The Enjoy Agenda at Home and Abroad  University of Nebraska Press (Spring 2019).


In The Enjoy Agenda at Home and Abroad, Rick Bailey finds humor in a variety of subjects: mindfulness and his half-hearted attempt to lower his blood pressure, the prospect of an iSmell app and the scent of outer space (burnt steak, hot metal, welding fumes), the pros and cons of milk substitutes, going full chopstick in Shanghai, and the limits of his spoken Italian (“I recently told someone my first trip to Italy was in 1778.”). In these essays, life is sweet and sour. “A tall boy,” he writes, in “Shorty, “can swing both ways, dating tall and short girls, unlike a not-tall boy, way down there on the left end of the bell curve, confronting the grim reality of standard deviations.” In the essay “GelatiAmo,” he celebrates the ease of finding the good stuff over there: “Gelato, to paraphrase James Joyce, is general all over Italy. When we hit a new town over there and feel the need, we ask 2-3 people where the best gelato is. Usually the response is immediate. There’s the smile, the widening eyes, the look of rapture.” The essays range widely, offering pleasures, smiles, at times hearty laughs.

In an early review of the book, Tomi Franklin observes, “Rick Bailey’s voice is part Rick Steves and part Dave Barry, with just a hint of Montaigne for good measure. Knowledgeable, funny, and utterly curious, Bailey comes off as everyone’s favorite uncle, who returns from far flung reaches to share wise tales and good wine. The book is a master class in the traditional, short-form essay. Each brief chapter plays on a theme, swerving and veering through research, meditation, and memory.”

Additional comments on The Enjoy Agenda at Home and Abroad:

“In this startling new collection of mini-essays, Rick Bailey recreates for us what Virginia Woolf calls moments of being, those bright bursts of beauty, loss, communion, and bewilderment that constitute a life. Here we have everything from a boy’s first glimpse of the horror of an automobile accident to a grown man’s regret that he cannot carry the burden of the anvil he has inherited from his father, brief meditations not only on wine and ragu, but dumplings, dancing, death, gelato, toothaches, ER scares, and the profound mystery of why Europeans can eat pastries for breakfast and still remain thin. I defy you to read one of these deliciously addictive essays without gulping down the entire book.”–Eileen Pollack, author of A Perfect Life, published by Ecco/Harper Collins, and The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still A Boys’ Club

“Rick Bailey’s essays overflow with warmth, humor, truth. In this new collection, a woven memoir, we travel with him to Italy, China, and around his home state of Michigan. Bailey invites us to delight with him in food and music, in family and friends, in his zest for life, with all its twists and turns. The Enjoy Agenda offers keen observations, nuggets of wisdom, stories of the heart. Quoting from one of his essays—”Life is short. Don’t forget to gelato.”—I add: Don’t forget to read Rick Bailey.”–Christine Rhein, Poet & Author of Wild Flight

“About halfway through The Enjoy Agenda, Rick Bailey cites an American Psychological Association report that taking photographs enhances experience itself and promotes enjoyment. The ability to enjoy and enhance one’s life undergirds these intriguing vignettes that cover the terrain from childhood, adolescence, and student day,s to work and travel as an adult. Guitars, dances, school photos, clearing out the parental home, finding the best gelato in an Italian village, or using photos to purchase (sans language) a screwdriver in Shanghai feature in snapshot-like reminiscences enhanced not only by Bailey’s personal reflections but also by research and literary references that connect the individual to history and the world around us. There is pleasure in the reflecting and in the reminiscing and, most of all, in the understanding provided by this thoughtful work.”–Dr. Terry Blackhawk, Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellow

“It’s not often I read a book of essays and fall in love with the writer and the characters in his life. But that’s what happened reading Rick Bailey’s The Enjoy Agenda, a collection of forty short essays. Bailey speaks to us like he’s one of our best friends, commenting on everyday items like those old school pictures, jet lag, health changes as we age, where to find the best gelato, and dozens of other amusing topics. The Enjoy Agenda takes us through the stuff of one man’s life journey and, imaginatively, we all end up with “a reminder of where we’ve been, where and who we come from; a reminder of who we loved and who loved us.” Read it and enjoy.”–David James, author of My Torn Dance Card and She Dances Like Mussolini

Full of food and music, longing and curiosity, The Enjoy Agenda is a collection of brief illuminations where each essay arrives like a good friend with a story to tell. With generosity and sincerity, Rick Bailey is a writer who wants to share the world with you, and his book is one of discoveries, small marvels and celebrations.  Matthew Olzmann, author of Contradictions in Design.

