The Book of Delights: Essays

July 27, 2023


The Book of Delights: Essays is a study in delight. The author, Ross Gay, decided that for an entire year, he would commit to asking himself the question, ‘What delights me?’ He then diligently wrote down the answers by hand, and called them essayettes. The essayettes are his informal observations of the world, the people in it, and how we relate to one another.

Through this daily practice, one of his key revelations was that delight doesn’t just happen spontaneously; rather, you need to actively seek it out. He talks about how this pursuit of delight ‘occasioned’ the development of what he terms a ‘delight radar’ or ‘delight muscle.’ The more you train yourself to uncover delight, the more adept you become at recognizing it. Consequently, the more skilled you are at spotting delight, the more you’re likely to discover.

Another revelation he uncovered was that sharing his delight amplifies it. This resonates deeply with me. When we withhold our joy, we deprive both ourselves and others of the opportunity to experience these moments of delight. If Ross Gay had chosen not to share his delights in this book, I am certain that I would have missed out on some truly captivating essayettes.

I think there is a lot of value in the two key takeaways from this book: the proactive pursuit of delight and the willingness to share our joys. These are things that don’t come easily to me. Yet, they are also practices I’ve been striving to apply in my journey towards cultivating more happiness, positivity, and delight. To some extent, the practice of gratitude journaling I began in 2020 serves as my tool to recognize goodness and acknowledge moments of joy. While I do occasionally falter, I keep finding my way back to this practice. Because my gratitude journal is a private log, I make an effort to share recent delightful experiences with those around me and also to listen to people when they share their stories.

I stumbled upon this book thanks to the This American Life podcast. Specifically, the episode titled The Show of Delights captivated me with its Act One, titled ‘The Job of Delight’. This segment featured an interview with poet Ross Gay, the author of ‘The Book of Delights.’ The elegant simplicity of the book’s concept caught my attention, prompting me to place a hold for it at the library. While I appreciate the book’s underlying concept, I must admit that my enthusiasm for the collection of essayettes itself was not as pronounced. I do feel odd about giving another person’s delights a low rating. But anyhow, that is precisely the nature of my reviewing project. Perhaps I should have held my horses before getting the book. Perhaps I should have trusted NPR’s Ira Glass (the source of one of my life’s consistent delights) to have given me what this book had to offer. If anything Ross Gay’s collection of delights is inspiring, and I am eager to continue adding to my very own collection of delights.

One of my favorite highlighted quotations from the book.

  • “The more stuff you love the happier you will be.”

Made with lots of ♥️ and