The Book of Delights



By Ross Gay

Formats and Prices




$24.99 CAD



  1. Trade Paperback $18.99 $24.99 CAD
  2. ebook $12.99 $16.99 CAD
  3. Hardcover $24.95 $30.95 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 16, 2022. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

As Heard on NPR's This American Life: The New York Times bestselling book that celebrates ordinary delights in the world around us by one of America's most original and observant writers and the author of Inciting Joy, award-winning poet Ross Gay. Pre-order The Book of (More) Delights now, too!

“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 National Book Critics Award for Poetry offers up a spirited collection of short lyrical essays, written daily over a tumultuous year, reminding us of the purpose and pleasure of praising, extolling, and celebrating ordinary wonders.

In The Book of Delights, one of today’s most original literary voices offers up a genre-defying volume of lyric essays written over one tumultuous year. 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 else, 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.



One day last July, feeling delighted and compelled to both wonder about and share that delight, I decided that it might feel nice, even useful, to write a daily essay about something delightful. I remember laughing to myself for how obvious it was. I could call it something like The Book of Delights.

I came up with a handful of rules: write a delight every day for a year; begin and end on my birthday, August 1; draft them quickly; and write them by hand. The rules made it a discipline for me. A practice. Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day.

Because I was writing these essayettes pretty much daily (confession: I skipped some days), patterns and themes and concerns show up. For instance, I traveled quite a bit this year. I often write in cafés. My mother is often on my mind. Racism is often on my mind. Kindness is often on my mind. Politics. Pop music. Books. Dreams. Public space. My garden is often on my mind.

It didn't take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month or two into this project delights were calling to me: Write about me! Write about me! Because it is rude not to acknowledge your delights, I'd tell them that though they might not become essayettes, they were still important, and I was grateful to them. Which is to say, I felt my life to be more full of delight. Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight. I also learned this year that my delight grows—much like love and joy—when I share it.

1. My Birthday, Kinda

It's my forty-second birthday. And it would make perfect (if self-involved) sense to declare the day of my birth a delight, despite the many years I've almost puritanically paid no attention to it. A sad performance of a certain masculine nonchalance, nonflamboyance? Might've been, poor thing. Now it's all I can do not to bedeck myself in every floral thing imaginable—today both earrings and socks. Oh! And my drawers, hibiscus patterned, with the coddling pocket in front to boot. And if there's some chance to wear some bright and clanging colors, believe me. Some bit of healing for my old man, surely, who would warn us against wearing red, lest we succumb to some stereotype I barely even know. (A delight that we can heal our loved ones, even the dead ones.) Oh broken. Oh beautiful.

So let me first say, yes, mostly, the day of my birth is an utter and unmitigated delight, and not only for the very sweet notes I sometimes get that day—already five by 8:15 a.m., from Taiwan, the Basque Country, Palo Alto, Bloomington, and Frenchtown, New Jersey—but also for the actual miracle of a birth, not just the beautifully zany and alien and wet and odorous procedure that is called procreation, but for the many thousand—million!—accidents—no, impossibilities!—leading to our births. For god's sake, my white mother had never even met a black guy! My father failed out of Central State (too busy looking good and having fun, so they say), got drafted, and was counseled by his old man to enlist in the navy that day so as not to go where the black and brown and poor kids go in the wars of America. And they both ended up, I kid you not, in Guam. Black man, white woman, the year of Loving v. Virginia, on a stolen island in the Pacific, a staging ground for American expansion and domination. Comes some babies, one of them me. Anyway, you get it; the older I get—in all likelihood closer to my death than to my birth, despite all the arugula and quinoa—the more I think of this day as a delight.

But that's not, today, what I want to land on, if only because one's birthday is also the day of hollering many delights, if you can muster them, which today I can. This morning I was walking through Manhattan, head down, checking directions, when I looked up to see a fruit truck selling lychee, two pounds for five bucks, and I had ten bucks in my pocket! Then while buying my bus ticket for later that evening I witnessed the Transbridge teller's face soften after she had endured a couple unusually rude interactions in front of me as I kept eye contact and thanked her. She called me honey first (delight), baby second (delight), and almost smiled before I turned away. On my way to the Flatiron building there was an aisle of kousa dogwood—looking parched, but still, the prickly knobs of fruit nestled beneath the leaves. A cup of coffee from a well-shaped cup. A fly, its wings hauling all the light in the room, landing on the porcelain handle as if to say, "Notice the precise flare of this handle, as though designed for the romance between the thumb and index finger that holding a cup can be." Or the peanut butter salty enough. Or the light blue bike the man pushed through the lobby. Or the topknot of the barista. Or the sweet glance of the man in his stylish short pants (well-lotioned ankles gleaming beneath) walking two little dogs. Or the woman stepping in and out of her shoe, her foot curling up and stretching out and curling up.

