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The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible
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The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  2,698 ratings  ·  341 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - From storytelling phenomenon and hit podcast The Moth--and featuring contributions from Meg Wolitzer, Adam Gopnik, Krista Tippett, Andrew Solomon, Rosanne Cash, Ophira Eisenberg, Wang Ping, and more--a new collection of unforgettable true stories about finding the strength to face the impossible, drawn from the very best ever told on its stages

Hardcover, 348 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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 ·  2,698 ratings  ·  341 reviews

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Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Why live just one life, when I can live so many, through the voices of others' stories? ...more
Lori Gottlieb
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I always listen to The Moth Radio Hour and have been to (and performed at) some live shows. I always felt that much of the magic of The Moth was the energy in the room when somebody stands up in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people and tells a very personal and specific story that somehow resonates with every single person there. Suddenly there's a profound connection between strangers in a room and it's a very unique experience. So I wondered what it would be like to read these s ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
So he decided to follow his heart, and his heart led him to robbing banks.
Now, as it turns out, he was good at it; he was great at it; he was an inventor, an innovator.
He was the Elon Musk of the stickup job. (c)
I call her my quiet fire... (c)
Israel, being a small state surrounded by enemies, has its own ideas about prison. Prisoners get one weekend out of the month off to go home on vacation, the logic being that the country only has one airport, and it’s extremely secure, and if you want
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, nonfiction, essays
Occasional magic refers to those moments of beauty, wonder, and clarity, often stumbled upon, where we suddenly see a piece of truth about our life. As Moth directors we spend our days helping people shape their stories. We help people identify the most important moments of their lives (as we sometimes put it, “the moments when you became you”) so the audience will understand why they mattered so much.

This is the second “The Moth Presents” collection that I've read (after All These Wonders), and
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-non-fiction
These stories made me smile, laugh, gasp, and cry. Sometimes all in the same one. (Sorry to the folks sitting near me on the plane tonight - I was a mess!)

Charlie Ravioli
Inside Joke
Love Wins

Favorite line: “If everything fell apart, if everything went to hell in the worst way possible, would I think to myself, I am so glad I did not let myself experience joy or enthusiasm in the good moments because it really protected me from the future?
No. Life doesn’t work like that. No
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A collection of true and inspirational stories, all truly amazing in their own way. In the everyday, there is, indeed, occasional magic.
Oct 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
So many of these brief biographical glimpses were poignant and relevant and deeply emotional. Hailing from all across the world, the featured storytellers did an exquisite job of capturing moments and making them magical. My only disappointment was that most of the stories were not about “defying the impossible,” they were simply beautiful biographical snapshots. Also, many of the authors have famously recognizable names; I was yearning for more average, relatable authors. I’m really just being ...more
Holly R W
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, short-stories
On the weekends while driving around doing errands, I listen to a radio show called The Moth Radio Hour. It features every day people talking about aspects of their own lives. Their talks are about some turning point or unique experience that was quite meaningful for them. The stories they tell are fascinating to hear and in turn, can be funny, painful, illuminating, inspiring, poignant, etc.

Since I like the radio show so much, I wanted to read "The Moth," which is a collection of some of the m
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
I read one of the stories in a Readers Digest lying around my parents' house. It intrigued me so I found the book in my local library.

What I liked about it was the personal story aspect. I love reading or hearing people describe their lives, or certain experiences in their lives.

Most of the stories' topic matter was predictable since it is put out by NPR: people of minority races, homosexual, or female overcoming oppression by the evil white society.


There were some real gems nestled i
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The third “Moth” book that I have read recently and I think, my favourite of the lot.
Almost every story was great but there were four or five that were absolutely amazing and pretty unforgettable. You’ll need to read them yourselves as I don’t want to give away any spoilers but there was one section leading up to a Barack Obama related story where three out of four in a row were exceptional.

I love the way you can read these on the move as it only takes a few minutes to read each one but also ho
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lovely collection of very short stories, of real people in real life, some profoundly moving, some endearing, and at least one seriously disturbing.

My struggle with reading short stories is the need to transition from one to the next, when each could carry such different emotions. I definitely experienced that here. A few of these left me in tears, and I could not just turn the page to move on to the next. I need to sit with the story, with the people I’ve just read about, and more than once
3.5 Stars

I hadn't heard of the radio show called The Moth Radio Hour so I didn't know what to expect when I chose to read this book. What I found was a collection of stories that left me feeling amazed, shocked, inspired ... and one that infuriated me.

The very first one, the tear gas story, was hilarious!! I laughed so hard when she had to repair her skirt with staples and tape before her job interview! There was an exceptionally touching story about a woman who wanted to give birth to her child
Jan 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing
such a beautiful combination of stories wow
Rachel Morrison
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful collection of stories to remind you that real life is infinitely more absurd and improbable than imagination.
Diana Iovanel
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book contains 50 little stories (about 10-15 min reads each) about significant moments in people's lives (and when i say 'significant' that includes being told, as a 5-year old, that you look nothing like your self-portrait). They are true stories that people shared in front of live audiences in the past through the non-profit organisation The Moth, that were edited together in this collection. They span a wide range of characters and events... people dying of disease, in wars, homicides; p ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I fully admit to being a people watcher. I love being a fly on the wall, watching people interact with one another. If someone is near me having a conversation on their phone, you bet I'm listening and passing my own personal judgement. So I adore hearing people's personal stories. It's like having permission to read their journals. It gives me insight (whether real or imagined) into people's lives and minds. Give me a book like this any day. ...more
Nov 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a delightful collection of true stories, told in the first person, by (sort of) regular people.

