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


The Enjoy Agenda at Home and Abroad is a memoir in essays, dispatches from home and abroad. One essay takes the reader to northern Italy, looking for Tuscan cowboys. Another takes the reader to a cacophonous, odoriferous grocery store in Shanghai. Another takes readers back to a 1960’s middle school cafeteria in the Midwest, where kids play 45’s at lunchtime, flop and jerk, and call it dance.  Throughout, the writer’s goal is to capture these ordinary pregnant moments with immediacy, freshness, and humor.

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.”

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


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