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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (Paperback)
"A lovely little book! While suffering from a rare and difficult-to-treat virus, Bailey found herself mentally present but unable to move her body. During her convalescence, a period of great emotional anguish, a friend brought her a wild snail she had found in the woods near Bailey’s house. Finding herself with a constant, enigmatic companion, she gained focus and purpose. No longer meditating solely on her own entrapment, she threw herself into the unexpected relationship she developed with the snail.
I definitely didn’t think I’d like this book so much, but I truly love it and haven’t stopped telling people about it since I read it. Even if you don’t usually read nature writing, give this a try because it’s absolutely beautiful."
-Lucinda, Longfellow Books— From Lucinda Recommends!
Winner of the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Winner of the John Burroughs Medal
Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award in Natural History Literature
“Brilliant.” —The New York Review of Books
In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris—a common woodland snail.
While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world.
Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.
About the Author
Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s essays and short stories have been published in the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine, the Missouri Review, Northwest Review, and the Sycamore Review. The hardcover edition of The Sound of Wild Snail Eating was a Barnes & Noble Discover title, an Indie Next Pick, and a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Bailey has received several Pushcart Prize nominations (in addition to the awards listed above), and the essay on which this book is based received a Notable Essay Listing in Best American Essays. She is on the Writers Council for the National Writing Project. Winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, she lives in Maine.
WINNER OF THE WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR NONFICTION (2012)
WINNER OF THE JOHN BURROUGHS MEDAL (2011)
NATIONAL OUTDOOR BOOK AWARD FOR 2010 in Natural History Literature
BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE AWARD, FINALIST for Inspirational Memoir
TOP TEN ADULT SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY BOOKS FOR 2010, Booklist
BEST BOOKS OF 2010: MORE OF THE BEST, Library Journal
GREAT TITLES TO ADD TO THE NYT BEST OF 2010, Huffington Post
“Beautiful.” —Edward O. Wilson
“Universal, deeply felt, and with an enormously generous soul, the gently told story grants readers a heightened appreciation for the ever-shrinking, ever-fascinating, secretive parts of our unkempt world.” —Alexandra Fuller for The Daily Beast
“How interesting can a snail be? Entirely captivating, as it turns out. [Bailey] is a marvelous writer, and the marriage of science and poetic mysticism that characterizes this small volume is magical.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[Bailey] found comfort in an unlikely companion--a tiny snail, whose micro-doings are the source of a surprising philosophy.” —Entertainment Weekly
“An exquisite meditation on the restorative connection between nature and humans. . . Bailey's slim book is as richly layered as the soil she lays down in the snail's terrarium: loamy, potent, and regenerative.” —The Huffington Post
“[A] small, quiet masterpiece, already destined to become a classic.” —Washington Times
“A spare, beautifully quirky grace note of a book.” —Family Circle
“Though illness may rob us of vitality, sometimes it can also help bring us understanding---albeit in improbable disguises . . . Perhaps there's something to be said for moving at a snail's pace.” —NPR.org
“This elegant little gem is a triumph.”—Maine Sunday Telegram