Adult Programming

Essay Collections

This week, we've got a list of essay collections for you. From John Green's funny, deeply humane Anthropocene Reviewed to Marilynne Robinson's blisteringly intelligent What Are We Doing Here, you'll probably find something on this list to make you think. And think. And think.

Here's a link to the list in the catalog - https://decorah.biblionix.com/?booklist=26567

What Are We Doing Here

What are we doing here

What Are We Doing Here - Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson has plumbed the human spirit in her renowned novels, including Lila, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

In this new essay collection she trains her incisive mind on our modern political climate and the mysteries of faith. Whether she is investigating how the work of great thinkers about America like Emerson and Tocqueville inform our political consciousness or discussing the way that beauty informs and disciplines daily life, Robinson’s peerless prose and boundless humanity are on full display. What Are We Doing Here? is a call for Americans to continue the tradition of those great thinkers and to remake American political and cultural life as “deeply impressed by obligation [and as] a great theater of heroic generosity, which, despite all, is sometimes palpable still.”

Upstream

Upstream

Upstream - Mary Oliver

In this collection of essays, revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.”

Upstream follows Oliver as she contemplates the pleasure of artistic labor, her boundless curiosity for the flora and fauna that surround her, and the responsibility she has inherited from Shelley, Wordsworth, Emerson, Poe, and Frost, the great thinkers and writers of the past, to live thoughtfully, intelligently, and to observe with passion. Throughout this collection, Oliver positions not just herself upstream but us as well as she encourages us all to keep moving, to lose ourselves in the awe of the unknown, and to give power and time to the creative and whimsical urges that live within us.

The Book of Delights

The Book of Delights

The Book of Delights - Ross Gay

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.

The Anthropocene Reviewed

The Anthropocene Reviewed

The Anthropocene Reviewed - John Green

The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale—from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.

Funny, complex, and rich with detail, the reviews chart the contradictions of contemporary humanity. As a species, we are both far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough, a paradox that came into sharp focus as we faced a global pandemic that both separated us and bound us together.

John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.

Make It Scream Make It Burn

Make It Scream Make It Burn

Make it Scream, Make it Burn - Leslie Jamison

With the virtuosic synthesis of memoir, criticism, and journalism for which Leslie Jamison has been so widely acclaimed, the fourteen essays in Make It Scream, Make It Burn explore the oceanic depths of longing and the reverberations of obsession.

Among Jamison’s subjects are 52 Blue, deemed “the loneliest whale in the world”; the eerie past-life memories of children; the devoted citizens of an online world called Second Life; the haunted landscape of the Sri Lankan Civil War; and an entire museum dedicated to the relics of broken relationships. Jamison follows these examinations to more personal reckonings -- with elusive men and ruptured romances, with marriage and maternity -- in essays about eloping in Las Vegas, becoming a stepmother, and giving birth.

The result is a provocative reminder of the joy and sustenance that can be found in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

Having And Being Had

Having and Being Had

Having and Being Had - Eula Biss

“My adult life can be divided into two distinct parts,” Eula Biss writes, “the time before I owned a washing machine and the time after.” Having just purchased her first home, the poet and essayist now embarks on a provocative exploration of the value system she has bought into. Through a series of engaging exchanges—in libraries and laundromats, over barstools and backyard fences—she examines our assumptions about class and property and the ways we internalize the demands of capitalism.

Described by the New York Times as a writer who “advances from all sides, like a chess player,” Biss offers an uncommonly immersive and deeply revealing new portrait of work and luxury, of accumulation and consumption, of the value of time and how we spend it. Ranging from IKEA to Beyoncé to Pokemon, Biss asks, of both herself and her class, “In what have we invested?”

Discussion

Guidebook To Relative Strangers

Guidebook To Relative Strangers

Guidebook to Relative Strangers - Camille T. Dungy

As a working mother and poet-lecturer, Camille Dungy’s livelihood depended on travel. She crisscrossed America and beyond with her daughter in tow, history shadowing their steps, always intensely aware of how they were perceived, not just as mother and child but as black women.

From the San Francisco of settlers’ dreams to the slave-trading ports of Ghana, from snow-white Maine to a festive yet threatening bonfire in the Virginia pinewoods, Dungy finds fear and trauma but also mercy, kindness, and community. Penetrating and generous, this is an essential guide for a troubled land.

Erosion

Erosion

Erosion - Terry Tempest Williams

“How do we find the strength to not look away from all that is breaking our hearts?”

We know the elements of erosion: wind, water, and time. Here, Williams explores the many forms of erosion we face: of democracy, science, compassion, and trust. She examines the dire cultural and environmental implications of the gutting of Bear Ears National Monument―sacred lands to Native Peoples of the American Southwest; of the undermining of the Endangered Species Act; of the relentless press by the fossil fuel industry that has led to a panorama in which “oil rigs light up the horizon.” And she testifies that the climate crisis is not an abstraction, offering as evidence the drought outside her door and, at times, within herself.

These essays are Williams’s call to action, blazing a way forward through difficult and dispiriting times. We will find new territory―emotional, geographical, communal. The erosion of desert lands exposes the truth of change. What has been weathered, worn, and whittled away is as powerful as what remains. Our undoing is also our becoming.

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