“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.
Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights is a genre-defying book of essays—some as short as a paragraph; some as long as five pages—that record the small joys that occurred in one year, from birthday to birthday, and that we often overlook in our busy lives. His is a meditation on delight that takes a clear-eyed view of the complexities, even the terrors, in his life, including living in America as a black man; the ecological and psychic violence of our consumer culture; the loss of those he loves. Among Gay’s funny, poetic, philosophical delights: the way Botan Rice Candy wrappers melt in your mouth, the volunteer crossing guard with a pronounced tremor whom he imagines as a kind of boat-woman escorting pedestrians across the River Styx, a friend’s unabashed use of air quotes, pickup basketball games, the silent nod of acknowledgment between black people. And more than any other subject, Gay celebrates the beauty of the natural world—his garden, the flowers in the sidewalk, the birds, the bees, the mushrooms, the trees.
This is not a book of how-to or inspiration, though it could be read that way. Fans of Roxane Gay, Maggie Nelson, and Kiese Laymon will revel in Gay’s voice, and his insights. The Book of Delights is about our connection to the world, to each other, and the rewards that come from a life closely observed. Gay’s pieces serve as a powerful and necessary reminder that we can, and should, stake out a space in our lives for delight.
“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.’”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Provocative . . . engaging . . . An altogether charming and, yes, delightful book. “
“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
In addition to The Book of Delights: Essays, Ross Gay is the author of three books of poetry, including Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Catalog was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, the Ohioana Book Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize, the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, and it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a non-profit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. Gay has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches at Indiana University.