The Help Desk: Rub-a-dub-dub, should I read in the tub?

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,

Reading in the tub: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Sarah, Greenwood

P.S. Please say thumbs down. I hate finding used books with wrinkly spots where wet fingertips once touched the page.

Dear Sarah,

Bathtubs are where I am most productive – where else can you efficiently shed a sandwich bag's worth of skin while also eating spaghetti? And 10 minutes later, it's ready to ferment 30 lbs of cabbage! Bathtubs truly are the altar of the modern American household.

But like you, I draw the line at reading in the tub, mostly because I practice paleo bathing (our CAVEMAN ANCESTORS didn't use HAND TOWELS) and because I once dropped an iPad in the water while leisurely combing sex offender registries and state prison repository sites for people I graduated high school with.

Which isn't to say I don't enjoy a good book while soaking – it's why I signed up as a reading tutor for a girls' at-risk youth program called Miss Demeanors. Now girls are hand-delivered to my home each week to practice their reading skills outside my bathroom door while I eat spaghetti and "shed derm" in peace. For every 10 minutes of reading, they earn one cigarette.