only he cares about.

Meanwhile, I have a lot of books that friends lent me years ago. We have a sort of unspoken arrangement, though, in which we can just borrow each other's books for years at a time. The books are still theirs. They just live with me.

I borrowed my friend's book from 1995 (?) about cool stuff kids could do on the internet. Or World Wide Web. Or 'Net. It's hilarious and I keep meaning to scan pages and share it. He lives in China now, so I'll keep it safe for him for a while.

Meanwhile, I never gave my college ex back the book he left in my dorm room: "She Comes First", which he had bought to learn cunnilingus tips... we're still friends, but mentioning that book would be terribly awkward.


i actually don't think i have any stolen books, unless you count ones taken from "take a book, leave a book" shelves in coffee shops and train stations where i took but didn't leave :( i had debt collectors come after me several years ago for a library late fee (insane! it was like $30!) so have been scared shitless ever since. i did have an ex try to, after the breakup, give me back books i had given him as gifts. i guess he thought i was just lending them to him for his birthday...?


@Gone Away Lass Oh yeah, I have a book or two from high school like that. Although maybe my teacher let me take it because it was being retired that year anyway?


Most of my immediate family's extensive book collection came to us via my grandmother's assisted living facility's freaking amazing communal (and totally unsupervised, honor-system) library. Whenever we, the honorless, visited, my dad would get my sister and I to bring our biggest purses, and our brother a tote bag or backpack. We'd walk out of the place like smirking Sherpas; our bags heavy with Henry James, our pants packed with Proust.

Such is the life of poverty-stricken, shanty Irish bookworms. See you in the lowest level of hell, ladies!


...I prefer to think of it as permanently forgetting to return.


This dude I was sort of dating before he became creepy and mildly stalkerish loaned me some Philip K Dick books, and I only started to read one, and it was sort of about a stalker being really creepy and maybe raping someone, and I threw the whole collection in the garbage. So there.


I lived in an Italian villa for a semester and stole a copy of an Italian-translated-into-English book about a teenage guy who loved music from the villa library. It was great. That is all.


I went through a phase in high school where I thought it would be badass to stick it to the mean library ladies and take books WITHOUT checking them out. I ended up taking some weird Romance novels, a collection of Ray Bradbury stories and some other weird books. I made my sister return them years later when she was a freshman and I was already in college.


I went through a phase in high school where I thought it would be badass to stick it to the mean library ladies and take books WITHOUT checking them out. I ended up taking some weird Romance novels, a collection of Ray Bradbury stories and some other random books. I made my sister return them years later when she was a freshman and I was already in college.


@Nomejodas My grandfather left a bag of unreturned books on the steps of the library because they were so late it was almost appalling. In a "please take care of this bear" kind of way.

Worst thing about that? My dad and aunt both worked at the library through high school and college.


Somehow I manage to acquire books that aren't mine without stealing them. People -- by which I mostly mean my family -- apparently go 'hey, this is a book, let's go leave it with Jessica' and then I find mystery volumes on my bookcases.

This was fine until all of my books at my mother's house got packed up while I was abroad most recently. From the two book boxes that made it from my mother's house to me, I unearthed a copy of something by Freud (my mother's), a biography of Leonardo DiCaprio from 1997 (my sister's), and several business books from the 1980s (mystery owner). Not included: any books that I purchased for myself in this century. Hmph.


I dated a dude in college who lent me a book of poems that he was really into, but then he told me a bunch of disturbing backstory about himself relating to how he responded in an extraordinarily creepy way to being broken up with by a prior girlfriend ("That doesn't freak you out, right?" WRONG), so instead of breaking up with him and inviting scary behavior I just kind of....stopped answering his texts? I didn't want to see him to give the book back, and we didn't really have friends in common, so at the end of the year I put it in a donation box. But then the NEXT YEAR I ran into him, and he was like "Hey, can I have my book back? Also I had kind of a breakdown when you ignored me." I am a bad liar, and he SO didn't believe me when I told him I'd lost it.


The only good thing that my last ex left me was a copy of the German expressionist play Gas 1, in English and Deutsch.

When I was a young teenager I took a job clearing out the overwhelmingly huge and moldering piles of discarded books in a used bookstore that was about to go out of business. Technically my job was to load the books into a trash barrel, carry them upstairs to the dumpster, rinse and repeat. What actually happened was that a backpack full of books came into my home at the end of every day and were aired out in the garage until the mildew smell went away. There were so many that I would finish reading one, get on my bike and immediately ride to the library to donate, making space for tomorrow's book load.

Some are still with me, though. Hello, signed copy of Neuromancer! Greetings, shelf full of Albert Camus!

Impending Bloom

When I first read this I was like I'D NEVER, and then I remembered the copy of "The Borrowers Afloat" that I permanently borrowed from my fourth grade teacher. Oops. Also, the irony literally just hit me.


I once "stole" a copy of Pedagogy of the Oppressed ... FROM THE QUAKERS. I was volunteering for a Friends Mission and borrowed the book from their little library, then forgot to return it, moved out of town, and accidentally took it with me. THE QUAKERS.


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