What to Read This Weekend (Three Love Letters to the Literary Life)


Hi everyone,

For this holiday weekend, I offer you three love letters to the literary life:

1.  ”To England,” by Richard Brautigan. (Thanks to my father for introducing me to this poem many, many moons ago.)

To England

There are no postage stamps that send letters

back to England three centuries ago,

no postage stamps that make letters

travel back until the grave hasn’t been dug yet,

and John Donne stands looking out the window,

it is just beginning to rain this April morning,

and the birds are falling into the trees

like chess pieces into an unplayed game,

and John Donne sees the postman coming up the street,

the postman walks very carefully because his cane

is made of glass.

2. The World’s Most Inspiring Bookstores: terrific slide show from (Thanks to several readers for telling me about it).

3. “I Ask You,” by Billy Collins:

I Ask You

What scene would I want to be enveloped in

more than this one,

an ordinary night at the kitchen table,

floral wallpaper pressing in,

white cabinets full of glass,

the telephone silent,

a pen tilted back in my hand?


It gives me time to think

about all that is going on outside -

leaves gathering in corners,

lichen greening the high grey rocks,

while over the dunes the world sails on,

huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.


But beyone this table

there is nothing that I need,

not even a job that would allow me to row to work,

or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4

with cracked green leather seats.


No, it’s all here,

the clear ovals of a glass of water,

a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,

not to mention the odd snarling fish

in a frame on the wall,

and the way these three candles -

each a different height -

are singing in perfect harmony.


So forgive me

if I lower my head now and listen

to the short bass candle as he takes a solo

while my heart

thrums under my shirt -

frog at the edge of a pond -

and my thoughts fly off to a province

made of one enormous sky

and about a million empty branches.

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Related posts:

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Related posts:

  1. What To Read This Weekend
  2. Love, Work, and Friends: You Actually Can Have it All, WITH ONE CAVEAT


  1. Mark on 28.05.2011 at 07:36 (Reply)

    “I Ask You” is terrific, Susan — thanks for sharing it! Hope you and yours have a peaceful Memorial Day

  2. Susan Cain on 28.05.2011 at 10:31 (Reply)

    Thanks, Mark, you too!

  3. Danielle on 29.05.2011 at 22:16 (Reply)

    How I would love to get lost in the Maastricht bookstore. What a heavenly experience that would be.

  4. Dianne on 02.06.2011 at 13:49 (Reply)

    Came across your site via Adam McHugh. Some of your “beliefs” in your sidebar were just what I needed to read today. Can’t wait to read your book.

    1. Susan Cain on 02.06.2011 at 16:41 (Reply)

      Thanks Dianne! I’d be curious to hear which beliefs resonated for you and why.
      By the way, I’ll be guest-posting on Adam’s blog tomorrow — Ten Tips for Parenting Introverted Children.

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