I’m here today to share what I’ve read over the last week. I’m still riding a good reading wave and can’t wait to chat about the three books I’ve finished since we last gathered to talk books and reading. (Full disclosure: the picture in my banner is not my home! It’s a lovely image of tea, books, and plants, which I thought went well with today’s post.)
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
“It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.”
“Is sorrow the true wild?
And if it is—and if we join them—your wild to mine—what’s that?
For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation. What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying. I’m saying: What if that is joy?”
I first learned about Ross Gay when I heard his On Being interview (“Tending Joy and Practicing Delight”) last September. I bought this book as soon as the ending credits of the show began. But it wasn’t until my friend Laila raved about it that I actually sat down and started to read.
Ross Gay gave himself a challenge: identify and write about one wonderful thing (nearly) every day for a year. This book is the result. It’s approachable and unabashedly joyful. He doesn’t ignore the painful moments in life – he mentions the 45th president of the US, the tragic loss of a young person in his life – yet he wraps those moments in delicate tissue paper and finds a place for them in a life that strains towards joy.
Gay is a poet and teacher as well as a professional gardener – he’s a founding board member of The Bloomington Community Orchard, a project focused on food justice and joy. This book is full of flowers, tomato plants, bees, and dirt. Isn’t it funny that so many poets are also avid gardeners? Or does the outdoors create poets? Which came first – the poet or the garden? (yes, yes, Eden, etc. etc.)
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
“It felt strange. I was about to read one murder mystery while sitting inside another.”
You might remember that I read Magpie Murders earlier this year and immediately got on the waiting list for this, the sequel. This book features the fearless editor, Susan Reyland. It opens in Greece, where she’s living with her fiance and running a hotel. She’s approached by an obviously wealthy couple who tell her that someone has suggested that she can help them find their missing daughter, Cecily. After further discussion, Susan learns that – yet again – the cantankerous (and quite dead) author Alan Conway is behind the connection. He based a detective novel on a murder involving the missing girl’s family years previously – a novel that would help Susan understand what happened to Cecily.
The books in this series are cleverly structured. Both are built so that we read a novel within a novel and we use the clues from one to solve the mystery in the other. They are a lot of fun and help unpack the complexities of mysteries while building the most intricate plots. I was completely captivated by both books! I hope Horowitz writes more of them.
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro
“I couldn’t write. I grew tense. I was strangled by my own ego, by my petty desire for what I perceived to be the literary brass ring. I was missing the point, of course. The reward is in the doing.”
This is the third memoir that I’ve read by Dani Shapiro* and I’m delighted that she’s been able to write so many! This is yet another book about writing, with some of the same imagery that you’ve most likely encountered in all of the other writing books you’ve read. And still – there’s an essential Dani Shapiro quality that rings through – those feelings of confusion and self-doubt are confronted in ways that are new and inspiring. She writes a lot about her personal routine and how it can be generalized to meet your own needs. I love it when writers (or any creative person) share their routines! I can’t tell you how many books on writing I’ve read and I’m still so glad to have read this one.
Up next: Last night I began The Nickel Boys on audio and I borrowed The Rose Code (yay!!) from the library on Monday. I’m still working my way through A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver in bed each night, which has been a lovely way to fall asleep. And I’ve started to read just a few pages of The New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton each morning before meditating. I love having different books in the rotation for different needs.
Have you been reading anything interesting lately?!
*The other two were Devotion and Inheritance and I recommend reading them back to back, in that order. It might break your heart in all of the right places.
Love, love, love Thomas Merton!
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I’m relieved that it’s approachable and (somewhat) understandable! I’m always scared to read books like this because I worry I won’t be able to follow along…!
These sound like wonderful reads! I have heard of Ross Gay before (wasn’t he the poet who wrote that poem about Eric Garner?) but not read any of his works, and this one sounds really good.
You probably already know this, but The Nickel Boys is a hard read. It’s well worth it, but it’s going to break your heart quite a bit. So have the tissues at the ready!
I really enjoyed Inheritance! I am off to find the other books! Thank you for sharing!!
You’re welcome! Dani Shapiro is so amazing 🙂
I have long been a Dani Shapiro fan. I have been able to attend her author readings twice and she is just lovely. I am also looking forward to your thoughts on Nickel Boys. I have read that one twice. I also found out that Anthony Horowitz is one of the writers on Foyle’s War, a British series we have enjoyed. Fun post!
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Well who knew that about Foyle’s War? Now I have more books to add to my reading wishlist. I have just started Mythos by Stephen Fry.
oh, Mythos looks fun! I hope you’re enjoying it!
I’ve never watching Foyle’s War but have been meaning to… I’m going to try to start it this week! I’m impressed you made it through The Nickel Boys twice — I’m only 1/3 of the way through it and feel gutted already. And I’m jealous you’ve got to see Dani Shapiro – she seems amazing!!
Loved The Nickel Boys. I have The Rose Code on my TBR – looks great!
SO glad you enjoyed Book of Delights. I got his newest book from the library this week and haven’t started it yet – it’s a long form poem about the basketball great Dr. J and also LOTS of other stuff as well, if the Goodreads blurb and reviews are to be believed. I’m excited to start it.
I can’t wait to hear what you think about Gay’s newest book! I’m taking in The Nickel Boys in small chunks – it’s so painful to read. But I started The Rose Code yesterday and am happy to report that it’s living up to expectation!! Even though it’s massive – nearly 600 pages – they are flying by!
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I binged through a few Dani Shapiro books last year after I read Inheritance. I love the way she puts words around feelings! I’ve also really enjoyed listening to her in conversation with two of my favorite podcasters. She’s been on Kelly Corrigan Wonders and Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens. highly recommend!
Thank you for those podcast recommendations! I’ve actually never heard her speak so that would be an interesting experience!
I’ve been wanting to read Ross Gay! My writing teacher read some excerpts from his book out loud in class and I really liked what I heard.
He’s amazing! And the essays in The Book of Delights are all short, so it’s really easy to read just a little at a time. I hope you get to read it soon!
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