The Help Desk: The library at the end of the world

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

I read once that books made in the twentieth century with cheap pulp and bad glue would fall apart much sooner than old books, using good paper and good bindings.

What books will you miss most when they're gone, and which ones would you read that stuck around, if the book apocalypse ever comes?

Sandor, University District

Dear Sandor,

The book apocalypse is here. It rode in on the shoulders of COVID-19, closing libraries and other "non-essential" businesses like bookstores across the country. (Do not get me started on the "essential-ness" of certain businesses. Marijuana stores are about as essential as Tweeze Parlors and Pottery Barns.) You can't even return library books in my town. They don't want their filthy sneeze trappers back.

So here I am, without any new reading material, self-isolating with a thousand pessimistic spiders. Any time I am hungry or bored, they tell me to eat my young. And thanks to a nation of wildly misplaced concern, I am now out of toilet paper. (That includes my diploma from Prepper U, which was also printed on toilet paper.)

If you'd like me to put sprinkles on this turd and call it dessert, the one upside is that I have the time to dig through my library and revisit old favorites. Here are a few upbeat ones I'd recommend right now:

If you have human children you have not yet consumed, I also recommend:

Air kisses,