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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

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  1,754 ratings  ·  251 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, 368 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Crown Archetype
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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?
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, essays, 2020
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Helen Young Kouba
If you are a fan of The Moth podcast, I highly recommend this book. During this moment, it was powerful to hear stories from people who have found meaning during challenging times. The spoken stories translated well to written form, and I could hear the storytellers speaking as I read. The stories all felt very intimate, which I found particularly compelling during this time of social distancing. Each story was a 3-5 minute read, which made it a perfect book to pick up and set down throughout th ...more
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a fan of The Moth on NPR (and podcast) and have thoroughly enjoyed the three collections they have published based on those stories. Told by real people about real events in their lives, each one is so authentic you hear it when you listen and feel it when you read it. They are short and can be read when you have 5 minutes or all at once. A nice collection to have because they are easy to read again and again.
Debbie Turner
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. It contains 50 true stories about "defying the impossible." I took my time reading this book, one story at a time. I enjoyed the glimpses into people's lives that are so different than mine, yet sometimes the same. It is a small world after all. I think this is a good book to take to appointments or to places where you wait. You can finish a story and not feel lost if you don't pick the book up for another week. You don't feel compelled to finish the book quickly to see what hap ...more
"Occassional magic refers to those moments of beauty, wonder, and clarity, often stumbled upon, where we suddenly see a piece of truth about our life."

A collection of stories by a diverse array of voices, ranging from the seemingly quaint to life defying situations. If you've ever experienced The Moth, then you know what you are getting into. All of these stories moved me in some way, and especially towards the end I was flattened by some of the emotions.
Yash Patel
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wasn't entirely sure what to expect going into this book, but was pleasantly surprised with the variety of stories: great mix between entertaining and more heartfelt messages (Honku, Curses, Real Men Don't Rob Banks, and Opposing Forces probably being my personal favorites). Since the stories themselves were never longer than 10 pages, there isn't too much to reflect on after the fact, but for what it was, the book was an entertaining read.
Holly R W
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, essays
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
Bernie Veliky
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really appreciated the story telling in Occasional Magic. To see how ordinary people can take bad situations and turn them around is motivating. Thank you to The Moth for providing this opportunity. Checked out the website and there are 2 story slam events in Pittsburgh coming up. One on Gratitude and one on Family. May have to look into them.
Tess Liebregts
Dec 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book because of the gorgeous front cover. When I noticed Neil Gaiman's name among the writers, I new I had to read it.

This book allows the reader to lead many lives. Tough lives. It was nice to read from so many new perspectives. Made me realise that there are still a lot of bad things out there in the world. Luckily there is also some occasional magic that can inspire hope.
Karen Ashmore
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this collection of stories from talented storytellers participating live in "The Moth" performances. Think of it as a cross between StoryCorps and a Ted Talk that is a radio show and podcast download. These 47 short stories are 5-7 pages each and are delightful true stories about defying the impossible.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but somehow listen to someone tell a story is different. Like a conversation, even if you can't actually say anything back. This book reads like listening and you find yourself wanting to know more about the teller when it's over.
Hannah Duiven
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, 5-star-books
The Moth stories in print are just as lovable as they are out loud. I will read my favorite stories again and again and cherish them every single time.
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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.

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“Then the police come. My mom is apprehensive of the police being there, because it’s no secret that black and brown people are not trusting of the police. They make us feel anxious, like we have something to prove. My mom doesn’t want to bring that energy into our apartment. She doesn’t want that energy to affect Peta, most importantly. She doesn’t want that thought process and that anxiousness to overwork him. So she is going back and forth with the police and bickering with them. But eventually she gives up when they threaten to arrest her for not allowing them on her property. And so eight or nine police officers crowd into our tiny apartment. They are standing over me, watching me apply pressure to Peta, not providing any assistance. (It’s Chicago; they could have been doing something way more important.)” 0 likes
“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.”
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