Ask a Literary Lady: Help, My Guest Keeps Taking Books!

Ginni at B&NDear Literary Lady,

I have a houseguest who always takes a couple of my books with her when she leaves. Do you have any advice on how to handle her, without starting too much drama?

– H.K., Indianapolis, IN.

Dear H.K.,

Search her bags! I jest, but it’s certainly tempting under the circumstances. A sticky-fingered, book-loving houseguest sounds like a tricky situation. In the best case scenario, she might think that she’s merely “borrowing” your books and will return them the next time she comes around. If that’s the case, she might just need gentle reminder to return your personal property.

In the worst case scenario, however, she thinks of your home as a hotel, and your books as travel-sized bottles of shampoo that she can squirrel away in her luggage. If that’s the case, you’re going to have to take more drastic measures.

You could:

1. Hide all your books before she comes to your house.

2. Make a big show of cataloguing and organizing your books. That way, she knows that you’ll notice immediately whenever a book goes missing.

3. Fill her room with books that you’re fine with her taking—a 1994 travel guide to Florida, your summer reading list from tenth grade…

4. Wait to see what book she takes. Then give her that book as a gift and say something sweet, like, “I saw you reading this and I wanted to get you your own copy!”

5. While she’s staying with you, take her book shopping.

6. Help her pack, or at least hang out while she does it, so she can’t sneak a few books into her bags.

7. Ask her, point blank, if she borrowed your copy of a novel. Tell her you need it back for a book club meeting tonight.

8. Go visit her and be her houseguest. Reclaim all your long-lost books.

9. Read everything on a NOOK so she has nothing to steal anymore.

10. Start a conversation about how much you both love to read. Tell her about the books you have, where they came from, and why you love them. Once she sees you as a fellow literary soul, it just might change her behavior for the better.

Lastly, I know it can be frustrating to watch someone take advantage of your hospitality by depleting your library. Remember, though, that you can always buy new books but you can’t always fix burnt bridges. If there’s a good reason that she’s a repeated guest in your home, then there may be a good reason to think generously, give her the benefit of the doubt in her actions, and tell yourself that she has every intention of returning your books to you one day.

Love and paperbacks,
Literary Lady.

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