(Aug. 1)

2. Inefficiency

I don't know if it's the time I've spent in the garden (spent an interesting word), which is somehow an exercise in supreme attentiveness—staring into the oregano blooms wending through the lowest branches of the goumi bush and the big vascular leaves of the rhubarb—and also an exercise in supreme inattention, or distraction, I should say, or fleeting intense attentions, I should say, or intense fleeting attentions—did I mention the hummingbird hovering there with its green-gold breast shimmering, slipping its needle nose in the zinnia, and zoom! Mention the pokeweed berries dangling like jewelry from a flapper mid-step. Mention the little black jewels of deer scat and the deer-shaped depressions in the grass and red clover. Uh oh.

I come from people for whom—as I write this, lounging, sipping coffee, listening to the oatmeal talking in the pot—inefficiency was not, mostly, an option, I suppose, given being kind of broke and hustling to stay afloat with two kids and a car always breaking and their own paper routes on top of their jobs and such does not so much afford the delight of inefficiency. Though being broke and hustling to stay afloat most certainly occasions other mostly undelightful inefficiencies, such as my father driving from Philadelphia to Youngstown, Ohio, every year to reregister his car in a state where they didn't have inspections, because his 1978 Toyota Corolla, in my mind one of the most beautiful cars ever made, the wagon I mean, had two doors that didn't open and a hole in the floor and was more or less a latticework of rust.

For instance: I love not getting the groceries in from the car in one trip. Or better yet, I love walking around a city, ostensibly trying to get somewhere, perhaps without all the time in the world, perhaps with, and despite the omniscient machine in my pocket frying my sperm, vibrating to remind me of said frying—just wandering. Maybe it's down this street. Maybe it's down this one. Maybe you're with a friend, and maybe the inefficiency will make you closer. Maybe it's a café you're looking for, on Cambridge Street, which evidently doesn't exist, until, drifting along, it does, and right down this block, across the street from a school where a trio of kids—a black girl with braids, a brown girl in a hijab, and a white girl with pigtails—shoot hoops.

In one of my recurring dreams I'm hurrying somewhere—trying to be efficient—to an airport or work, and just up the road, always up a hill and often around a bend (feels like parts of Pittsburgh or San Francisco or, sometimes very clearly, Philadelphia) is a restaurant with the best veggie burger and French fries. The fries are thick, very crispy, naturally have the skins on, and are creamy inside. The veggie burger holds together, is handmade, probably with about six ingredients in it, including the spices. The roll: superb. The décor: who knows. I should remind you that I have never actually been there. (I should also let you know that when my partner, Stephanie, opened her exquisite vegetarian café, Pulp, the dreams subsided. I got lots of those veggie burgers for real cheap. And the week before she sold it, the dreams came back in force.)

And there I go, past the turn-off to the veggie burger on the hill, zoom, being efficient, zoom, getting something important done, zoom, being productive, zoom, as just up the hill and around the bend waits a simple delight, a slow and abiding delight, the passing of which usually only gets me to an airport where, in the dream, I almost always miss my flight, and if I don't, the plane will fall from the sky.

(Aug. 8)

3. Flower in the Curb

Today I was walking back home from some errands and I realized I take the same route all the time. What compels us into such grooves, such patterns? Up Fourth past the bakery, past a solicitous cat that chases me and yowls at me to scratch behind its ears, I always make the left just before the big graveyard across the street from where my friend Don Belton lived for a year before he moved a few blocks away and, three months later, was murdered. I wonder if I ever pass Don's house and don't think of him.

