A Sense of Wonder: The World's Best Writers on the Sacred, the Profane, and the Ordinary

Four times a year, Portland magazine (produced by the University of Portland in Oregon) publishes, among other pieces, eclectic and luminous essays by a range of writers. The magazine's editor, Brian Doyle (an accomplished essayist and novelist), draws on its rich archive to assemble a collection of 36 essays on the theme of wonder. The pieces in A Sense of Wonder are sometimes odd and often provocative, but all of them nudge their readers to pay attention to the quiet, luminous depths beneath the surface of everyday life.

The authors address subjects as diverse as their backgrounds: the erasure of Native American history, the state of rivers and wetlands in the U.S., religious experiences both inside and outside of churches. Robin Cody writes with wry honesty about driving a bus full of "at-risk" teenagers to school and back each day. Pico Iyer remembers dozens of chapels he has visited all over the world, from airports to the mountains of California, saying, "A chapel is where you can hear something beating below your heart." Heather King, describing her loud, colorful neighborhood of Koreatown in Los Angeles, concludes, "Maybe I need their noise and they need my silence; maybe the song we make together--all of us--is the closest to love we ever get." This quietly stunning collection may also move readers to love, but it will first prod them to pay attention--and as Mary Oliver notes in her essay, "attention is the beginning of devotion." --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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