The best books about the healing power of listening

Charlotte Agell Author Of Maybe Tomorrow? (a Story about Loss, Healing, and Friendship)
By Charlotte Agell

The Books I Picked & Why

The Perfect Gift

By Rohan Henry

The Perfect Gift

Why this book?

Jamaican American author/illustrator Rohan Henry, in a deceptively simple sweet book, illustrates the gift of true understanding and friendship. I first met Rohan at a book fair here in Maine, when we traded books - one of my early picture books (Dancing Feet) for his self-published The Perfect Gift. I happened to be having lunch with my agent the next day. I showed her this book and she sold the rights almost immediately. It's now out in several languages and is, in my estimation, the perfect gift.


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Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A True Story)

By Daniel Nayeri

Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A True Story)

Why this book?

This book floored me. As an immigrant, as a public school teacher, as a human. This is a story of self-preservation by storytelling. Nayeri and his mother and sister flee Iran in the middle of the night, and - via Italy - end up in Oklahoma. To protect himself from relentless bullying in the classroom, a boy named Khosrou (Nayeri!) spins tales like Scheherezade. True tales, featuring the secret police, blood-soaked fields, complicated and loving relatives, and the scent of jasmine. Fitting in is hard. Telling one's story is vital. Nayeri's manage to be beautiful, terrifying, and hilarious, all at once. Listen in!


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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

By Elisabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Why this book?

When this author is confined to her bed for a year, she passes the time watching and noting the small doings of Neohelix albolabris—a common forest snail. Bailey's powers of observation are a mix of poetry and science that slowed my heart down to a comfortable pace I will call: Here I Might Manage to Listen to the Mysteries of Existence, that is, a very healing pace of listening and being.


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Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

By Max Porter

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

Why this book?

A husband loses his wife. Two young boys lose their mother. They are unmoored, in shambles. Into their house moves the perfect visitor, a most unlikely and unloveable therapist: a crow. He stays as long as he needs to stay, a sort of Mary Poppins of the soul. This strange multi-genre book really made me think about grief and listening. Listening to oneself, first and foremost.


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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Why this book?

This is a murder mystery but it is still about listening. And who is murdering whom, anyway? Told in the person of an eccentric Polish recluse, Janina, this book had me rooting for strange outcomes. The very earth is listening to us dangerous humans and cannot be silent anymore. Part ode to William Blake, part naturalist's hymn, part the demented story of a possible crackpot (or saint), this book's warp and weft are grief and listening.


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