The Book of Delights

Essays

By Ross Gay

“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 lyric 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.

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Meet the Author
Review quotes
“The delights he extols here (music, laughter, generosity, poetry, lots of nature) are bulwarks against casual cruelties. As such they feel purposeful and imperative as well as contagious in their joy.”
The New York Times Book Review

“These charming, digressive ‘essayettes,’ in the manner of Montaigne, surprise and challenge . . . Gay, an award-winning poet, knows the value of formal constraint: his experiences of ‘delight,’ recorded daily for a year, vary widely but yield revealing patterns through insights about everything from nature and the body to race and masculinity. The fruits of this experiment—for which gardens and gardening provide a frequent, apt metaphor—attest to an imagination cultivated in hostile conditions. Gay’s optimism is as easy as it is improbable, his ‘heart cooing like a pigeon nestled on a windowsill where the spikes rusted off.’”
The New Yorker

“Ross Gay’s poems are little celebrations of joy, and this book of mini-essays—each centering around a particular 'delight,’ from sleeping in your clothes to planting tomato seedlings to the nod of greeting between the only two black people in a room—is a pure balm for your soul. Savor one at a time every morning, this summer, or wolf them all down en masse on a gorgeous sunny day.”
Celeste Ng for GoodMorningAmerica.com

 
“The shock of Gay’s writing . . . is his seamless shift from breezy, affable observation to sober (and admittedly still affable) profundity . . .  I want to say that Gay’s writing is magical because that’s the way it feels when I read it. But . . . calling it magic undercuts Gay’s craft, the effort that goes into producing literature that feels as fluent and familiar as a chat with a close friend. His voice has integrity, in both senses of the word: a completeness or consistency, true to itself; and an honesty and compassion so frankly subjective that it produces an incorruptible vision. Gay’s loose-limbed sentences diagram his delight, partaking in numerous asides—some as paragraph-long parentheticals—and equally numerous asides within asides, as well as nested subordinate clauses that are the purview of intimate conversation, not written prose. They are clauses and asides in which, as Gay writes them, you feel his hand on your arm, you feel him lean in toward you, conspiratorially or simply to emphasize his meaning.”
—The New York Review of Books

“Everyone could use a bit more delight in their days . . . Gay, who is the winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry, is here to provide just that, with essays celebrating everything from air quotes to candy wrappers to pickup basketball games.”
New York Post

The Book of Delights is both practice and perfection in an unassuming package . . . These pieces reflect and examine the natural world, masculinity, racism, and other topics with vibrancy. Most essays are a few paragraphs, a page or two at maximum, but it’s not the width or length of the pieces that ultimately grabbed my attention. It was the heart and intelligence found within his daily introspections.”
—The Rumpus

"A reminder of what the personal essay is best at: finding the profound in the mundane . . . his delight is infectious. It’s hard to read Gay and not to be won over.”
Seattle Times

“This collection proves is that delight is infectious and demands to be shared, and, most importantly, ‘our delight grows as we share it.’”
—Washington Independent Review of Books

"Gay’s voice is inimitable . . . Stamped with their own rhythm and frequency, each essay is equally thoughtful, cogent, and interesting . . . No matter the emotional timbre, Gay’s thoughts unfurl with a lush beauty, delight the terroir of the writing and read­ing alike.”
Orion Magazine

“In times of national or personal pain, the temptation is to go speechless, to become inert, to rage and destroy, or simply to weep. Ross Gay’s collection of short essays offers us another option: joy.”
The Christian Century

“The joy in this book comes from the author staying on the move; walking through airports, flying, and simply being on the go. Still, Gay can find stillness in his love for the earth and all that blooms. The man loves to hold life in his hands. The Book of Delights should take a reader a year to read. There is no need to rush when one can savor the small treats on each page.”
The New York Journal of Books

“Ross Gay recognizes that his project ‘requires faith that delight will be with you daily.’ That faith, which can be difficult to come by even under the best of circumstances, is what I return to Mr. Gay’s work again and again to bask in.”
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Poet Gay forays into prose with this collection of stirring, thought-provoking 'essayettes' on the ways and means of delight . . . [Gay] is a remarkable expositor of the positive, and his writings serve as reminders ‘of something deeply good in us.’”
Publishers Weekly

