These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett is one of those books that, while you’re reading, you stop and marvel at what you have just read. Not just the idea, but the way the idea was expressed.
These Precious Days: Essays is one of those books you think about after you’ve finished reading it.
Though I admit, I struggled a bit in the beginning. Many of the essays seemed disjointed, and I couldn’t quite figure out how they fit together into one essay collection. I kept looking for the common thread, and it wasn’t until I was finished reading, that I realized I may have been looking too hard.
“These precious days” — the phrase itself. Our days are precious. Whether it’s a chore day, a run-errands day, a have-coffee-with-a-friend day, all our days are precious. And sometimes, those days, my days, do feel disjointed.
Let me share with you some of the gems I marked as I read this book:
“The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: we can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss too many of life’s details.”
“I was an introverted kid, and not a strong reader. My grandmother had a stock of mass-market ‘Peanuts’ books she’d bought off a drugstore spinner. Titles like You’ve Had It, Charlie Brown and All This and Snoopy, Too were exactly my speed. I memorized those books. I found Snoopy in Paradise the way another kid might have found God.
Influence is a combination of circumstance and luck: what we are shown and what we stumble upon in those brief years when our hearts and minds are fully open.”
“Did I become a novelist because I was a loser kid who wanted to be more like the cartoon dog I admired, the confident dog I associated with the happiest days of my otherwise haphazard youth? Or did I have some nascent sense that I would be a writer, and so gravitated towards Snoopy, the dog-novelist? It’s hard to know how influence works. One thing I’m sure of is that through Snoopy, Charles Schulz raised the value of imagination, not just for me but for everyone who read him.”
“How I came not to care about other people’s opinions is something of a mystery even to me. I was born with a compass. It was the luck of my draw. This compass has been incalculably beneficial for writing —for everything, really— and for that reason I take very good care of it. How do you take care of your internal compass? You don’t listen to anyone who tells you to do something as consequential as having a child. Think about that one for a second.”
“I’d been afraid the stories of my youth would be as bad as my youthful poetry. I’d been afraid I’d somehow been given a life I hadn’t deserved, but that’s ridiculous. We don’t deserve anything — not the suffering and not the golden light. It just comes.”
“When I went to graduate school, hoping to be a writer, I had no idea that owning a bookstore was one of my career options. But I believe I’ve done more good on behalf of culture by opening Parnassus than I have writing novels. I’ve made a place in my community where everyone is welcome. We have story time and poetry readings and demonstrations from cookbooks. I’ve interviewed more authors than you could even imagine. Many of them sleep at my house. I promote the books I love tirelessly, because a book can so easily get lost in the mad shuffle of the world and it needs someone with a loud voice to hold it up and praise it. I am that person.”
“Where books are concerned, covers are what we have to go on. We might be familiar with the author’s name or like the title, but absent that information, it’s the jacket design — the size and shape of the font, the color, the image or absence of image — that makes us stop at the new releases table of our local independent bookstore and pick up one novel instead of another. Book covers should entice readers the way roses entice bees — like their survival depends on it.”
“In the twenty-six years that Karl and I had been together, I’d never had the experience of coming home to dinner being made. It was a minor footnote considering everything I got from Karl, but still, the warmth of it, the love, to walk in the door after a long two days and see that someone had imagined that I might be hungry knocked me sideways. This was what marriage must look like from the other side.”