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.)
“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.
“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?!