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Ann Patchett is the author of State of Wonder and co-owner of the Nashville bookstore Parnassus Books.

Many times people who know how to set the world on fire don't have a clue how to write, while those who can make a pretty sentence have nothing to say. What's hard to find is someone whose life has been marked by a fully engaged intellect and a taste for reckless adventure, who also knows how to shape those experiences into heart-stopping prose. Geoffrey Wolff is that writer, and it's high time his brilliant essay collection and memoir, A Day at the Beach, moved from overlooked to celebrated.

A Day at the Beach offers up tales of daring along with expansive thinking, the bright light of humor, and the dark night of the soul, and delivers it all in writing sharp enough to cut your fingers on. As far as I can tell, Wolff's made the most of every single thing that's come his way. I love him for it.