"Neither a borrower nor a lender be." - Shakespeare
"Loan a book, lose a book. " - Me
We've all experienced that awkward moment when a friend or respected colleague starts gushing about a great book he recently read. [sidebar] If you're like me, you usually have a pretty focused reading plan laid out. Whether you actually execute on it's another thing (ask me how my vow to read nothing but the big Russians in the summer of '12 panned out). But the point is that we're ready for certain books when we're ready for them. Rare is the NY Times review or personal recommendation that makes me abandon my path. [end sidebar] Now this guy is totally into recounting everything he can cram into five minutes of non-stop narrative--rambling, semi-coherent synopsis, character profiles, use of metaphor ("And the otter represented his dead grandmother, man.") Bottom line, this cat just had a like-altering experience thanks to this book. And that's great.
You nod with empathy and say, "Sounds like a good one." Then, silence.
"Hey," he says. "I'll load in to you. Just give it back when you're done."
Oh, shit. Now you're screwed.
Politely decline the offer, and the guy feels like a fool because you're basically saying, "Yeah, it's cool you had such a profound experience with that, but I'm operating on a different (i.e., higher) plane, so I'll take a pass."
But it's no better to acquiesce and actually take him up on the offer under the false pretense that you'll actually read it when it's really destined for a perpetual literary on-deck circle that was already overcrowded the moment you added yet another translation of Don Quixote.
You can't even try to tackle it. If you force yourself, each turn of the page will be a more monumental task then the last. Every chapter is nothing more than fuel for your seething anger of your friend until the introduction of minor character number 47 pushes you over the brink and you promise to bludgeon your buddy with the latest Stephen King hard cover the next time you cross paths.
So if you do get roped into borrowing it and you've had it in your possession for three to six months, you have a couple choices. You can surreptitiously throw the book on his desk with a Post-It note affixed that just says, "Thanks!" and hope he never brings it up. You can keep it and figure it serves the guy right. But I recommend returning it face to face. When you do, cut off any conversation about it by saying it proved incredibly cathartic and hit a place so deep in your soul and psyche that you're not ready to open up about it yet. And before you go, take the book you've strategically tucked under your arm. It'll be the longest, most dreadful tome you've ever encountered. Rave about it and guarantee that anyone who reads it will see this big, spinning planet of ours in a fresh, new light.
Throw it on the desk with a big smile and say, "I know you'll enjoy this. Just give it back when you're done."