Discussion guide and further reading for Ross Gay's The Book of Delights, Everybody Reads 2021

  1. Ross Gay has written both poems and essays. What are the different approaches an author might take in considering how to capture their thoughts?  Why might one idea make a better essay than a poem?
  2. View or listen to Ross Gay reading a poem or essay. Consider how the author’s experience as a poet informs his writing of essays; how does hearing the pieces read aloud by the author change your experience of the reading? If you listened to the audiobook, what did you like about Ross Gay’s narration?
  3. Consider how slam poetry, music and hip hop influences might show up in both the written language and Gay’s reading aloud from The Book of Delights. 
  4. In chapter 71,  Gay returns to the subject of sta
    tues armed with guns that he first mentions in chapter 9. Over the summer of 2020, statues in public spaces were the focus of controversy. What do you think of Gay’s assertion that all new statues should have in their hands “flowers, or shovels, or babies, or seedlings…”?
  5. Gay often uses a direct, conversational writing style. Why do you think he employs this style? How does it make you feel when the writer addresses you directly? 
  6. “I’m trying to remember the last day I haven’t been reminded of the inconceivable violence black people have endured in this country.” (p. 16) Discuss Gay’s ability to overlap themes of systemic racism, delight and kindness, loss and sorrow, often in the space of one essay.
  7. Ross Gay often finds delight in the smallest of objects: a flower thriving in a sidewalk crack, or two people sharing the work of carrying a bag. How does attention to these small details add to Gay’s overall themes? 
  8. What role does humor and tragedy play in Ross Gay’s observations. How does he juxtapose the two for greater effect?
  9. One interviewer pointed out that the essays in The Book of Delights often feel like journal entries. As a reader, how did you feel about the personal tone of the writing? Would you have enjoyed the book more or less if the writing adhered to a more traditional essay format?
  10. Gay seems to take pleasure in ritual or routine (one example being the journaling exercise about "delight" which led to the book). What are some rituals that bring joy to your life? 
  11. Even though The Book of Delights isn't poetry, Gay is a poet and the writing is very poetic. Who is another poet (or writer, or speaker, or singer, or rapper) whose words bring you delight?In Chapter 38 Ross mentions an interaction with a flight attendant calling him “Baby.” Have you had delightful interactions with strangers? What made it special?

Assignment: Find something that delights you and share it with a friend or loved one. Bonus points: take a photo of the delight and post it to social media, using the tags #DailyDelight #EverybodyReads #RossGay @MultCoLib (Twitter and Facebook) @multnomahcountylibrary (Instagram) @PDXLibraryLove @LiteraryArts 

Comments

Didn't know where else to write this: Just want to thank the committee for this year's choice of books, especially this year! I downloaded the audible and it is such an incredible treat in the midst of such profoundly challenging times. Ross Gay is a true wonder - the exquisite way in which he observes and articulates those as well as what they have triggered in him, and in so many of us the universal knowing of things. And, hearing his voice deliver his magnificence of spirit thru words is truly transformative. Thank you so much.

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