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A Box of Matches
NICHOLSON BAKER

A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker
57 reviews (2003) (192p)
TIME Magazine Best Fiction Books

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Book Description
Emmett has a wife and two children, a cat, and a duck, and he wants to know what life is about. Every day he gets up before dawn, makes a cup of coffee in the dark, lights a fire with one wooden match, and thinks.

What Emmett thinks about is the subject of this wise and closely observed novel, which covers vast distances while moving no farther than Emmett's hearth and home. Nicholson Baker's extraordinary ability to describe and celebrate life in all its rich ordinariness has never been so beautifully achieved.

Baker won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. He now returns to fiction with this lovely book, reminiscent of the early novels—Room Temperature and The Mezzanine—that established his reputation.


Amazon.com Review
One man's simple, colloquial meditations on his past, his family, and his life's daily minutia are the substance of Nicholson Baker's A Box of Matches. Feeling that life is passing him by, Emmett, a middle-aged medical textbook editor, decides to wake up early each day to sit by a fire in his country house and record his thoughts in a diary. "Good morning," Emmett begins, "it's January and its 4:17 a.m., and I'm going to sit here in the dark." From this vantage point, Emmett reflects stream-of-consciousness style on whatever occurs to him, no matter how mundane: his recent trip to Home Depot, how he met his wife, the habits of the family duck. Routines, such as how he makes his morning coffee in the dark or picks up his underwear with his toes, are described with childlike reverence and directness. All told, nothing much happens in A Box of Matches, which seems to be the point. Baker is more interested in the idea that for many, life is made up of such apparent trivialities, and that only by pausing to appreciate them can anyone gain any lasting satisfaction. Baker emphasizes this through the moments of understated wisdom and joy that Emmett derives from ordinary occurrences, such as the daylight through the window: "a simple light that goes everywhere but with no heat, aware that it is taken for granted and content to be so." This is the philosophical equivalent of a one-joke premise, however, and there are moments when Emmett's naiveté and laundry list-like narrative wear thin. Likely understanding this, Baker has wisely kept things short. A curious, often charming novel, A Box of Matches will inspire some readers, while inspiring frustration in others. --Ross Doll


Other Award Winning Books by Nicholson Baker
House of Holes: A Book of Raunch by Nicholson Baker
55 reviews (2011) (272p) (NYT100)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
60 reviews (2009) (256p) (ALA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker
44 reviews (2001) (384p) (NBCCA Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Nicholson Baker Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 2  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 2  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 1 Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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