The Help Desk: What goes on in Christian Science Reading Rooms?

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,

Have you ever gone into a Christian Science Reading Room? They really creep me out for some unknown reason, and I want to know what happens in them, but I’m too much of a coward to investigate on my own. I take my kids to church on Easter and Christmas but I’m not a super-religious person. I’m worried they’ll be able to smell the lack of dogma on me when I walk in the door.

So what happens in them? Do people read about Christ and science? Is it like Scientology, or more like one of those youth church groups that meets in the church basement and talks about our pal Jesus over plastic cups of orange soda? Am I wrong to be creeped out?

Alan, Laurelhurst

Dear Alan,

You're free to be creeped out by whatever you want, even bookstores. For instance, I'm creeped out by Toast Masters and cats who think they're smarter than me. Because you asked so nicely, I visited a Christian Science Reading Room and can report that, like nondenominational reading rooms, they are overly quiet and smell like books, not dogma. A kind woman asked if she could help me, I said "NO" overly loudly, she flinched, I smiled... it was a pretty standard exchange between me and a stranger.

In one corner of the store marked "CHILDREN," there was a table with a sign that read "Reserve Yours for a Party Today!" So I said to the nice flinching woman, "Ah, so this is where I rent children who know how to party," and she replied, "No, no, we do not rent children here."

And that is the flavor of fun you're missing at the Christian Science Reading Room.



Bonus Question!

Dear Cienna,

Can we admit that adult coloring books were a dumb fad? Now that the craze has died down we can be honest about this, can’t we?

Smitty, Rainier Beach

Dear Smitty,

Yes. And since we're now in the market for a new dumb fad, I propose genetically engineering 194-lb house spiders so I get to be little spoon for once.