“The First Book”

Happy New Year, dear readers! Today’s poet, former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove, is an avid reader who has loved books since she was a child. When she was twelve, she tried reading all of Shakespeare in one summer! But Dove understands that for others, even the idea of reading a book can be scary and that reading is not a universal source of joy. In “The First Book” Dove nudges us to step out of our comfort zone, open a book, and discover the magic of reading.

The First Book

Open it.

Go ahead, it won’t bite.
Well … maybe a little.

More a nip, like. A tingle.
It’s pleasurable, really.

You see, it keeps on opening.
You may fall in.

Sure, it’s hard to get started;
remember learning to use

knife and fork? Dig in:
you’ll never reach bottom.

It’s not like it’s the end of the world–
just the world as you think

you know it.

Rita Dove

You can listen to Rita Dove read “The First Book” in this brief interview with Bill Moyers:

What will the first book of 2021 be for you?

What was your favorite book of 2020? My favorite novel was The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. The best book of poetry/essays for me in 2020 was The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. Share your favorites in the comments section below, so we can check them out, too.


“The First Book” by Rita Dove from Thomas and Beulah, 1986. Copyrighted material used for educational purposes.

Image: Pacificintegral.com

“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away”

Emily Dickinson


  1. Pardon me [?] for being religious but my favourite poet is R. S. Thomas, a Church of England priest and much devoted to being Welch. There is a small selection of his work Etched by Silence: A Pilgrimage Through the Poetry of R. S Thomas, compiled by Jim Cotter. London, Canterbury Press, 2011. Available from Amazon in one of those wonderful “Print on Demand” copies.
    “But the silence in the mind / is when we live best, within / listening distance of the silence / we call God. ….”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the pointer to this poet and his collection of works. I’m forever grateful to readers and group members for introducing me to new material. And this is beautiful: “But the silence in the mind / is when we live best, within / listening distance of the silence / we call God. ….” Thank you, Woody. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My favorite recent read is Code Name Madeleine: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Arthur J. Magida.
    Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of Hazrat Inayat Khan a mystic and “Founder of the Sufi Order in the West.” Raised in France, she fled to the UK at the beginning of WWII and volunteered for the British Special Operations Executive [to be spy] and trundled around Paris with a 50 pound short-wave portable radio, sending messages and organizing underground contacts. Significant aid for the D-Day landings by her work resulting significant delay of German armour and artillery units getting to Normandy. Caught and executed shortly before the war ended.
    I am always interested in her father {“May I not be drowned in the sea of mortal life”}. Noor was raised in luxury and well educated yet gave up an easy life to serve and sacrifice her life with courage and grace. A poem of love in the face of horror.

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  3. I think my favorite book of 2020 was George Eliot’s “Middlemarch”. I read it once before, when I was a freshman in college — assigned reading for the 19th Century novel class I was taking. Because I had so much reading to do that year, I had to really rush through the book. For the 2020 re-read, I had the luxury of time — so I was able to truly enjoy the book and appreciate it for the absolute masterpiece that it is. Magnificent. My first book this year was “The Snake Pit”, by Mary Jane Ward. This book has been sitting on the shelf for eons (it was from the library of Greg’s stepmother, and was a Book of the Month Club selection from 1946!) It’s an emotionally disturbing book about a woman who suffered a nervous breakdown and then spent a year in a mental hospital, going through all kinds of treatments in vogue at the time. Was such a relief when she finally left the institution at the end of the book — kind of felt like the relief I think so many have felt with the end of 2020! First book of the year (and the poem) also made me think about the first book I ever read cover to cover on my own. It was called “Harry the Dirty Dog” — and I read it I think at the end of kindergarten or some time in first grade. I remember how I kept stumbling over the word “the” — which I kept pronouncing as “tuh huh eh”. (Lol. Guess I had not studied digraphs yet in school!) Repeatedly had to ask my older brother how to say that word. Finally got it by the end of the book. It was a true feeling of accomplishment! A few years ago, I found a copy of the book for sale on e-Bay so it is now a proud part of my permanent library!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gary, OK, you’ve inspired me to read Middlemarch, but think I will pass on The Snake Pit! And I love that you bought Harry the Dirty Dog for your collection. Thanks for sharing that sweet story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this poem and especially the “it keeps on opening” line! It strongly resonates with my discovery of your blog in 2020 as I was never into poetry before.

    Favorite book(s) of 2020 include “Book of Delights” by Ross Gay (a precious gift), “Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben, and a few of the Alain de Botton’s books. I binged on those at one point. I am rolling into 2021 with “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo and look forward to several more that were recommended strongly by friends: “Nature Fix” and a biography of Susan Sontag I have been eyeing at the window of the local bookstore.

    Now I am inspired to visit the bookstore this afternoon!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was excited to receive the book Happily Ever Esther for Christmas. It’s a book about two men, a wonder pig, and their life-changing mission to give animals a home. This will be the first book I read of 2021. 🙂 (As you know, little sister, I’m not a big fan of reading – I find that when I sit to read, I think of a 1000 other things I should be doing!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My favorite book of 2020 was The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t say much about the book except that it’s a historical novel about 3 young women searching for family in rural Louisiana. It jumps back and forth between the years 1875 and 1987. I also adored Wingate’s book, Before We Were Yours which was written several years earlier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bonnie,Thanks for sharing and recommending this book. (I’m currently reading The Book of Lost Friends – it will be my first book of 2021!)


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