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Running Away With the Circus


Hagenbeck and Wallace Circus. Image ID: psnypl_the_4277

In the 2013 Best American Essays edited by Cheryl Strayed, one of the essays ("Sometimes a Romantic Notion" from Gettysburg Review by Richard Schmitt), talks about running away with the circus and how no one ever calmly joins the circus, it's always a run. This got me thinking about titles whose main characters join the circus or which focus on circuses in some way. 


The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough
"A novelization of the sensational life of the early twentieth-century female circus tiger trainer finds her reexamining her life, from her stint as a burlesque dancer after her escape from a mental institution to her five marriages and the devastating loss of her cats." Unrelated fun factoid: Actor Christopher Walken had a stint as a lion-tamer early on in his career.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Goodreads list Circus/Carnival books


The Circus, 1870s-1950s by Noel Daniel.
This book is massive, but highly rated. Includes little-known circus images by Stanley Kubrick and Charles and Ray Eames.

NYPL Digital Collections has numerous images of circuses from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection photograph file.


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such a good point. Thanks for

such a good point. Thanks for reminding me about Geek Love (the second time this week I've seen it mentioned). I have it on my shelf and just need to read it already. After that, maybe I'll calmly audition for the circus.

"Under the Big Top" by Bruce Feiler

I recommend the memoir "Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus" by Bruce Feiler. It documents Feiler's year as a circus clown.

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