The Help Desk: I loaned someone a book. Will I ever see it again?

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,

A co-worker and I often trade book recommendations. She has more seniority than I do but we are both in management. She recently went on a vacation and borrowed two of my paperback books that I had recommended to her. But she only came back with one of the books. She said the other one had fallen in the pool and then she ended up giving it to one of her fellow vacationers. She half-heartedly mentioned that she'd look for a used copy of the book to replace it. It's been a few months and she hasn't. Any advice?

Feeling Burned in Ballard

Dear Burned,

You are never going to get that book back. We both know that. What you need to do is suck it up and do the adult thing: drop it. Keep lending her books. Likewise, return her books in pristine condition. Smile at her in hallways. Volunteer to partner with her during team building exercises at work. Eventually, ask your spiders to make themselves scarce for an evening and invite her over for dinner. Over a bottle or two of mid-range wine (don't go cheap, she's not a monster), ask her searching questions about her life's goals and ambitions. Press her about family or her partner, if she has one. If she doesn't have a partner, ask her why she thinks she is not worthy of love? When she's ready to leave your home at the end of the night, brush your fingertips down her arm, look deep into her eyes and tell her that you admire her. Continue cultivating her friendship. Invite her to happy hours, birthday parties, book readings. Invent inside jokes. Trade family recipes. Text emojis apropos of nothing.

Then, months from now, when the book she failed to replace is a distant memory, invite her to join you at a weekend Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale. The sales are popular and a ton of fun, especially for two best friends who share the same passion and taste for literature.

Offer to drive.

Pick her up.

Tell her you need to make a quick detour before hitting the book sale.

Drive her to the desert.

Tell her to get out of the car.

Then, leave her for dead with nothing but a Danielle Steele novel and 6 inches of garden hose.

Consider it your own version of Naked and Afraid, Book Stealer Punishment Edition.

There are downsides to this plan – if she survives you will likely be written up by HR. But I think we can both agree it will be worth it.