How Not to Come to Terms with Your Unread Books in Twenty-Five Steps

    1. Most were purchased at your local independent bookstore. Take pride that you’ve supported a small business during a pandemic. Remind self that store is currently doing fine, and no more books are needed for now.
    2. See books you bought Tuesday and Wednesday. Realize you should have written out step one on Monday.
    3. Wax humorous with spouse about number of books you’ve bought. “Do I have a compulsive spending problem or what?” Become very nervous when they pause before answering.
    4. Experience relief when they say “no.” Become nervous again when they say “but.” Replace relief with anxiety when they say they are more concerned about limited space in home.
    5. Say you will declutter by clearing out those boxes of junk in the corner. Pledge to get rid of books you have read in process.
    6. Disregard plans when boxes of junk prove to be excellent side tables to place books.
    7. Decide to finish the book you are reading now and make list of which you’d like to read next. Have panic attack upon seeing that list is three hundred titles deep…
    8. Return from Emergency Room. Try to relax with book. See book is Walden and hyperventilate.
    9. Catch breath. Remind self that Walden is classic of American literature. Realize idea of reading nineteenth century philosophical text more compelling than actually reading nineteenth century philosophical text.
    10.   See Civil Disobedience is at end of book and finish. In fit of inspiration, go online to make donations, find activist groups to get involved with.
    11.   Go to local bookstore’s website instead. Put multiple items in online cart.
    12.   Decide against purchasing. Marvel at willpower. Slip into peaceful sleep.
    13.   Awaken at four in the morning. Check items out. Hide under comforter trembling violently, worrying spouse and upsetting dog.
    14.   Awaken again. It is Saturday. Make time to relax.
    15.   Remember order is waiting for you a few blocks away. Cry in shower.
    16.   Slip out, saying dog needs walk. Return promptly after seeing you’ve leashed up copy of Infinite Jest in place of dog.
    17.   Stroll by bookstore knowing dogs not allowed inside. Have chat with employee out front. Express condolences upon learning store’s cat passed away yesterday.
    18.   Realize this means they now allow dogs. Retain stress diarrhea.
    19.   Enter under guise of getting coffee from small stand in back whilst still retaining. Thank staff through gritted teeth when handed personalized in-store mug.
    20.   Tell them tears are from contact lenses when they call you their favorite customer, champion of small business, and savior of store during COVID-19 pandemic. Do not mention diarrhea. Dog barks with perception of owner’s anguish.
    21.   Drink coffee ASAP before browsing or loss of diarrhea retention. Don’t forget order on way out.
    22.   Arrive home, visit bathroom, emerge heaving sigh of more than one kind of relief. Settle in and listen to NPR’s Fresh Air.
    23.   Maureen Corrigan is on with book review. Suffer complete mental collapse.
    24.   Disappear over horizon, hooting like Daffy Duck, never to be seen again. Last words heard from you are the iconic first lines of Moby Dick, Anna Karenina, and Neuromancer among others.
    25.   Start new life managing used book kiosk in New York City’s Union Square. Become entranced upon learning of mystic place called The Strand nearby.