Here at The Watchcat, we encourage reading, especially during pandemic times when we cannot be going on actual spring break vacations. To find some good books to advertise, we track down an avid reader and college student, Cam.
She sits with us, politely socially distanced as she drinks her coffee with a straw beneath her mask, to discuss her reading plans. We met at a local bookstore, where she has purchased what appears to be ten. They are not fitting into her backpack, which is already full.
“Summer reading is great and all,” she says, desperately trying to fit one more book into her backpack, “but spring break reading is fun, too.”
Her backpack is near bursting with books. The zipper no longer zips. We distract her from her frustration at the backpack by asking what she is reading.
She hesitates. “I don’t know yet,” she admits. “I have a stack of books at home that I said I was going to read over the break. But these books just came out, and they’re all everyone on Book Twitter is talking about, so I need to catch up.” With a pause to assess the backpack damage, she adds, “To be fair, Book Twitter doesn’t always know what books are good. I tried to read the lesbian space necromancy book, “Ginny the Tenth,” but there were too many characters, it was confusing, and the horribly sad ending…” She shudders. “Needless to say, the sequel was even worse, so I’ve needed new books to recover from all that.”
We nod, understanding the struggle. Books can weigh heavy, like the existential anxiety of living through a pandemic, stressed and isolated, scraping together tuition when there are few (if any) jobs to be seen. At least it provides a peaceful environment for reading.
“My goal since has been to find happier books,” Cam continues, brightening a little. “Pandemic times are sad enough without sad books.”
We write that down as a suggestion — happy books for sad times.
“I might start on this one.” She lifts a massive book from her backpack. “‘The Faith of the Apple Tree’ has been talked about a lot, but it’s around a thousand pages long, so I might get through my shorter books instead and read this over the summer.”
Before we can scrutinize it, the backpack rips and the rest of the books tumble out. It appears that she has way more than ten books. We catch titles such as the latest “Killerbot,” “The Nighttime Bookstore,” “The Secret Life of Abby Lauren,” “A Thing to Speak About,” “A Home on the Aquamarine Ocean,” and more titles we can’t quite make out from their angles. A magazine titled “The Newer New York Times Best Sellers List of Books You Haven’t Seen Yet” catches our eye, and we watch in horror as Cam picks it up first.
“Oh! I’ll get started on these books once I read through this,” she decides aloud. “Then I’ll have to track these down…”
Before she can become too distracted, a bookstore employee approaches Cam. “I forgot to give you your free backpack!” the clerk says to Cam.
Cam raises her eyebrows. “What do you mean?”
“If you buy ten books, you get a free backpack, and…” The worker eyes the mound of books. “You clearly bought more than ten. Anyway, here it is! It’s extra sturdy, since we know it won’t be opened after the books are put in!” The bookstore worker hands Cam a tiny backpack – like the ones we used to see on campus worn by students who did not buy their textbooks for class.
Cam transfers the books to the shiny new backpack, and they fit well despite the microscopic size. It must be bigger on the inside than the outside. When she snaps it shut, it clicks. Cam tugs at it for a moment, realizing the books are locked inside, until she is distracted by the magazine again.
“Oh well,” she says. “Like I said, I can’t trust Book Twitter anyway, and if I get these, I can be the first in my community to read them! Look at all these books coming out…”
Her optimism is oddly contagious, but it might just be the thrill of potential escapism. In these times, the promise of potential happiness is often all we have to get by. As we look through the magazine with Cam, we find ourselves reflective. Though The Watchcat may not have found a list of spring break books, we have found a sentiment all book lovers can agree with: hoarding books is much easier than reading them.
Editor’s Note: The above article is published in the Watchdog’s April 1st column, The Watchcat, and is a work of satire.