Xuan Juliana Wang
In Xuan Juliana Wang’s debut story collection, she explores the worlds of Chinese millennials trying to figure out what it means to live a meaningful life. A synchronized swimmer competing in the Beijing Olympics must decide what sacrifices he’s willing to make to go on. A wealthy, globetrotting young woman navigates loneliness and a lack of purpose living in the states. Wang asks big questions about class, identity, and generational trauma in this stunning collection.
Named one of the best books of 2019, Lot is a collection of short stories set in Houston’s multiethnic neighborhoods. It centers on the son of a Black mother and Latino father as he comes of age—and discovers that he likes boys, not girls—and the others who live around him, from a young baseball team to a group of hustlers to a local drug dealer. Providing much-needed insight into the people that build a community, Lot explores love in all its many forms.
Look How Happy I'm Making You
In Polly Rosenwaike’s debut, young women come to terms with their own expectations, anxieties, misconceptions, and fears related to motherhood and children. A mother-to-be grapples with the decline of a beloved matriarch juxtaposed to the anticipation of her daughter’s birth. A pragmatic narrator sifts through the reasons why she wanted to become a mother. Together, a couple meditates on how someday they will tell their child how “baffled,” “weak,” and “helpless” they felt at the brink of parenthood. Inarguably memorable, Look How Happy I’m Making You is a profound and sincere homage to adulthood, mortality, and motherhood.
A series of ghosts appear at their former bedsides. A woman returns from a visit to Alcatraz with an uncomfortable feeling. A tennis prodigy collapses due to an invisible presence. Artist and author Leanne Shapton explores the visitations that haunt us in this stunning collection of stories and vignettes.
All the Names They Used for God
The stories in All the Names They Used for God meditate on faith and science, and where they intersect in today’s world and imagined ones. It’s hard to believe this book is a debut title; Sachdeva’s critically acclaimed collection covers tons of thematic ground and defies genre, deftly dancing between science fiction, horror, magical realism, and realistic plots. It’s an utterly fascinating collection.
The Bed Moved
From first sexual encounters and later sexual confidence (or lack thereof), to the ways children discover their parents during their lives and after their deaths, Schiff’s characters are a collection of wonderful weirdos we can all relate to. The women in these stories are allowed to be weak as well as strong and make mistakes as well as triumph. Collectively, the tales reveal us to ourselves through the characters Schiff draws on so well to do the work of storytelling; it’s unnerving at times to see the way they, and the author herself, understand neuroses we’d thought might be ours alone.
Sometimes you want to sink into a delicious, deep, absorbing novel. Those all-encompassing reads are perfect for a week’s vacation, when all you have to do is tote the thick volume from bed to couch and back again. But when schedules are more harried, I find myself re-reading the same page of a novel over and over again, struggling to remember the nuances of the characters. That’s why I think short story collections are the perfect solution for a busy reader. They are no less character- or plot-driven; they’re simply shorter and more easily digestible. You can devour a full story during one leg of your commute or before bed at the end of a long day. And the next day, you can meet all new characters and begin again—no disjointed starting and stopping.
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