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Finding inspiration in a writer's essay collection

Shelf Life: Rachael Mason

Though I primarily read for entertainment, sometimes I just can't help but be inspired by the books I pick up. For me, Anne Lamott's "Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith" (Riverhead, $24.95) is one of those books.

When I was feeling kind of sad earlier this year, reading an essay or two from "Grace (Eventually)" would remind me of the good stuff in the world. Though Lamott is very open about how much she hates some aspects of today's society, she's also really thankful for many delightful things.

I haven't finished "Grace (Eventually)" yet, because I didn't want to read all of the pieces at once or even over several days. I'm saving the rest of it to read later, when I might really need it.

I like Lamott's writing because she's incredibly honest. In her essays, she describes not only her firmly held beliefs, but also private thoughts that most people would keep secret. She does a great job of conveying her inner monologues.

In fact, her written voice is so real and sincere, that when I turned on the radio this week and heard a woman talking about her book, I knew after about a minute that it was Lamott. Even though I missed the introduction and hadn't heard her speak before, I recognized her speaking voice because it sounded just like her writing.

The author recently appeared on "City Arts and Lectures" (www.cityarts.net), a program that features interviews with authors, artists and thinkers. The show, which airs at 7 p.m. Mondays on Atlanta's WABE, is one of my favorites. I love hearing writers talk about themselves while I'm sitting in the relative comfort of my own car. Since I'm usually in the car alone, it seems like they're talking just to me.

It's for the best that I'm by myself when I listen to programs on National Public Radio. I often end up crying because I'm so moved by what people say. That can be pretty embarrassing. Once, when I was with my mom, she ended up changing the station as soon as my tears started. Even though I was crying, I still wanted to hear the end of the story, so I changed it back, tears and all.

On "City Arts and Lectures," Lamott was funny, so I spent most of the show laughing. She managed to give me a false sense of security and lured me into thinking I could avoid crying.

Because I hadn't finished "Grace (Eventually)," though, I didn't know how sad one of the essays was.

But once Lamott started reading "At Death's Window" on the radio, I couldn't stop listening. By the time she got to the end, I was sobbing. Thinking about it now is enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Still, somehow, when Lamott finished her story and I finally stopped crying, I felt better. The author makes it clear that she truly cares about people, even though she also reveals the darker side of her nature in her work. It's hard not to be inspired by that.

If you'd like to recommend a book or writer, e-mail Rachael Mason at rachael.mason@gwinnettdailypost.com.