Circus can be an old-fashioned village-touring family affair, a Ringling Brothers three-ring extravaganza, or the sophisticated theatricality of Cirque du Soleil. They can be seedy or magical or both. Here are some of my favorite books on the subject. Two are novels.
Learning to Fly by Sam Keen
At the age of sixty-one, Sam Keen decided to fulfill a life-long dream, and learn to fly trapeze. In his memoir, Learning to Fly, we get to share this experience with him, as well as his wonderfully poetic insights.
“We are biomythic animals… We are fabric woven of chemistry and narrative, biology and stories, flesh and dreams.”
Sam Keen, Learning to Fly
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen
This novel is both a life-long love story, and a look at the de-humanization and losses of old age.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Things I love about this novel: an original story and an ending that emerges organically; an incredible, evolving, continually surprising and magical setting; a loving, sure hand guiding the words; a cast of enigmatic and unusual characters that you want to spend as much time with as possible.
The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present by Duncan Wall
Wall spends a year at a circus school in France, training in multiple disciplines and researching the lost history of circus. From his humorous attempts to tumble and fly, to repeated discoveries of lost cultures and eras, his accounts are engaging and eye-opening.
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