Beg, Borrow, Or Steal (But Mostly Only From Family)

Fahrenheit 451It’s dangerous to allow family members to spend any length of time in my room, because any visit invariably leads to the same thing: a casual perusal of my bookshelf followed by an indignant ‘Hey! That’s my book!’

Indeed, I’ve earned something of a reputation among my family for only buying them books I want to read, reading the books before I hand them over, and then feigning innocence when they notice their books on my bookshelf later on. They christened me ‘The Book Burglar’ long before Markus Zusak’s novel of a similar name was penned, but I refuse to apologise for my voracious book appetite and my love of looking after books.

It should be noted that the only people I steal from are my immediate family and that it’s technically not stealing if I paid for the book in the first place. Besides, I’m pretty sure that book thieving runs in the family. Case in point: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I’ve heard that the book’s a classic, a must-read up there with Orwell’s Animal Farm and Huxley’s Brave New World, but I wouldn’t know. My brand, spanking new copy disappeared from my bookshelf before I’d even cracked the spine.

Two years since it disappeared, it’s become something of a bone of contention with my brother (AKA Prime Suspect #1), with the issue raising its ugly head around gift-giving birthdays and Christmas. Ever the peacemaker, my mother maintains that the book’s just slipped down behind something and will turn up. My sister considers it book thief karma. My brother staunchly maintains his innocence (some would say too staunchly). And my insomniac father tries to stay out of it—I’ve awoken at least twice in the wee hours of the morning in recent times to see him sifting through my bookshelf for reading material to consume the hours he can’t sleep. He knows that he’s Prime Suspect #2.

Whether or not I ever get to read Fahrenheit 451 remains to be seen (I refuse to purchase the same book twice and there’s currently no one in my family game to buy it lest they be accused of the crime), but I maintain that book thieving is genetic and if I’m guilty of book theft, so too are my guilty-until-proven-otherwise Fahrenheit 451-thieving family.

But surely I’m not alone in this passion for books? Surely there are others so passionate about books and reading they’re prepared to beg, borrow, or steal (from family members only) to satiate their reading appetite? C’mon. Which books have you commandeered for your bookshelf? Which books have been commandeered from yours? And do you know the whereabouts of my Fahrenheit 451?

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

7 thoughts on “Beg, Borrow, Or Steal (But Mostly Only From Family)”

  1. Book thieves unite! I’ve stolen lots of books from my parents over the years. They tend to not notice because they have so many, but I got busted when I moved out and took a stack of my mother’s cookbooks and a copy of The Mill on the Floss that she won as an English prize when she was in high school. I argued that it was like a family heirloom and hence should be passed down through the generations. Also, she doesn’t even LIKE George Eliot. I don’t think I convinced her, but she’s too nice to steal it back.

  2. I remember trying to steal a book from my small country town library when I was about seven – it was ‘The Silver Curlew’ by Eleanor Farjeon. It captured my imagination and I knew I couldn’t part with it. Mrs Librarian didn’t agree – but she never told my parents so I reckon she must’ve been a fan of it, as well.
    Have to admit, there are times when I’m tempted to do the same with unattainable books – so unfortunate to develop a conscience.
    Enjoyed your post, Fiona.

  3. Great post, Fiona!
    I am afraid that I, too, am guilty of buying others books that I wish to read myself and then commandeering them. I also think that the book thieving issue is possibly genetically inherited as my mother and I frequently eye off each others book shelves, falling upon long lost volumes and accusing each other!

  4. Great post, Fiona. I have a whole two shelves devoted to books I’ve borrowed that I – eventually – intend to return. If and when the person realises I have it and comes to get it. If and when …

  5. Include me in the book thievery club! A couple of years ago when I visited family in Sydney, my aunt lent me 2 books to read… even though I’d brought my own along. These ‘loaned’ books then ended up in my suitcase and on my bookshelf. I just can’t bring myself to give them back! One of them I’ve been ‘meaning to finish’, and the other one was just so awesome I can’t bear to part with it! Last year when she came to Adelaide and we were perusing my shelves, I even pointed the latter out. “Heh heh… uh… that’s your book! I keep forgetting to bring it back with me. You should tooootally take it with you.”

    …Of course, I still didn’t give it back. And I think she realises she’s never going to get either of them back, which is probably why she hasn’t let me borrow any more…

    (btw, the memorable book in question is Like Water for Chocolate. Fabulous, fabulous book!)

  6. The Da Vinci Code was successively stolen by various people in my family. I have no idea where my copy is now (and it was a really nice hard cover, fancy version too, none of that tatty paperback look). We have a lending library in the building where I live, so I stole a copy from there …

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