While we usually love it when people take our books, we do have a social contract that asks them to bring those books back.
Usually they do – most patrons do not cause problems, steal books, or behave badly. But the ones who do? They can be out-sized in the hassles they cause us!
Check out the results of a study by Candice Huber (methodology unknown) on the most stolen books in libraries and in bookstores. And read her entire article for more info on this truly annoying problem!
The Most Stolen Books From Libraries:
- As I stated above, The Guinness Book of Records tops the list.
- The Bible. I can’t make this stuff up. People believe that the Word of God should be free. I guess people don’t realize the whole point of a library.
- Exam Prep Books. You name the exam, the prep book gets stolen. People steal these because they require extensive practice at home, and many times it takes longer than the library check out period allows. The most interesting: law enforcement officers training manuals are among the most commonly stolen exam prep books.
- Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and other racy books/magazines, including art books with nude photos/paintings, Kama Sutra manuals, and erotica novels. This makes a little bit more sense – people are embarrassed to check these types of books out. Believe it or not, people tend to actually rip out pages with sexy illustrations on them and stash them instead of checking out the book.
- Art Books. Expensive art books can net a pretty penny when sold on eBay.
- Reference Books/Books on University Reading Lists/Textbooks. These are typically expensive to buy, and starving college students need them for much longer than the library check out period allows.
- Books About the Abnormal. Paranormal activity. UFOs. Witchcraft. Abortion. Astrology. Nazi-era material. And…Islam?
The Most Stolen Books from Bookstores:
- Anything by Charles Bukowski or William S. Burroughs. Book sellers tend to keep books by these authors behind the counter because they get swiped so often.
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac. If you notice a theme here, Bukowski, Burroughs, and Kerouac books all share, shall I put it bluntly, content of sex and drugs. It seems that those most likely to commit a reckless act (stealing) are also interested in reading about reckless acts.
- Graphic Novels. The majority of book thieves are young, white males, and this is what they read.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Which was actually one of the most commonly stolen books long before the movie came out.
- Various Selections from Ernest Hemingway, including A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises.
- Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. David Sedaris? Really?
- The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. I wouldn’t have thought this was the stuff of the five-finger discount.
Honorable Mentions for Bookstores: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman, The Alchemist by Paul Coelho, anything by Martin Amis.
Lesson Learned: library theft leans more toward the practical than the popular, whereas bookstore theft leans toward the popular.