The Help Desk: Breaking the code

Cienna Madrid is on summer break. The following Help Desk was originally published on November 20th, 2015.

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,

My son hates to read. The rest of the family? That's all we do. We don't have a TV, even. The other five of us could pass every moment of every day with our noses in a book, but our son wouldn't read chocolate if it were a book. We bought him a computer, and he's getting pretty good at programming and really likes it, but I think he needs to let his eyes rest from all of the vibrating pixels every now-and-again. He thinks we're all (the wrong kind of) nerds, and wants us to learn more about the internet. What kind of compromise do you think we can find?

Georgia in Georgetown Heights

Dear Georgia,

You can't force your loved ones to enjoy your hobbies – if that were possible, all of my friends would be wild about American Girl cosplay and farm-to-table spider farming. That said, if your son is programming, he is reading – you just don't get his language.

So buy him a few books that suit his interests and make a parental decree: Read for an hour, then your child can use the computer (and yes, you should definitely be letting him show off his internet skills). The method works: It's how I eventually weaned my cat off porn.

It's difficult to recommend specific books without knowing your son's age and abilities but Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming and 3D Game Programming for Kids: Create Interactive Worlds with JavaScript both come highly rated for kids 10+. If he's a little bit older, I'd throw in William Gibson's cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer. In fact, that might be a fun book to read and discuss as a family book club project, you nerds.