Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments” as Want to Read:
World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  4,923 ratings  ·  703 reviews
From beloved, award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil comes a debut work of nonfiction--a collection of essays about the natural world, and the way its inhabitants can teach, support, and inspire us.

As a child, Nezhukumatathil called many places home: the grounds of a Kansas mental institution, where her Filipina mother was a doctor; the open skies and tall mountains of A
Hardcover, Barnes & Noble Edition, 184 pages
Published September 8th 2020 by Milkweed Editions
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about World of Wonders, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about World of Wonders

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,923 ratings  ·  703 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book while doing some book shopping on Barnes and Noble’s website. It was advertised as the book of the year. Because I’m a nature lover, it was one I had to try. I was pleasantly enlightened from the first pages.

The essays in this book connect nature to parts of the author’s life from childhood to adulthood as a now married woman and mother. The writings include facts about plants and animals along with short anecdotes regarding some part of her past. The stories were interest
Bethany Johnsen
An ambitious and lovely project, to interweave personal essay and nature writing, but too clumsily done for me to enjoy. Each essay is named after a natural phenomenon (plant, animal, typhoon) and makes a facile connection from that to a time in the author's life. The associations are bizarre and contrived. Moving to a new school made the author want to be like a vampire squid because she too wanted to hide? Flamingos have long legs, like the author's, and she spent nights out dancing in college ...more
This is truly an 11 out of 10. With the world spinning in the wrong direction, the time had been doing me and I had not been able to do the time. Then this book, which I’ve been anxiously awaiting for MONTHS, smacked me in the face. It wasn’t what I expected, starting with it’s small format, and was so much more than I expected (I’ll confess I got a recent sneak peek when she was interviewed by the eloquent Kiese Laymon). His quote... “this book is about to shake the Earth.”

It shook the ground
Diane Barnes
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I downloaded this from Hoopla and read a couple of short essays every morning. Gorgeous writing about the natural world of insects, fish and birds, combined with vignettes from her personal life. It was a great way to start the day.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of gentle and lyrical ecotone I've always wished I could write, and am thrilled for everyone on planet Earth to read. Through ancestry, travel, academic study, and her childhood, motherhood, and career experiences as a woman of color, Nezhukumatathil illuminates a brief yet moving display of life through nature.
The essays on fireflies and the Southern Cassowary were my personal favorites, but each animal and anecdote left me with a new creature factoid; a deep nostalgia for my
Robert Sheard
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I needed this collection right now. What the author calls "love songs to the planet," with her two young sons in mind, are a beautiful collection of personal essays linking memories of her own life with observations and wonder about the natural world. She has the eye and cadence from her experience as a poet, as well as the joy of being the mother of two curious young sons, and her meditations on the natural world and our society are just a delight to read. This collection could have been three ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
The author’s love of the natural world is apparent in this collection of short essays. Unfortunately, her attempt to connect her understanding of the natural world with events in her life often seemed like she was really reaching.
Andy Weston
There’s a nice selection of subjects here, but I really couldn’t get one with this style of writing - almost painful.
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some essays are better than others there’s the occasional twee bullshit that’s annoyingly typical of The Toast but the feelings of love and wonder that fill the book charmed me in the end.
Keith Taylor
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deceives by its crystalline surface. It is so easy to move into that the reader often doesn't know how far they've come, how deeply they've been changed. It is an important book at exactly the right time. Here's a review I published in "Michigan Quarterly"
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth☮ by: Brazos Bookstore
I first saw a review for this on Kirkus. I love the cover. I love the content. I love the illustrations. I love the honesty.

Nezhukumatathil has a Filipino mother and Indian father. This gives her a unique perspective of her place in the world. She makes connections to nature in ways that feel simple yet profound. I love her essay about the saguaro cactus that keep watch as she walks home from school. The essay on the questions her sons asked as they worked on a bird count. The simplicity of the
Katie/Doing Dewey
Summary: The structure of this book felt random, while the mash-up of memoir with nature writing and the prose were hit or miss for me.

