Hi! My name is Dan, and I'm a 36 year old writer/editor, poet, and musician living and working in Wicker Park who spends his Saturdays volunteering at the Secret Agent Supply.
As much as I love to set my mind loose inside a good, sprawling work of fiction, I have to admit that I often find that it's much easier to "cover more ground" and learn more about a variety of topics by reading slightly more digestible works of non-fiction, memoirs, essays, and poetry.
As a frequent volunteer in 826CHI's Secret Agent Supply Store, I've found that there's no shortage of eclectic books to stoke my interests in these areas. And now that another new year has arrived, I figure there's no better time to set my sights on some new (or new-to-me) potential favorites. With that in mind, here are three picks from our store shelves that I'm most excited to check-out in 2020. I hope a few of them spark your interest too — and happy reading!
1. The Book of Delights - Ross Gay
I primarily know Ross Gay as a poet, and I absolutely love his work. He writes with a tenderness, wit, and humor not often found in contemporary poetry. The Book of Delights is a new collection of essays "written over one tumultuous year" meant to catalog and honor "the small joys we often overlook in our busy lives." Especially in the middle of January in Chicago, who couldn't use a reminder of how beautiful and funny and mysterious it is just to be alive?
2. Beasts at Bedtime - Liam Heneghan
The subtitle of this intriguing new hardcover book by Liam Heneghan, professor of Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul University, is "Revealing the Environmental Wisdom in Children's Literature." That's enough to hook me right there. I cannot wait to learn more about the ways in which classic stories I loved as a child—everything from Winnie The Pooh and Peter Cottontail to The Hobbit and Harry Potter—might be imbued with very modern (and prescient) lessons regarding the environment and our relationship with nature. Perfect timing.
3. Observations - Spencer Tweedy
As a lifelong Chicagoan who also grew up playing in rock bands, I basically can't not be an enormous fan of the illimitable Jeff Tweedy and his hugely influential band Wilco. Tweedy's son Spencer is a musician and artist as well, and he recently blessed the Secret Agent Supply with a small cache of this extremely limited-edition book. True to its simple title, Observations literally consists of a year's worth of daily observations, arranged in simple, digestible lists. In the introduction, Tweedy says his goal was simply to sharpen his ability be "open to interesting things" happening all around him and help forge and appreciate "new connections." Sounds like an achievable New Year's resolution to me.