Curse You, Book Thief!

Robert over at 101 Books recently posted a “pet peeve” about people who borrow books and don’t return them, a common complaint among book people. Book thieves tend to rank right up their with evil doers like Count Dracula, sucking the life out of your bookshelves one book at a time.

Just tonight, I was browsing through many lovely used books at Dog-Eared Books in the Mission District of San Francisco and came upon a “true crime” story called The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. Intrigued, I picked it up. But when I read the following inscription in the front pages, I knew it was destined to go home with me:

“For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner…let him be struck with palsy, & all his members blasted…Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.” –Anathema in a medieval manuscript from the Monastery of San Pedro in Barcelona


Fahrenheit 451 – The temperature at which book thieves burn…

Think of it! If that Spanish monk’s dire curse was inscribed in all books, self-policing would become the norm. The public libraries (especially in San Francisco) wouldn’t be missing half their collections, book-borrowing friends would no longer hide in guilt from their book-lending friends, and we’d all be saved from the flames of hell—well at least with respect to this one deadly sin.

Now, you’ll need to excuse me, the room is feeling a little warm. Must find those two books I borrowed from old boyfriends over twenty years ago and return them posthaste.

P.S. The book mentioned above, written by Allison Hoover Bartlett, is the “true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession.” I’ll let you know who ends up with all the books.

20 thoughts on “Curse You, Book Thief!

  1. Don Royster says:

    Be careful who you’re standing next to. Ask them if they are a book thief. If they are, get as far away from them as you can. Those curses have been known to miss the intended and hit the unintended like second hand smoke. I think I am feeling a graphic novel plot coming on. And the graphic novel would be a big seller. Every library in the world would want a copy. Geez, sure wish I could draw.

  2. FictionFan says:

    Haha! Note to self – never borrow a book from Jilanne! I do hope BigSister doesn’t read this – I’m sure I have several books that used to grace her bookshelves…

  3. heylookawriterfellow says:

    Sounds a touch extreme. Book lovers should never burn in the fires of hell, even if their borrowing habits are less than stellar. Readers are good!

    I honestly can’t remember the last time I let someone borrow a book of mine that I actually cared about. Years ago I came to the realization that when I let a friend “borrow” a book from me, it was pretty much gone forever. Even if the book does come back, it is never quite the same; there’s too much wear, the spine is cracked, and there are unfamiliar creases on the dust jacket. When OCD Mike sees one of his books looking like that, he does not want it back!

  4. Laurel Leigh says:

    That is freakin’ hilarious. I tend to agree with Mike that “borrowing” means taking forever when it comes to books, although I’ve lent books to students and they’s always returned them. I love getting signed copies, so if I loan one of those out it’s with promises extracted that I will get the book or the borrower’s first-born child back. So far, I haven’t ended up with a son or daughter out of the deal, although that could be too much fun. I would have to add onto my bookcase if it happened!

    I have The Book Thief in my stack to read to gain more tricks for how to steal books. Okay, have fun reading in the fires of hell. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, well, your students know that if they ever want to take another one of your classes, they have to return the valuables. And signed copies! Oh, my! The trust that’s required. You have my undying admiration for having strength of character that is far superior to mine. My ears are singed…

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