Can I borrow your book?

I am in seminary and everyone is buying books. I am on a mission to buy as few books as possible. I am borrowing from everyone who I think has the textbooks I need for the semester, and then I’ll give it back to them after the semester. Most people are really nice about it and are letting me borrow books, but some think I’m weird for not wanting to own books or start my own library.

I mean, I can’t collect books! They’re really heavy, and I want to be really mobile (as in, I can’t imagine lugging a huge library with me all over the world). If I have to buy a book, then I am going to donate them to our church library afterwards (it really needs upgrading anyway) or give it to someone else. That makes sense right? Books cost a lot of money too. And paper = trees…

What are you all doing with your books that you had to read in undergrad or for your master’s degrees (if you went to college or grad school?) Am I doing myself a disservice by not “building a personal library?” What about the public library? I thought books were fading out anyway, and that they were all going online.

-Bookless MDiv

Comments (9)

  1. Sonya

    Just speaking as a librarian, books are definitely not all going online. As long as authors and publishers want to be paid for their labor, books will not all be online. Excerpts, public domain works, yes; but not whole books. At least not yet. Only the large public libraries will possibly have the books you will need for grad school. But they can do interlibrary loan from university libraries for you.

    I bought and kept a lot of books from grad school (although in different fields), but I haven’t referred to most of them since then.

  2. TimN

    Great idea, ST. You should add a list of the books your looking for! I’d certainly be up for sending you a few of my books if I have them.

    The bigger question of whether to build a personal library is a good one as well. I guess the theory is you never know when you’ll need to have a book around. But these days, you can find something faster on Google Books anyway.

    Having moved apartments a few times, packing the book collection is always one of the biggest tasks. In a simple lifestyle, collecting books seems to be the one materialist urge many of us still indulge in. The only excuse we have is that we’ll be able to give them to people who want to read them. Which is where sending them to you comes in…

  3. Emmalinda

    I used to think that I did not want a personal library. But books are very important to me. They can be read and re-read, referred to at any time, and there is just something lovely about getting to know a person/family through the books I find in their houses–I can’t get that feel if everyone just uses Google Books. I am a fairly mobile person, so many of my book currently reside at my parent’s house–but I know where they are. Each year before I move, I decide which books are precious and important to me. However, I now only buy books that I have read and love–and buy them at thrift stores/garage sales. There are many books I read as an undergrad that I still I love and value–and others that I shared with friends that I would want to buy copies of now! I don’t think books are a “materialistic” urge for me, but rather something I find important. I also mostly buy used books, which I feel good about.

    All that being said, I commend those who want to decrease their amount of material possessions, and also enjoy sharing books with someone in the same class as I–makes for a natural discussion partner!

  4. Brian Hamilton

    Although I am an advocate of small libraries, especially now when so many institutional libraries operate as warehouses and have forgotten how truly to treasure the works of art they have,* I certainly understand the desire to avoid amassing the things unnecessarily. Like Tim said, post a list of books; I’d be glad to let you borrow whatever you need as well.

    * The gradual move towards all-online content in journals and increasingly in books is proof of this to me, that libraries are thinking of books as ‘containers of information’ rather than as physical works of art in their full form.

  5. ST (Post author)

    Thanks friends!
    As the semesters go on…you’ll see book lists from me. I have made a commitment to give back the books that I borrow…I do not want to take advantage of people by keeping their books, even if it is by accident. I know the “disappearing book syndrome” is one reason that many people are reluctant to let others borrow.

    I just called up the president of the seminary, because I figured he had most of the books that we are supposed to be using in that seminary. turns out that he does. :)

    so the only ones that i am still missing for this semester are:
    Powerful Persuasion by Tex Sample
    Reconciliation by John de Gruchy
    A Case for Peace in Reason and Faith by Monika Hellwig
    Neglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament by David Leiter
    Crowned with Glory and Honor: Human Rights in the Biblical Tradition by Christopher D. Marshall
    Rise Up, O Judge: A Study of Justice in the Biblical World by Enrique Nardoni
    The Nonviolent Atonement by J. Denny Weaver
    The Meaning of Peace: Biblical Studies by Yoder and Swartley, eds. (2001)

  6. Brenda

    I admire your quest to get through seminary owning as few books as possible to be able to be more easily mobile for whatever ministry you are called to in the future.

    For me, however, books in my personal library have been important. After seminary, I moved to a rural area. The public libraries in this area do not carry the types of theological books that I read in seminary. I am grateful for the books I have when working on sermons or Bible studies. Inter-library loan is available, but I find it to be slow, and some books I would be borrowing again and again and again…

  7. Michelle

    I haven’t done a masters yet (haven’t even worked for a while, since I’ve been a SAHM/homeschooler with my two boys), but I did keep most of my major books from undergrad. I was an English major, and these are still helpful to me when I do teach or tutor. OTOH, every time we move, I think long and hard about each book because they are heavy and we have many (6 bookcases full, one of which is exclusively for homeschooling and one of which is my sons’). If you want to be cheaply mobile, don’t keep books. If you want to be able to access information from a particular book and you’re living somewhere without a “Western” library or bookstore (as I do currently), then I’d recommend keeping the most important ones.

    With books, it is a struggle for me to say where the line is between materialism and what may be necessary.


  8. tomdunn

    It sounds like a noble idea to get through seminary without books. Putting the materialism, consumerism, mobility points aside it would be a hindrance to my education to not have my own books. In my experience, I read much better when I have a pen in my hand, and the pages of a book that I read tend to bleed with ink when I am done with them. Not only is actively interacting with the pages helpful to hold my attention while reading, it is also very helpful when going back to study for an exam, or to look up a reference for a paper.

    Along with this, it absolutely drives me crazy to buy or borrow a used book that has already been underlined/highlighted in. One, it bothers me to not read a clean page, and two, I find myself thinking, “Why did this person highlight this? Is it really that important? Should I underline it differently for myself? What were they thinking here, this whole paragraph is full of useless information and now it is being seared into my brain because of a gluttonous amount of florescent yellow highlighter!!”

  9. Carol

    I’m with you! I get as many textbooks as I can from the library. ILL is a great way to get books!!!
    I save so much money! Of course my books aren’t really that interesting and I can’t imagine picking up my textbook for some fun reading at some point in the future (Engineering textbooks don’t foster well for that use…)

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