Hooray for miscellany, for odds and ends gathered between covers, designed to charm and surprise! Rick Bailey launches right into his quirky thoughts on myriad subjects (music, art, food, travel, health, language, etc.) and doesn’t let up for the duration of this wonderfully original, unpredictable book. The Enjoy Agenda subtly and insistently suggests that life is a gift to be enjoyed, a goal the book itself fulfills for readers. Patrick Madden, author of Sublime Physick.



American English, Italian Chocolate.  University of Nebraska Press (July 1, 2017).  To access the currently discounted Nebraska Press order form, click here: Order form for American English Italian Chocolate. It also available, of course, at Amazon.



American English, Italian Chocolate is a memoir in essays, beginning in the American Midwest and ending in north central Italy.

In sharply rendered vignettes, Rick Bailey reflects on donuts and ducks, on horses and car crashes, on outhouses and EKG’s. He travels all night from Michigan to New Jersey to attend the funeral of a college friend dead of AIDS. After a vertiginous climb, he staggers in flipflops across the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. In a trattoria in the hills above the Adriatic he ruminates on the history and glories of beans, from Pythagorus to Thoreau, from the Saginaw valley to the Province of Urbino.

At times humorous in tone, at times bittersweet, in the variety of topics he turns to, Bailey’s ultimate subject is growing and knowing, finding the surprise and sublime in the ordinary detail of daily life.


Comments on American English, Italian Chocolate:

“The essays read like the best of short stories: their significance extends beyond what is on the page. Bailey demonstrates a genius for locating a telling detail and employing it sparingly to evoke a setting or character trait, keeping the writing concise and the pace swift.”– Publishers Weekly

“Bailey writes of flip-flops and sweatpants, of the idiosyncratic differences that a long, loving marriage encompasses, and of living in the very different cultures of the Midwest and of Italy, land of his wife’s familial ancestors, where both of them feel comfortable. He writes of dreams, nightmares, and memories while recognizing of the last that ‘memory is capricious, frequently a liar.’”–Kirkus Reviews

“One part David Sedaris, another part Russell Baker, with a little Ian Frazier mixed in. I really like this narrator/essayist, and I’m willing to go with him through his quick-jaunts of story-memory and associative leaps.”–Patrick Madden, author of Quotidiana

“Rick Bailey’s writing sparkles with wit and self-deprecating humor, provoking laughter that hurts with the recognition of our own foibles and faults. His keen observations transcend the “small” subjects of these short, powerful essays. Linking what seem like dissimilar events, adding dashes of illuminating research, Bailey’s keeps us off-balance with sonic, surprising punches of insight and understanding.”—Jim Daniels, author of Rowing Inland and Eight Mile High

“In Rick Bailey’s memoir, readers will find short essays filled with poetic language and the feel of a satisfying short story. He takes the everydayness of life and turns it into beautiful observations and lessons. In writing that is filled with quick humor and poignant tenderness, Bailey’s experiences reflect our own humanity back to us.  This is an original, unique, and rare memoir.”—M. L. Liebler, poet, editor and author of I Want To Be Once

“A brain box of ruminations. The essayist has a penchant for connecting dots most gazers never see or sense or hear. A bracing, buoyant read!”—Thomas Lynch,coeditor of Artifacts and Illuminations: Critical Essays on Loren Eiseley

“Rick Bailey is insatiably honest, addictively affable, meticulously observant, and beautifully precise.”—Lisa Catherine Harper, author of The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage