The Help Desk: Literary theft on Instagram

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,

So my best friend just got, like, a gazillion follows on Instagram by all these celebs and start-of-alphabet listers after she posed sultry librarian pics WITH MY DANG LIBRARY!!!!!!

She won't even tag me or anything, so I'm having tons of FOMO about her living big on my taste, and all these people are like "we like the same books!" and she doesn't even read.

How can I get back at her?

Wendy, West Seattle

Dear Wendy,

Your friend sounds needy, and not in a cute trying-to-bribe-nurses-at-George-Washington-University-Hospital-to-give-RBG-stem-cell-jello-shots-because-sweet-tap-dancing-Jesus-all-20-pounds-of-that-85-year-old-woman-must-stay-fit-and-healthy-and-strong-for-another-two-years-at-least kind of way. Your friend sounds needy in the traditional, boring way: she is a praise hound.

You cannot stop a praise hound from panting and baying for praise any more than you can stop birds from trying to have sex with bees, or RBG's flappy little limbs from slowly calcifying right before our horrified eyes.

Here is what you can do: invite your friend over for another library photo shoot – perhaps offer to snap some pics of her in a festive sweater for a holiday card, since the Instagram post was so popular. Before she arrives, go to a used book shop and add some fun alt-right Easter eggs to your shelves like "The America We Deserve" and "Time to Get Tough" by Donald Trump, "Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism in America," "Truth, Justice, and a Nice, White Country," maybe something cheap and smutty by Ann Coulter, and perhaps a copy of "Mein Kampf". If she's not a reader, she won't bother looking at your shelves because to her, books are merely a platter on which praise is heaped.

Or, if you don't want your friend to be accused of sympathizing with the alt-right movement, you could just comment on her Instagram post, something along the lines of "Yes, I'm dying to know what your favorite book from my library is."

Either way, be playful! Have fun with it! And pray and/or offer up a blood sacrifice for RBG.