This book of nature essays blended with moments of memoir is poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil's debut work of nonfiction. It's also the first of the Kirkus Prize shortlisted books that I haven't enjoyed. Part of this may be because I picked it up only knowing the title and that the book was on the shortlist. I expected a work focused on nature writing and didn't enjoy
Dec 20, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't usually write negative reviews but this book really just pushed me.
Two thirds in, I decided to stop because the writing style is very grating. I usually love when writers lean onto nature to describe themselves, but here the comparisons that are drawn lack subtlety. Each chapter, a living creature or natural phenomenon is described, and then the author quickly draws a line to their own experiences/feelings etc. Instead of having something that weaves nature and self, it sounds almost fo
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came during a “slowdown” in my reading life (teaching during a pandemic will do that!). In a lot of ways, I think it was a perfect book for this time. I needed to be reminded of how much there is to wonder and marvel at in this world, and how slowing down isn’t always a bad thing. I also think Nezhukumatathil’s blend of personal narrative and environmental writing is appropriate for a book that reminds us of how connected we are to the natural world.
Mar 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021-books, owned
~~~5 Stars~~~

Read it, read it now. This book is such a beautiful story of feminism and perseverance. The book opens your eyes to the life of a young girl just trying to survive the racism and sexism of this world. I can't explain in words how much this book meant to me and how much everyone needs to read it. So go, read it. Please.
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
I’m so grateful to Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s WORLD OF WONDERS (illustrations by Fumi Mini Nakamura) for bringing me such a profound reading experience at a time when I needed it most. This is nature writing and narrative memoir-style essays at their finest—her prose has the lyricism of a poet without any of the overwroughtness that literature on “wonder” can be typified by. In one of my favorite expressions in the book, she captures the humidity of northern Mississippi at a certain point in summer ...more
Oct 05, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I feel awful for giving this collection one-star, but I just couldn’t finish it. I’m sure Nezhukumatathil is a great poet and I wouldn’t object to trying out her poetry, but this wasn’t it. The binding and design of the book itself is gorgeous, but sadly its contents don’t even come close to its physical beauty.

These essays were flat and generic. Essay after essay felt like a half-hearted first draft. The first few essays were quaint and lovely to read, but after the first few I started to wond
Nov 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Tenuous links between the personal stories and the nature titbits, but sweet and full of love. It’s not in-depth with either the memoir parts or the nature writing (maybe partly because it was original separate essays), but I didn’t mind just following along and reading what she wanted me to discover about her or the world around us and seeing, as she does, how one might experience our connection to it all.
Mia Pia (mia.pia.reads IG)
Absolutely gorgeous and brilliant. Touching and powerful. One to revisit again. Fairly short and just lovely. Nothing to complain about with this one.
Leigh Kramer
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Gorgeous essay collection about insects, animals, plants, and more. Nezhukumatathil is a poet and her gift with the written word really shows. Sometimes her connections were a little far-reaching for me but overall I loved seeing the way she blended nature facts with glimpses from her own life and history, particularly her experiences as a nature-loving brown girl growing up. (Her mom is from the Philippines and her dad is from India.)

Note: some readers will want to be aware that the chapter on
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading about nature, especially people’s interactions with nature and their thoughts about conservation. Some of the essays were thought-provoking, but at some points the writing felt naive and cliche. I liked the essays that focused on her difficulties with moving around as a child and how she found solace in nature. I didn’t like the essays that seemed...privileged for lack of a better word. For example, she goes to Greece and sends her students out in the ocean to hunt octopus. When ...more
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Ultra-short stories (not usually my thing) themed around nature: animals and plants. The scientific facts were so fascinating and the interwoven tidbits of her life from childhood through adulthood and into parenthood were a delight, as well. Some of the stories felt a bit more forced than others, but I loved: Catalpa Tree, Peacock, Touch-Me-Nots, Corpse Flower, Superb Bird of Paradise, Questions While Searching for Birds with My Half-White Sons..., an ...more
Denver Public Library
American poet and teacher Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s prose ode to her muses in the natural world is beautifully written, and the cover and interior illustrations by Fumi Mini Nakamura will delight and sometimes astonish readers—the vampire squid is especially haunting.

The book’s true allure is in Nezhukumatathil’s ability to blend personal and natural history, such as discovering that a teacher in Phoenix considered peacocks non-American, and relating how a flamingo reminded her of careless years a
Elizabeth A
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2020 Nonfiction November Book #1.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

This is a collection of really short essays that interweaves memoir with nature writing. While I liked some pieces better than others, and some sections were a tad twee, overall, I really enjoyed dipping in and out of this collection over the course of several days.

The author's father and my parents come from the same state in India, and I was delighted by the familiarity of memories of place and time. What I really loved though was learni
Terry Enright
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
99.9% of the time when I've read a book, and it's unsigned, I have no problem donating it or passing it along to someone else. But every once in a while I come across a book that strikes me as special and I'll not part with it. This is one of those books. It's probably cliche to use the "like a box of chocolates" comparison, but damn if that's not right on the mark. This is a book of essays written by Aimee Nezhukumatathilm, a Professor of English and Creative writing at the University of Missis ...more
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such a delightful read. I loved the way Aimee blends her personal story with observations about nature, and what it means to her. Each essay is a moment in time and I eased my way through this over the course of a month. I can also see readers devouring this in an afternoon. And I have a new appreciation for how we interact with nature on a daily basis.

Thanks for the advanced copy Milkweed!
This was Barnes and Noble's 2020 Book of the Year. I applaud their choice of a book about nature written by a poet of color. A lot of the content is memoir and stories of the prejudice, microaggressions, and her family's experience as a Filipino/Indian family in the United States. Her fascination with nature began as a young child. Her choice of creatures is interesting and idiosyncratic. They are insects, amphibians, birds, animals and more that have captured her attention and fascination at di ...more
Jan 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
i like her poetry better. chapter on monsoons was nice
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Enjoy a free virtual author event with Aimee Nezhukumatahil at 7pm CST on March 11, 2021, presented by St Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN. Register at: ...more
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful and a must-read for any nature lover. Some of the connections she made between the natural world and her personal life were a little contrived, but I didn’t care. I know that was a complaint of of some other readers. I found myself googling everything that she wrote about, and swiping through picture after picture online. Nature really is astonishing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Huntsville-Madiso...: Hoopla Pick - September 10 - World of Wonders 1 4 Sep 10, 2020 07:30AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Such a Fun Age
  • Queenie
  • Untamed
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
  • Writers & Lovers
  • Her Last Flight
  • Oona Out of Order
  • The Lost and Found Bookshop
  • Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer Trilogy, #1)
  • Wow, No Thank You.
  • All Adults Here
  • Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
  • This Is How I Lied
  • Darling Rose Gold
  • Greenwood
  • The Safe Place
  • Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
  • Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered, #2)
See similar books…
author of WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, AND OTHER ASTONISHMENTS (Milkweed 2020), and four collections of poetry, most recently, OCEANIC (Copper Canyon, 2018). Professor of English and Glitter, University of Mississippi.

Related Articles

For more than a decade, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the world-renowned astrophysicist and host of the popular radio and Emmy-nominated...
87 likes · 17 comments
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” 5 likes
“There’s a spot over Lake Superior where migrating butterflies veer sharply. No one understood why they made such a quick turn at that specific place until a geologist finally made the connection: a mountain rose out of the water in that exact location thousands of years ago. These butterflies and their offspring can still remember a mass they’ve never seen,” 0 likes
More quotes…