The New York Times bestselling book of essays celebrating ordinary delights in the world around us by one America's most original and observant writers, award-winning poet Ross Gay.
As Heard on NPR's This American Life
“Ross Gay’s eye lands upon wonder at every turn, bolstering my belief in the countless small miracles that surround us.” —Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate
The winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry offers up a spirited collection of short lyrical essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.
In The Book of Delights, one of today’s most original literary voices offers up a genre-defying volume of lyric essays written over one tumultuous year. The first nonfiction book from award-winning poet Ross Gay is a record of the small joys we often overlook in our busy lives. Among Gay’s funny, poetic, philosophical delights: a friend’s unabashed use of air quotes, cradling a tomato seedling aboard an airplane, the silent nod of acknowledgment between the only two black people in a room. But Gay never dismisses the complexities, even the terrors, of living in America as a black man or the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture or the loss of those he loves. More than anything other subject, though, Gay celebrates the beauty of the natural world--his garden, the flowers peeking out of the sidewalk, the hypnotic movements of a praying mantis.
The Book of Delights is about our shared bonds, and the rewards that come from a life closely observed. These remarkable pieces serve as a powerful and necessary reminder that we can, and should, stake out a space in our lives for delight.
Poet Gay (Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude) forays into prose with this collection of stirring, thought-provoking "essayettes" on the ways and means of delight. Spanning a year between Gay's 42nd and 43rd birthdays, the 102 pieces each one dated cover widely varied subject matter, including high-fiving strangers, nicknames, the movie Ghost, trains, and much more. "I am ultimately interested in joy," Gay declares, adding, "I am curious about the relationship between pleasure and delight." While "the pleasant, the delightful, are not universal," he also hypothesizes that "delight grows as we share it." But cataloguing delight isn't his sole motivation; from the opening entry, Gay challenges popular conceptions of masculinity, blackness, and the kinds of writing expected of black male authors, making explicit in one piece that for an African-American writer to focus on delight runs counter to a culture more accustomed to the "commodification of black suffering." Throughout, Gay presents himself as fallibly human rather than authoritative, capable of profundity and banality alike. One's reception of his work will depend on personal temperament; readers may be convinced of Gay's delight without necessarily sharing it. Nonetheless, he is a remarkable expositor of the positive, and his writings serve as reminders "of something deeply good in us."