Credit: Milkweed Editions

Ever since I was a kid spending too much time at the Albany Park Library, I’ve always been a book borrower, not a buyer. There are few pleasures as all-engrossing as that of the public library: the sanctuary hush, the rows of shiny plastic-covered books, the grab-bag surprises on the carrel of recently returned tomes. But when Chicago Public Libraries reopened amidst the pandemic, I found myself worrying. Were the librarians given enough PPE? Did it make sense for me to dawdle in the aisles when I knew that public libraries were one of the few spaces left where unhoused people could spend time for free? How to social distance when crowded around the shelf of newly released fiction? And so, I discovered a new way to enjoy the library: the digital hold. How utterly magical, to read a review of a book or take a friend’s recommendation and log into the Chicago Public Library website to place the book on hold at my local branch. Even the wait is exciting, giving me something to look forward to in the gray doldrums of pandemic life. I relish receiving the automated phone call, delight in striding (masked, of course) into the library, checking out my waiting book, and waltzing out. I enjoy it almost as much as the escape of a good story, or sinking into delicious prose, like that of this week’s pickup: Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s transcendent collection of essays, World of Wonders.