“Let’s be delighted. Let’s go out and find things that delight us. And let’s ask Ross Gay along—he’s an expert . . . you read him with a smile that makes your face tired because it stays for hours . . . This little book is a summer companion—it will make it summer no matter the season.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“An adept essayist . . . Documenting [Gay's] travels and encounters over the course of his year with a wry, deft touch, his book stays true to its title and demonstrates his estimable talents as a prose stylist as well as poet.”
Foreword Reviews, starred review

“The 100 of these 'essayettes' shared here in chronological order—and which are most delightfully read that way—consider things as contained as a high five from a stranger and concepts as vast as existence itself . . . This stunning self-portrait of a gardener, a teacher, and a keen observer of life is sure to inspire.”
Booklist

“Gay leads us on a merry walk through the mundane, illuminating moments of his day with intense, exquisitely detailed observations . . . Gay’s journey ambles back and forth in time. He feels his losses but imbues them with gratitude; people here and gone remain his delights. They are all here, stuffing this slim book with their abilities to delight the author.”
BookPage
 
“Something beautiful and much needed right now. Short essays that are full of observations on humanity, beauty, the mundane, the obscure, and the unexpected. His warm, rich prose was a balm for my soul.”
BookRiot

“Provocative . . . engaging . . . An altogether charming and, yes, delightful book. “
Kirkus Reviews

“In The Book of Delights, Ross Gay’s eye lands upon wonder at every turn, bolstering my belief in the countless small miracles that surround us. This is what poetry feels like when it races beyond the bounds of a poem. Exquisite.”         
Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate of the United States, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and author of Wade in the Water

“Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights reminds us of the wisdom of old songs: What a difference a day makes. This is a glimpse into a year of an artist’s life, dazzling with wit, wisdom and heart.”
Tayari Jones, bestselling author of An American Marriage

“What I love most about these delights is how Ross Gay is able to use as little language as possible to populate a world where his memories are your memories, intertwined, reaching out of the pages. There is, indeed, a great pleasure to be unearthed.”
Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us

The Book of Delights is a joy explosion . . . There is no other book on the planet I’d rather read right now, no other writing that can make me believe in the future—and us—again.”
Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Misfit’s Manifesto

“Ross Gay is a writer perfectly suited to find delight. His eye is so brilliant, it seems to glow from within. When I need hope, I turn to his words. And this collection will remind you how beautiful it is to be alive.”
Luis Alberto Urrea, bestselling author of The House of Broken Angels

“The most beautiful thing about this book is the way it insists that delight is serious business, and that love can be our teacher, and that if we pay strict and openhearted attention we can learn.  Ross Gay is a secular blessing, a possibility-expander; his work is a free box of realizable light.” 
Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted 

“Ross Gay is back to remind us, in a voice raspily festooned with bank shots and flowers and candy and garlands of diamond-sharp sanctities, that delight is always lit from within. This is an illuminating and necessary meditation that unravels masculinity, race, tenderness, strength . . . all that is extraordinary yet hidden between the ordinary creases of life.”
Tyehimba Jess, author of Olio, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

“Ross Gay is truly a free black man. His liberated words open our minds and hearts to speak.”
Elizabeth Alexander, bestselling author of The Light of the World

“What I love most about this book, and what I love about so much of Ross Gay’s work, is that it gently nudges us to take note of those small things that might otherwise elude our attention. I am indebted to this book for reminding me, reminding us, that there is so much to celebrate in the world. It is not that we should ignore the moments that are painful, but that should we hold those small moments of joy alongside them.”  
Clint Smith, National Poetry Slam champion, TED speaker, and author of Counting Descent
 
“Each essay in Ross Gay's collection is a gem, depicting the fruits of mindfulness, of intensely living in and gazing at the present moments of life. Reading The Book of Delights brings you right to our profound connection to the world and to each other.”
Sharon Salzberg, bestselling author of Real Love
Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
288
Publication date
February 12, 2019
ISBN
9781616207922