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World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumahtathil

Each month our staff picks additional recommendations based on our Dandy Roll Book Club pick. We're recommending World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments for those of our members who would like to read another book about human and animal connection based on our April pick, Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

If you liked reading about the connections between human, animal, and landscape, try World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. This series of short stories celebrates the links between all living creatures, no matter how harsh the terrain or environment. With each story focusing on a different creature, World of Wonders brings the same feelings of life and connection that Haupt has with Carmen.

From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction—a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of Arizona, where she hiked with her Indian father; and the chillier climes of western New York and Ohio. But no matter where she was transplanted—no matter how awkward the fit or forbidding the landscape—she was able to turn to our world’s fierce and funny creatures for guidance.

“What the peacock can do,” she tells us, “is remind you of a home you will run away from and run back to all your life.” The axolotl teaches us to smile, even in the face of unkindness; the touch-me-not plant shows us how to shake off unwanted advances; the narwhal demonstrates how to survive in hostile environments. Even in the strange and the unlovely, Nezhukumatathil finds beauty and kinship. For it is this way with wonder: it requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions in order to fully appreciate the world’s gifts.

Warm, lyrical, and gorgeously illustrated by Fumi Nakamura, World of Wonders is a book of sustenance and joy.

  • Hardcover, 184 pages
  • Milkweed Editions, 2020