Next to that house butterflies dapple the hedge of buddleia, their wings listing in the moist Indiana heat. One day I was pulling my friend Aracelis on a skateboard behind my bike and we turned this corner and Don sprinted out in sweatpants and no shirt, hearing probably the growling of the skateboard and peeking out, if I didn't also yell in his window, which I did almost every single time I rode by his house. I was sweating and probably glistening and Don made a big flirty show of wiping the sweat from my brow—I'm a prodigious sweater, so it wasn't hard to come by—and dabbing it on his own, pretending to swoon. This while Aracelis looked on, laughing. The memories don't stop, and so perhaps today I will rename that not-quite-road, that alley between Fourth and Third, starting at Don's house, Belton Way.

Now, returning from my errands, walking up Belton Way, as I approached Third I saw something bright—maybe an empty bag of Grippos or something—on the curb. But as I got closer, sure enough, it was some kind of gorgeous flower, mostly a red I don't think I actually have words for, a red I've maybe only ever seen in this flower growing out of the crack between the curb and the asphalt street at the terminus of Belton Way. The gold is like a corona around the petals, and there are a few flecks throughout, the way people will have freckles in their eyes or glints of lightning in their pupils. And beside this flower, or kin with it, growing from the same stem as the blazing, is an as-yet-unwrapped bud, greenish with the least hint of yellow, shining in the breeze, on the verge, I imagine, of exploding.

(Aug. 11)

4. Blowing It Off

When I began this gathering of essays, which, yes, comes from the French essai, meaning to try, or to attempt, I planned on writing one of these things—these attempts—every day for a year. When I decided this I was walking back to my lodging in a castle (delight) from two very strong espressos at a café in Umbertide (delight), having just accidentally pilfered a handful of loquats from what I thought was a public tree (but upon just a touch more scrutiny was obviously not—delight!), and sucking on the ripe little fruit, turning the smooth gems of their seeds around in my mouth as wild fennel fronds wisped in the breeze on the roadside, a field of sunflowers stretched to the horizon, casting their seedy grins to the sun above, the honeybees in the linden trees thick enough for me not only to hear but to feel in my body, the sun like a guiding hand on my back, saying everything is possible. Everything.

My mother, who has not always been keen on praise, has, these days, for some reason, been praising my discipline. Maybe it's because I have a kettlebell practice, or I never eat bacon. But since she said it, and she's my mom, I tend to think it must be true.

The first essay, or try, or attempt, that I skipped was on day four. Believe me, I had good reason for blowing it off. I can't remember it now, but it was convincing. Probably I got tired and thought, "Oh, I'll just write two tomorrow." Except when tomorrow actually came around, I was daunted at the prospect of trying two in the same day. One try is hard enough. What if both attempts were awful?

I'm dramatizing what was probably the minutest chatter in the Siberia of my mind, so deep I doubt I even heard it. Or, instead, perhaps I quickly revised my position to regard the occasional lack of discipline—let me call it failure; no, let me call it blowing it off—into a delight. Rather than putting Ross on the rack and whipping him with a cat-o'-nine-tails (what is that?) and pouring alcohol all over the wounds (antiseptic?) and then flicking matches at him and telling him to dance you lazy, worthless goat turd (are you asking how can one be on the rack and dance at once? Me too.), I decide, despite all the disciplinarians breaststroking the slick and gooey folds of my noggin, double-fisting sickles, swinging at anything that looks too glad, to just blow it off. (An apropos ancillary delight: the word whatevs.)

I was probably absent five times in thirteen years of primary school despite having had two surgeries and pretty serious asthma, breaking a few bones, and not infrequently falling hard on my face. I had a paper route for most of those thirteen years and literally (not like the kids say literally—I mean literally) never skipped a day, even after the night when I was about an hour away with a new lover, curled into a ball fingering each other after gallivanting barefoot in a thunderstorm. And I would have rather died than miss basketball practice, the first part of which I did in fact miss two days before the playoff game against Upper Merion, where I had to be prepared because they also had a big old bruiser in the post, and we won by seven, but still! I woke in a panic and got there fast as I could, on the verge of tears, apologizing profusely to Coach Simon.

And about a week before my old man was diagnosed with liver cancer I was hanging around the house when he was getting ready to head out to his job at Applebee's. I said, "Aw man, blow it off. Let's go watch Hell Boy." He looked at me wistfully while tucking in his shirt and sliding his belt through the loops. "You have no idea how bad I wish I could." That was the first time he'd said anything like that. I was twenty-nine. And so, in honor and love, I delight in blowing it off.

