Today is World Book Day! I’m choosing a book or two each week from my bookshelf to recommend to you while we’re all cooped up.

For this special day, I’m recommending one of my most beloved reads.  This is a story you may be familiar with, either because you’re a fan of fly fishing or a fan of Brad Pitt.  When Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It was made into a movie it created an interest in fly fishing that nearly single-handedly launched an industry.  I don’t imagine it did Brad Pitt any harm either.

But I wonder if you’ve actually read Maclean’s compact masterpiece?  It’s not a fly fishing book.  Not really.  It’s a story about family.  A story that is beautifully written, deeply moving, and familiar to me. It’s a story about the love of a family, even when the one you love is wrestling with demons that you are powerless to help them with.

A River Runs Through It is too long to be a short story and too short to be a novella.  It’s the perfect length for a good read. The writing is the best I’ve seen.  There are no chapters.  Just a fluid story that sometimes meanders gently, sometimes tears through the landscape of western Montana.

This is an ideal choice if you appreciate the art of writing.  When I need advice on writing, I reach for two slim volumes: Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and Maclean’s master class on storytelling.  Maclean shows how much can be done with disciplined, sparse writing.  I wish I could write as perfectly as Norman Maclean.

If it is true that “The Gods do not deduct from a person’s allotted span the time spent fishing,” that holds doubly true for time spent fishing with family.

Under normal circumstances, I would suggest taking this book on an airplane.  Even if you’re as slow a reader as I am, you could finish this on a cross-country flight.  Instead, choose a rainy April day and curl up with this book.  It’ll be time well spent.

Good health and good reading!


Bill’s Bookshelf: “A Sand Country Almanac”
Bill’s Bookshelf: “Rural Hours”
Bill’s Bookshelf: “The Raritan River: Our Landscape, Our Legacy”
Bill’s Bookshelf: “Sick Puppy”
Bill’s Bookshelf: “H2O: Highlands to Ocean”