Tag Archives: recommendation

Unabashed Gratitude

Image resultToday, a happy poem for you.

I’ve kept my colorful copy of Ross Gay’s delightful Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude within arm’s reach on the corner of my desk for over a year now. Here I can easily grab it, open any page, and feel a healing breeze. It’s a bright book, full of Neruda-esque odes and celebrations for a damaged, dazzling world, and I highly recommend it.

Wedding Poem
By Ross Gay

   for Keith and Jen

Friends I am here to modestly report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again,
until, swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch,
where the sunflower curled its giant
swirling of seeds
around the bird and leaned back
to admire the soft wind
nudging the bird’s plumage,
and friends I could see
the points on the flower’s stately crown
soften and curl inward
as it almost indiscernibly lifted
the food of its body
to the bird’s nuzzling mouth
whose fervor
I could hear from
oh 20 or 30 feet away
and see from the tiny hulls
that sailed from their
good racket,
which good racket, I have to say
was making me blush,
and rock up on my tippy-toes,
and just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel.

The Dream

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I urge you to at some point take a break and listen to his most famous speech. It has always given me chills, but never more than today, a time when it is unfortunately, unbelievably, still so relevant.

Credit: Getty Images

Dr. King would have been 88 this month, which is younger than my grandma was when she passed away last summer. Many of the original Freedom Riders and founders of the Civil Rights Movement are still with us. John Lewis is still fighting his ass off for the resistance — most recently protesting this nightmare of an incoming administration by boycotting the inauguration. I’m currently reading his autobiographical graphic novel trilogy March, about his life and the founding of the movement. It’s a visceral history lesson, as horrifying and inspirational as you would expect. The sacrifices these people made — their bravery and dedication — are incredible, and must never be underestimated.

But of course this “history” is current. We’re living in it right now. There is still so much work to be done. Between threats to civil rights and liberties, the dignity of women, non-Christians, and immigrants, international diplomacy, the environment, and the entire freakin’ Earth itself, I sometimes feel like my head and heart are going to explode from disbelief and outrage. But as we continue to fight against and resist this myriad of evil bullshit, let’s also take a minute to acknowledge all the good and necessary work that has come before. Let it feed us.

As King said, The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. So long as we show up.

The Year in Books

Some years ago — at least a dozen or so, in fact — I began the habit of recording every book I read. Upon finishing one, I write its title and author in a small, hardback journal adorned with a rosy finch  perched on a lavender thistle. As many would agree, 2016 has largely been a real bitch of a year for a myriad of reasons I honestly don’t have the energy to discuss here. Instead, I’ll just leave my Year in Books.

I do recommend most of them with varying levels of enthusiasm, but you can catch up on the best of the best in some of my previous posts here, here, and here, or just look for stars next to choice titles. My top seven are in bold, too.

For the most part, the theme of the year was escapism, so these are mostly fiction with a few non-fiction, poetry, and graphic novels in the mix.


The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing — Kevin Young
*Lab Girl — Hope Jahren
*Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude — Ross Gay
The Bone Clocks — David Mitchell
*Station Eleven — Emily St. John Mandel
*Behind the Beautiful Forevers — Katherine Boo
*The Magicians — Lev Grossman
*The Magician’s King — Lev Grossman
*The Magician’s Land — Lev Grossman
First Bad Man — Miranda July
Boy, Snow, Bird — Helen Oyeyemi
*Ready Player One — Ernest Cline
The Museum of Extraordinary Things — Alice Hoffman
*The Lowland — Jhumpa Lahiri
*Blankets — Craig Thompson
*Between the World and Me — Ta-Nehisi Coates
*Gold, Fame, Citrus — Claire Vaye Watkins
*Euphoria — Lily King
Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
The Nest — Cynthia Sweeney
*Elfquest (Books 1-8) — Wendy and Richard Pini
*Dune — Frank Herbert
M Train — Patti Smith
*Annihilation — Jeff Vandermeer
*Authority — Jeff Vandermeer
*Acceptance — Jeff Vandermeer
*Dear Mr. You — Mary Louise Parker
Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut
*Fun House — Alison Bechdel
Beautiful Ruins — Jess Walter
Fables (volumes 10-13) — Bill Willingham
*The Girls — Emma Cline
*Fool’s Crow — James Welsh
*Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — Maria Semple
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — JK Rowling, J Tiffany, J Thorne
Girl on the Train — Paula Hawkins
*Six of Crows — Leigh Bardugo
*Crooked Kingdom — Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone — Leigh Bardugo
Siege and Storm — Leigh Bardugo
Ruin and Rising — Leigh Bardugo
Purity — Jonathan Franzen
*Little Terrarium — Hannah Fries
Big Magic — Elizabeth Gilbert
*The Wet Engine — Brian Doyle
*The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 

Bonus: Notable Netflix shows:
Stranger Things (creepy 80s nostalgia!)
Black Sails (pirates!)
Peaky Blinders (post-WWI English gangsters!)
Catastrophe (Irreverent marriage/parenting)
The Americans (Soviet Spies!)
Vikings (awesome hairdos!)
Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell (Napoleon-era magicians)
Bob’s Burgers (animated family life)
The League (Assholes!)
Frankie and Grace (70-something women reinventing themselves)
Orange is the New Black (life in a women’s prison)
Miss Fisher’s Mysteries (fabulous clothes!)
The Red Road (reservation intrigue and Jason Momoa)
Game of Thrones (basically all of the above)



The Magician King

“This, now, stopped him, He’d known that adventures were supposed to be hard. He’d understood that he would have to go a long way and solve difficult problems and fight foes and be brave and whatever else. But this was hard in a way he hadn’t counted on. You couldn’t kill it with a sword or fix it with a spell. You couldn’t fight it. You just had to endure it, and you didn’t look good or noble or heroic doing it. You were just the guy people felt sorry for, that was all. It didn’t make a good story — in fact he saw now that the stories had it all wrong, about what you got, and what you gave. It’s not that he wasn’t willing. He just hadn’t understood. He wasn’t ready for it.”

— From the last pages of The Magician King, by Lev Grossman