(Aug. 24)

5. Hole in the Head

I love weird vernacular sayings that roll off the tongue and most likely have an interesting lineage/etymology/history. I can't think of one right now, but you know what I mean. Well, here's one: "I need x like I need a hole in my head." This means "I do not need x." I need to be fired like I need a hole in my head. I need this cancer to resurface like I need a hole in my head. I need my kid to get back on heroin like I need a hole in my head. Interesting—sad I mean—that usage of the simile often implies that a hole in the head, administered by oneself, might be a reasonable response.

I'm thinking of that phrase because there's a recently released documentary called Hole in the Head about Vertus Hardiman, a man who grew up in Lyles Station in southern Indiana, about ninety miles from where I'm writing this. Lyles Station was a town established by free blacks in the 1800s. It's charming. I went there for a celebration day a few years back, paper plates of corn on the cob and baked beans and barbecue. We moseyed through the town museum and talked to locals.

I learned today, watching the trailer for that documentary, and with some subsequent online research, that when Hardiman was a boy in the 1920s, he was one of a group of little children, little test subjects, upon whom radiation experiments were performed. The experiments exposed these little children, little test subjects, to severe levels of radiation, such that, for little five-year-old Hardiman, it burned a hole in his head. (It might sound harsh to say it, but good lord, black people, never let an official-looking white person dressed in a white lab coat experiment on you or your children. Good lord.) If you're like me, you're picturing a scalp wound, like a cigarette or cigar burn. Maybe a peppering of them. Or you might even picture a patch of bald skin where the hair refuses to grow. Don't picture that. Picture a fist-sized crevice in his skull, flesh and fat glistening as he removes the sock hat and bandages beneath, all the surrounding skin charred pink and gray.

I'm trying to remember the last day I haven't been reminded of the inconceivable violence black people have endured in this country. When talking to my friend Kia about struggling with paranoia, she said, "You'd have to be crazy not to be paranoid as a black person in this country."

Crazy not to think they want to put a hole in your head.

(Aug. 25)

6. Remission Still

I just got the sweetest textual message from my friend Walt. It read: "I love you breadfruit." I don't know the significance of this particular fruit, though I have recently learned that it is related to the mulberry, which is, unequivocally, among the most noble and delicious of fruits.

A few years back my friend Walt became intensely agoraphobic. He was afraid he'd be walking down the tree-lined streets near his house on Spring Garden Street and a bus would hop the curb and take him out. Or a limb rotted from the inside might drop on him from one of those trees. Or lightning. Or the earth itself might throw open its ravenous mouth—it happens—and gobble him up. Perhaps it's no surprise that precisely seven years prior to the onset of this acute terror Walt was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, which, at the time, offered a seven-year survival rate, which actually means you have seven years to live. Seven years until you're dead.

I remember the day Walt was diagnosed we were going to meet at Thai Lake in Chinatown for a late-night dinner, and he left a message on the answering machine that he'd had blood work at his checkup and his doctor sent him immediately to Hahnemann Hospital, where they made me wear a mask and booties to see him while they sucked his blood out of one arm, whirled it around in a machine, and put it back in his other arm in a stopgap measure called leukapheresis. He felt okay, but his white blood cells were a mess. His folks were there, looking nervous in their masks and gowns on a couch across the room. Walt's already high-pitched laugh was a few notes higher, and a bit thinner, as he watched what was happening to his blood. When the treatment was done, he gave me his blessing to indulge at Thai Lake, to eat the Peking pork chops on his behalf, which I did, with the ong choi, most likely. It was, by now, about 1:00 a.m., and in that very full and loud and smoky restaurant I ate one of the loneliest meals of my life.

I went with Walt to get a second opinion from my uncle, an oncologist, who palpated Walt's newly extra-lovable tummy and ran bloodwork, which returned the same results. "So, the survival rate is seven years," Uncle Roy said. It must've been something like my father, whom Walt adored, telling him he'd be dead in seven years. And maybe it was something like me saying it. There I go, putting myself in the middle of everything. I guess I could just ask Walt.