It’s deeply satisfying to read such a wide range of personal experiences, especially when they’re told by people who’ve had professional guidance on getting their stories into perfect, snappy little packages.

There’s an ER doctor who has to learn to use the word “died” with grieving families. Not “gone,” not “passed away.” The families need the finality of a word that’s hard to say and harder
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tjh-book-club
I began reading Occasional Magic at a difficult time in my life - a time that rarely occurs when reading feels like work, rather than pleasure. At first, I assumed that the book was the cause. Maybe I just didn’t connect to the stories. Now, picking up Occasional Magic months later, I am surprised to have felt that way at all. I devoured it, and I shared the stories with friends.

A five star book. I couldn’t believe the people I met through these short, emotional, inspiring, terrifying, rare, he
Angela Juline
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So many people who know how to tell such beautiful stories, but these really stood out:

Charlie Ravioli (I, too, had imaginary friends, and I love hearing the psychologist's explanation - plus it was funny!)

How to Say It: what she learns from another ER doctor while in residency "Don't you EVER pretend that grief belongs to you when it doesn't" - gives her the ability to walk away and treat the next patient

What I Wore to My Divorce: simply for coining the word, wasband

Inside Joke: "But now I unde
Mar 18, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great collection of stories from real people. Some I loved, some made me cry my eyes out, some were inspiring. A few I didn't connect with but all in all it was an interesting collection. The first part had some truly magical stories and I kept reading them out loud. The book also covered some difficult topics like war, (racial) injustice and the death of loved ones.
If you happen upon it, give it a read. You can dip in and out by story, but also read a 100 pages in a row.
Rebecca McPhedran
The Moth never disappoints.

The stories they collect are always so raw an honest. You can't help but get sucked into the small vignettes and moments of these peoples lives. From a famous singer songwriter dealing with the sudden death of her husband, to a young fifteen year old girl who takes first aid classes to help in her inner city neighborhood.

A beautiful book that you won't regret reading.
Kate Castellano
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
All these stories feel so close to me when I was reading them. They can take you from sobbing to loudly laughing in a few seconds.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection of stories is a lot like pizza.
There's a couple that I devoured and loved. And even the ones that weren't the greatest - they were still pretty damn good.
I love pizza, and I loved this book.
Cherie Palmer
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life really is stranger than fiction. You will laugh at some of the stories and cry at others, but they certainly won’t leave you untouched.
Cara Mackay
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read all 3 moth books and I continue to read them over again. The best intro to anyone who says they can’t read. Start here.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I thought their first collection was stronger but nonetheless it was enjoyable especially the stories in the second half (I was a little bored in the first half).
Stories that I really enjoyed where Love Wins by Jim Obergefell, The Book War by Wang Ping, The Patriots’ Game by Ali Abdullatif, True Justice by Sheila Calloway, My post nuclear family by Andrew Solomon, A moment in Silence by Leeland Melvin, The freedom riders and me by Barbara Collins Bowie, Curses by Jon Bennett, Real men don’t rob
James Veliky
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The writer Richard Russo once wrote that “ our stories flow like deep rivers within us”. Nowhere do those words come to life than in this Inspirational book. You can laugh, cry or be stunned in any one of these short but powerful trips into deep waters. My daughter gave me this book as a gift and it is a present I can open again and again. I have to confess that my favorite was “ Curses”. I think I read it three times and laughed harder on each re-reading.
I usually take my finished books to my O
Priscilla Lotfy
Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable book filled with short stories originally told at Moth gatherings around the country. Each one was so engaging it was hard to put the book down. These are some amazing people with powerful stories to tell about life changing events in their lives. Nearly all were memorable but a few were particularly moving for me. Inside Joke is a young woman’s story of her struggle with cancer and subsequent miraculous birth of her son. In Jump From a Plane a young woman reclaims her ...more
Stefan Grieve
Full of amazing true stories that always pack a punch and are carefully crafted to draw you in. Stories on such things as war, religion and all the mysterious and facets of life. Each a window into another world, a slice into life, sometimes that slice is sharp, sometimes the story served is sweet, but they always have an impact.
At points I was roaring with laughter and other times startled, others close to tears.
The one slight criticism is that due to the original intention to broadcast them a
Federico Castillo
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book, the physical object, is an excellent addition to your night stand. Super short stories to read before finishing the day. As anyone reading this is probably knows these are stories that were told to a live audience. As such, they work better as oral narrative, and I heartily recommend "The Moth" podcast (and youtube videos), but this is a decent attempt to translate some of the tales to actual paper.

It's a good journey but I suggest starting with the podcast if someone doesn't know wha
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Catherine Burns is artistic director of The Moth and the editor of The Moth: 50 True Stories, The Moth Presents All These Wonders, and The Moth Presents Occasional Magic.

Articles featuring this book

If you love reading as much as our colleagues, then your summer fun itinerary will most likely include books. To help inspire...
114 likes · 38 comments
“I try asking myself, Okay, if everything fell apart, if everything went to hell the worst way possible, would I think to myself, I am so glad I did not let myself experience joy or enthusiasm in the good moments because it really protected me from the future?

No. Life doesn't work like that. Nothing protects you.

So I practice enjoying.”
“I left the stage gratified, hot-faced, exorcised, thrilled, thinking, I would do this again.” 1 likes
More quotes…