I love a good essay about vulnerability, about all the ways the world can hurt you no matter how much you try to keep that from happening. Paul Crenshaw knows how to write straight into the center of that vulnerability. I ordered his essay collection, This One Will Hurt You, from a little bookstore in Montrose, California, right after the pandemic started, hoping to help bolster the tiny bookshop my daughter and I love so dearly. In better days, we browsed the shelves at Once Upon a Time, me looking for fiction featuring a mystery or a small town, and her looking for anything that had to do with dragons. Sometimes we had brunch at the cafe next door, which has the best Rice Krispy french toast. And then we’d maybe walk over to the farmers market to look for a homemade soap or a vegetable we’ve never heard of before.

Those days will come again soon. I’m holding onto hope about that.

Paul Crenshaw knows how to write about those feelings, that nostalgia and hopefulness in the face of everyday sadness and risk. Some essays are long and some are short, but each hits that place we all have, that soft spot in the middle of our bodies, the area we try our hardest to protect.

The ones I love best are “Choke,” about truthfulness in the stories we tell and how we chose to tell them; “Of Little Faith,” about an overzealous kindergarten teacher who has her own misgivings about the world; and “Storm Country,” about how people live with the everyday threat of tornadoes.