Books = Joy

Dec 10

Dec. 10, 2020

Books = Joy

I’m not a mathematician, but I can personally approve the above equation. Great books = joy, even when they’re heartbreaking or attempting to change you. Here are a few books I loved this year. If one calls out to you, please consider ordering it from the coolest bookstore you know.

First off, a book I’d recommend to every breathing person on this planet, Ross Gay’s euphoric and tender Book of Delights. Short ‘essayettes’ Gay wrote over a year of concerted delight-gathering, in his discursive, hilarious, heart-opening prose. You will immediately want to start your own practice.

Sometimes we read poetry to feel cozy, snug in a world that is familiar to us, reflected in another’s eyes. And sometimes we read poetry to witness, to stand on the edges of, a world we can never know. The latter was true for me with Danez Smith’s profound collection Homie. I cried inside while reading it, at their skill with language, and endless capacity for love. (FYI this book makes prolific, deliberate, poetic use of the n-word.)

Why do I love used bookstores? To discover older books I never knew, blessed by fateful browsing. Kim Addonizio’s bad ass collection Tell Me case in point. This is a poet comfortable in bars. If you have had a sucky year her voice will make you feel like it’s alright.

Fabulous essays on craft by one of our best “writers’ writers,” long-form journalist John McPhee, Draft #4: On the Writing Process. When he makes a fervent pitch for dictionaries as opposed to thesauri, I pump my fist in the air. Great for syntax geeks, lovers of diagrams, anyone who likes to watch a pro at work.

Lastly, two books about food and place – this place where I live – both by Native women, and both published by Heyday Books (order from them!). Enough For All: Foods of My Dry Creek Pomo and Bodega Miwuk People, by Kathleen Rose Smith; and It Will Live Forever: Traditional Yosemite Acorn Food Preparation by Beverly Ortiz and Julia Parker. I cherish these books as respected elders themselves.