Without getting too deep into the unabashed turmoil of interferon—someone should (not) do a Marina Abramovician performance by injecting this toxic drug, experiencing flu-like symptoms, et cetera—which was so severe, so awful, that after a two-week break from the poison keeping him alive, which the doctors call "a vacation" (beware anything called a vacation that isn't actually a vacation), Walt, at the thought of going back on the stuff, walked his ass into the psych ward, lest he put a hole in his head. Walt needed to feel bad like he needed a hole in his head. Walt needed to feel better.

And so when a drug called Glivec was introduced about five years into Walt's illness, it occasioned a kind of remission for a lot of people, Walt included. (It seems to work so well that it cures about half of the people. Walt might be one of them.) Despite that remission, when seven years had passed and, pre-Glivec, he was supposed to be dead, he got real scared he was going to die. Which he did not.

(Aug. 26)

7. Praying Mantis

There is a praying mantis on the empty pint glass someone left on one of the red outdoor tables at the café. Most days there'd probably be some shimmer of judgment at the asshole who didn't pick up after him—yes, I'm assuming—self, but today I'm far more interested in the fact that said asshole's depravity has created a gorgeous transparent stage for this beast to perform on, and so the asshole is a kind of executive producer of sorts, and I am indebted to . . . him. This mantis is pale, with a yellowish tint. It has six legs, which I learned in the eighth grade indicates insectness. One of these legs, or, more precisely, one of the four segments of one of these legs, is flipped over the lip of the glass—just this second it shat a tiny near-cylinder of grayish-brown scat on the rumpled napkin beneath the glass, jiggling its ass before emptying itself—as though hauling itself up, which it is not, given as it just pulled that leg up to its face, and, with its oddly mechanical mouth (I know, I know, indication of how divorced I am from the natural world to say an insect is like a machine; it's the other way around, I know; get off my back), seemed to clean (nibble) the length of its . . . forearm. I mean the segment with wiry hair- looking things flecking the bottom. Now it's nibbling its foot, or paw, and it replaced the thing on the lip of the glass. Its mouth keeps working, like it's enjoying itself. Or like someone with no teeth.



    As Heard on NPR's This American Life

    “The delights he extols here (music, laughter, generosity, poetry, lots of nature) are bulwarks against casual cruelties. As such they feel purposeful and imperative as well as contagious in their joy.”
    The New York Times Book Review

    “These charming, digressive ‘essayettes,’ in the manner of Montaigne, surprise and challenge . . . Gay, an award-winning poet, knows the value of formal constraint: his experiences of ‘delight,’ recorded daily for a year, vary widely but yield revealing patterns through insights about everything from nature and the body to race and masculinity. The fruits of this experiment—for which gardens and gardening provide a frequent, apt metaphor—attest to an imagination cultivated in hostile conditions. Gay’s optimism is as easy as it is improbable, his ‘heart cooing like a pigeon nestled on a windowsill where the spikes rusted off.’”
    The New Yorker

    What emerges is not a ledger of delights passively logged but a radiant lens actively searching for and magnifying them, not just with the mind but with the body as an instrument of wonder-stricken presence.”
    Brain Pickings, Favorite Books of 2019

    “Ross Gay’s poems are little celebrations of joy, and this book of mini-essays—each centering around a particular 'delight,’ from sleeping in your clothes to planting tomato seedlings to the nod of greeting between the only two black people in a room—is a pure balm for your soul. Savor one at a time every morning, this summer, or wolf them all down en masse on a gorgeous sunny day.”
    Celeste Ng for

    "Delightfully snackable . . . Pick it up, read for ten minutes (start anywhere, really), put it down, and you’ll find that the delights of Gay’s world illuminate the delights of yours, that his wonder is contagious and has caused you to deepen your own."

