These Precious Days

Ann Patchett

These Precious Days
Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
United Kingdom
1 November 2022

These Precious Days

Ann Patchett

‘Any story that starts will also end.’ As a writer, Ann Patchett knows what the outcome of her fiction will be. Life, however, often takes turns we do not see coming. Patchett ponders this truth as she explores family, friendship, marriage, failure, success, and what it all means.

A literary alchemist, Patchett plumbs the depths of her experiences to create gold: essays that are both self-portrait and landscape, each vibrant with emotion and rich in insight.

Ranging from the personal – her portrait of the three men she called her fathers; unexpectedly falling into a life-changing friendship with Tom Hanks; how to answer when someone asks why you don’t have children – to the sublime – exploring the Harvard Museum of Natural History before its doors open; the unexpected influence of Snoopy; the importance of knitting – each essay transforms the particular into the universal, letting us all see our own worlds anew.

Illuminating, penetrating, funny and generous, These Precious Days is joyful time spent in the company of one of our greatest living authors.


Ann Patchett has made a habit of keeping me company over Melbourne lockdowns. In March 2020, as the world began to shut down, I immersed myself in her multilayered family saga, The Dutch House. In our second lockdown I decided that I missed the novel’s characters so much, I picked up the audiobook, my aimless little walks now narrated by Tom Hanks. When I remember this surreal time, I’ll think of Patchett’s skilful, melancholy words, and Hanks’ familiar narration. Then Patchett’s essay ‘These Precious Days’ was published in Harper’s. The magazine said the piece was ‘about Tom Hanks, tornadoes, running bookstores, taking mushrooms, making art in quarantine, stories without endings, and an unlikely friendship’. It is about all these things and so much more: what it means to be truly seen by another person, and how we might find joy in the days that we have. It almost feels to me like no one else needs to reflect on the pandemic, as Patchett has done it so satisfyingly here.

We are truly lucky that this essay prompted Patchett’s latest nonfiction collection, the miracle of a book that has kept me company through our latest lockdown. The titular ‘These Precious Days’ was so important to Patchett that she wanted to build a solid shelter for it, so she has gifted readers these 24 distinct essays (all rewritten, even those previously published). Some are distinctly personal – the essay about her three fathers isa standout, as is Patchett’s reflection about the decision not to have children.

Others offer a glimpse into her writing and reading habits, or the importance of knitting. ‘Again, and again, I was asking what mattered most in this precarious and precious life,’ she writes. In sharing her specific experiences, Patchett offers us something profoundly relatable. These Precious Days is a gentle pleasure to read, but by no means a shallow one. Patchett is a master of humour, honesty and vulnerability, and I could not recommend a collection more highly.

Stella Charls is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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