Why Won’t My Friends Read the Books I Love?

Dear Literary Lady,

My friends never finish the books I lend them. What’s up with that?

What’s up with that? Alas, dear reader, it could be any number of things! And without a bit more information to go on, we can only guess at the source of the problem. It could be that the books have been lost or damaged and your friends are afraid to confess the truth. It could be that your friends just don’t read that much, or that they read exceptionally slowly, or, worst of worsts, that they cannot in fact read at all, in which case this is terrible for all of you and they must be so embarrassed.

…Or, of course, it could be that your taste in literature is atrocious—and that you’re not so much lending your horrendous books to people as you are forcing them into their homes, where they sit unopened on a table somewhere, gathering dust and resentments. (Be honest now, dear reader: how many of these missing books are Atlas Shrugged?)

Well, anyway. If you’re truly desperate to understand the nature of this mystery, you may be able to discern the source of the problem by asking casually after the missing volumes, and then watching your friend’s face closely for signs that he or she is a) embarrassed, b) guilty, or c) struggling mightily against the urge to punch you in the mouth.

But in the end it’s less important that you discover the deal behind your friends’ lack of literary follow-through, and more important that whatever their reasons, you don’t take it as a personal slight. You aren’t the arbiter of other people’s reading habits; you cannot force anyone to read your books, let alone to love them as you do. You’re merely a conduit, a middleman, a matchmaker. And a matchmaker doesn’t demand that every date will end in marriage, any more than a library insists that you finish every book you take from its shelves. The books you lend to the ones you love are opportunities, not assignments. And in the land of literary opportunity, the thing to do is keep your hopes high, your expectations low, and your library open for business—all for the slim but beautiful possibility that someday, somehow, you’ll facilitate a true romance.

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