    “The shock of Gay’s writing . . . is his seamless shift from breezy, affable observation to sober (and admittedly still affable) profundity . . .  I want to say that Gay’s writing is magical because that’s the way it feels when I read it. But . . . calling it magic undercuts Gay’s craft, the effort that goes into producing literature that feels as fluent and familiar as a chat with a close friend. His voice has integrity, in both senses of the word: a completeness or consistency, true to itself; and an honesty and compassion so frankly subjective that it produces an incorruptible vision. Gay’s loose-limbed sentences diagram his delight, partaking in numerous asides—some as paragraph-long parentheticals—and equally numerous asides within asides, as well as nested subordinate clauses that are the purview of intimate conversation, not written prose. They are clauses and asides in which, as Gay writes them, you feel his hand on your arm, you feel him lean in toward you, conspiratorially or simply to emphasize his meaning.”
    —The New York Review of Books

    “Everyone could use a bit more delight in their days . . . Gay, who is the winner of the NBCC Award for Poetry, is here to provide just that, with essays celebrating everything from air quotes to candy wrappers to pickup basketball games.”
    New York Post

    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.”
    —The Rumpus

    "A reminder of what the personal essay is best at: finding the profound in the mundane . . . his delight is infectious. It’s hard to read Gay and not to be won over.”
    Seattle Times

    “This collection proves is that delight is infectious and demands to be shared, and, most importantly, ‘our delight grows as we share it.’
    Washington Independent Review of Books

    “It's the perfect read to inspire observing your corner of the world with a little more care and delight.”

    “Sweet, powerful, funny, honest, moving. Gay has a new book on the way, too; I can’t wait for it.”
    Orange County Register

On Sale
Aug 16, 2022
Page Count
288 pages
Algonquin Books

Available September 23, 2023

The Book of (More) Delights
Learn more


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 was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call It Ballin’ and founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. Gay has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches at Indiana University.

See Ross read in person. Check out his event schedule.


“The Marfa Lights”

My buddy Pat and I went to shoot around at the courts here in Marfa today. We were warming up, shooting twelve-footers or doing slow spin moves and crossovers, when a young guy from the other side of the court (where the rim had a net) swaggered toward us, holding a ball on his hip, the light gleaming in his earrings, and challenged us to a two on two, pointing his thumb to himself and back to his buddy draining threes from the corner. We agreed, and went on to kick the shit out of them, 21-0. That is a horrible figure of speech, and I leave it in only to expose the violence we easily speak. We got more baskets than they did. That they were only twelve years old is irrelevant, given as this was their home court, and they even had a crowd watching, another little girl who, when one of the kids shouted to the gods, “They’re kicking our butts!” said, “I hope so. They’re grown men.”

“Tomato on Board”

What you don’t know until you carry a tomato seedling through the airport and onto a plane, is that carrying a tomato seedling through the airport and onto a plane will make people smile at you almost like you’re carrying a baby. A quiet baby. I did not know this until today, carrying my little tomato, about three or four inches high in its four-inch plastic starter pot, which my friend Michael gave to me, smirking about how I was going to get it home. Something about this, at first, felt naughty—not comparing a tomato to a baby, but carrying the tomato onto the plane—and so I slid the thing into my bag while going through security, which made them pull the bag for inspection. When the security guy saw it was a tomato he smiled and said, “I don’t know how to check that. Have a good day.” But I quickly realized that one of its stems (which I almost wrote as “arms”) was broken from the jostling, and it only had four of them, so I decided I better just carry it out in the open. And the shower of love began. . .

Before boarding the final leg of my flight, one of the workers said, “Nice tomato,” which I don’t think was a come on. And the flight attendant asked about the tomato at least five times, not an exaggeration, every time calling it “my tomato,” —Where’s my tomato? How’s my tomato? You didn’t lose my tomato, did you? She even directed me to an open seat in the exit row—Why don’t you guys go sit there and stretch out? I gathered my things and set the lil guy in the window seat so he could look out. When I got my water I poured some into the lil guy’s soil. When we got bumpy I put my hand on the lil guy’s container, careful not to snap another arm off. And when we landed, and the pilot put the brakes on hard, my arm reflexively went across the seat, holding the lil guy in place, the way my dad’s arm would when he had to brake hard in that car without seatbelts to speak of, in one of my very favorite gestures in the encyclopedia of human gestures.


“Reading The Book of Delights, I’ve tried to limit myself to one “delight” a day. But Ross Gay’s inspirational poetic meditations on the wonder and magic of daily life are too addictive and necessary – I find myself devouring the book and rereading my favorites.”
—ROBERT SINDELAR, Managing Partner of Third Place Books and President of the American Booksellers Association

“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

“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