Mary Morrissey, Olena Kalytiak Davis, and Marisa de los Santos

Julianna Baggott

I have trouble reading for pleasure anymore. I've been told it's an occupational hazard, a cruel, ironic twist to being a writer. More often than not, I read with a rising panic, more the way one reads a map on I-95 on the way into Philly, past lit smokestacks and scrap-metal yards, looking for the route to the hospital where someone you love may be dying. Worse, the car is a convertible, the map all bird and violent wing-flap in your lap. I read because I've written myself into a corner, or because I haven't written anything at all, or because I want to remind myself that writing is worthwhile, a necessary joy.

And sometimes, when least expected, the pleasure of reading creeps up on me. No, more accurately, there is a book that refuses to be read like a map, refuses to be read with panic. And, suddenly, it's not only pleasure, but love. I fall in love with characters, sentences, words. Here are three recent romances.

My husband picked this book off the shelf off an editor's bookcase at Random House UK: Mary Morrissey's Mother of Pearl (not to be confused with the Oprah pick, by the same title). I started to read this book specifically for language. In the first few sentences, it became clear that the words themselves were going to be the most important event, and so I began underlining those that struck me, but by page three, I was transported. Morrissey is not only a genius within each sentence, she is a master of character and structure.

Olena Kalytiak Davis, author of And Her Soul Out of Nothing, a collection of poems, has an absolutely unique voice, a wild, philosophical mind. I find her astounding, poem after poem. I think she confounds and illuminates, breathtakingly.

Marisa de los Santos's collection From the Bones Out is precise and achingly beautiful. It is sweeping in its breadth, in what it takes on. The themes emerge and wind throughout the book, taking on one form and then another.

These three books make me jealous and desirous. They leave me tender. Proceed cautiously.