The Moth flew into my orbit – like so many other things in my reading life – via the Edinburgh Book Festival.  In 2014 the founder of the Moth, George Dawes Green introduced a sucession of speakers to tell true 6-minute stories of seminal moments in their lives. I  don’t remember who spoke that night, but I did come home with a copy of The Moth: This is a True Story because I enjoyed what I heard and wanted to read more.

Roll forward 3 years and those true stories are still unread on the TBR when the second volume The Moth: All These Wonders is published.  It is time for the moth to emerge from its chrysalis …..

… and I have been well and truly “mothed”.  What was I waiting for? Although the upside to not having read the first volume all those years ago, is that I had 100 short stories to accompany me as I flitted around on my travels this summer.  These books were perfect for reading in those short pauses that occur when waiting for trains, having a quick coffee break, etc, etc.  But I frequently found that I could not put them down and the 2 or 3 stories in one sitting often became 10 or 12.

First established in New York in 1997, Moth live story-telling evenings have now become a global phenomenon with their own podcast for mothaholics.  The stories in the books are, you could say, the best of.  They are diverse and fascinating vignettes spanning the gamut of human experience from all walks of life; descriptions of pivotal moments and experiences that inspired the human to become the person they are today, or experiences that are so unique that only the teller could tell them.

For example:

From The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories

  • An astronaut describes undertaking a repair to the Hubble Space Telescope.  As he watches the earth from his spacewalking perspective, he has never felt so alone – basically, because no-one has figured out how to repair this thing.
  • A homeless black girl takes a job providing terminal care for a dying white man.  She discovers a Klansman’s uniform hanging by his bed ….
  • A victim of attempted murder describes life after the attempt for those without health insurance in America. “And let me tell you, when you start your day with two homicide detectives explaining what happened the night before, it’s downhill from there.” 

From The Moth: All These Wonders

  • An African boy has an unexpected advantage when paintballing.  He is drawing on his past experience as a child soldier.
  • A writer describes the moment she realised that her own freedom should not be taken for granted and that the experiences of prior generations should be recorded for posterity.  The resulting book is Wild Swans.
  • The founder of the Moth- George Dawes Green – describes leaving home at the age of 15 to live in a mausoleum with a hobo.

i’m not going to pretend that all of the stories are fascinating – there are some meh moments – but collectively they form two addictive and mesmerising reads.  As I was reading book one, I thought, this cannot be improved.  Surely we have a front-runner for my book of the year.  Which remained the case until I chanced upon Tim Fitzhigham rowing across the English Channel in a Victorian bathtub midway through book two.   At which point I howled with laughter. Literally. Howled, guffawed, snorted, cried. Uncontrollably. In public. I swear you could hear sighs of relief in the Hamburg ice-cream parlour when a certain anonymous mad English woman left the premises. 😂