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.
Nezhukumatathil’s collection of short essays draws comparisons between her life and creatures of the natural world such as fireflies, axolotls, and octopuses. The illustrations in this small book are what drew me to it. I read a digital copy of this book, though, so I’m not sure if I got to appreciate the full extent of the illustrations.
World of Wonders is a great concept. Pairing informational facts about animals with personal anecdotes about one’s life is bound to be interesting to read about, and for the most part, I enjoyed this book. There were, however, some instances where the comparisons between Nezhukumatathil’s life and the wildlife seemed a little tenuous, and some of the entries seemed to lack direction while other entries vibrated with meaning, power, and true connection. Despite this collection being a little over 150 pages, it took me ten days to read. I found myself losing interest in the collection and my mind wandered to other books I wanted to read every time I sat down with this book. Perhaps I’m just not the right audience for short nonfiction essays.
Nezhukumatathil is more widely known as a poet, and I was very excited to see her venturing into a new genre. Many of her essays in World of Wonders show her poetic roots, and the poetic tone only enhances the stories she shares. Nezhukumatathil has done a lot of travelling, and I enjoyed all of the stories on her travels across the globe. Throughout the book, Nezhukumatathil emphasizes taking the time to appreciate the beauty of nature. For instance, she mentions that many of her students had never seen a firefly or taken the time to go outside at night and notice them. As someone who strongly connects nights of firefly catching to my childhood, I was baffled to learn that was missing from many people’s childhood. It is connections like this that drew me in to Nezhukumatathil’s essays.
World of Wonders is an insightful read for anyone interested in plants, marine life, or wildlife in general. Nezhukumatathil takes the time to expand reader’s knowledge on many unique and sometimes endangered animals. She does not often make light comparisons, and it’s clear a lot of time and research was spent on gathering facts on each animal she writes about. If you’ve never read an essay collection and you like reading about wildlife, Nezhukumatathil’s book is a good place to start.
PUBLICATION DEETS: Milkweed Editions, August 3, 2020, 165 pages
CATEGORIES: essay collection, creative nonfiction
I read a lot of essays (in fact I’m teaching a class right now in which I require my students to imitate rhetorical techniques from well-known essays) and I had a similar experience with being able to put this book down but liking some of the things I learned from it.
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