All writers are given the same piece of advice to write each and every day; Ross Gay took on this challange and made it literal.
And so The Book of Delights was born, Ross Gay’s collection of personal essays, a one-year project beginning and ending on Gay’s birthday. Each piece is framed around the blissful premise of capturing the little pleasures in everyday life.
The topics of the delights range from the smallest joy, like a “Flower in the Curb,” where Gay recounts seeing, “some kind of gorgous flower, mostly a red I don’t think I actually have words for, a red I maybe only seen in this flower growing out of the crack between the curb and the asphalt…” (Gay 9).
In addition to the light moments, Gay reveals truths that ask his reader to think. A writer of color, Gay raises the issue of inequality throughout the text, like when he discusses his friend’s book :
“…the fact that innocence is an impossible state for black people in America who are, by virtue of this country’s fundamental beliefs, always presumed guilty. It’s not hard to get this. Read Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow. Or Devah Pager’s work about hiring practices showing that black men without a record receive job callbacks at a rate lower than white men previously convicted of felonies… (Gay 25).”
This perspective that Gay shares invite his readers not only to be appreciative, but critical, of their surrounding world. More serious themes such as this are interwoven throughout the novel, balancing the existing uplifting moments.
As a reader, this feels more authentic to read than a book solely about delights. It’s not realistic to have a positive outlook every day for an entire year. Gay’s balance of the ideas he wrestles with in daily life, along with the little joys he experiences make for a reliable narrator.
The Book of Delights is a great read that asks its reader to reflect on life’s positive experiences, amid times of uncertainty and negativity. Its essay-like structure of one delight at a time makes it easy to breeze through, since it is connected by a premise more than a plot. It’s positive tone will put you in an uplifting mood and help you to notice the daily delights in life than go often overlooked.