Are you curious about the medium of short stories but aren’t quite sure where to start? Well, if you don’t mind carrying around a big, doorstop-sized book then this is for you!
Edited by John Updike and released in 1999, The Best American Short Stories of the Century is a perfect introduction to the art of the short story and to some of it’s most prolific writers including Annie Proulx, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro, and John Cheever.
Also, feel free to check out any of the yearly Best American Short Stories releases. Every volume is full of fantastic stories written by an array of talented writers and the introduction by each year’s guest editor is absolutely worth a read.
For novel-only readers who aren’t convinced about trying short stories, get your feet wet with these wonderful interconnected short story collections. Each story contributes to a larger picture that ends up feeling more like a novel than a set of separate stories.
Perhaps the best known example of this format is Pulitzer Prize winner Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Each story, whether told from Olive’s point-of-view or not, helps to further develop this fascinating central character.
The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day tells the story of Lima, Indiana–a fictional town where members of a circus spend their winters. The stories focus on different characters across eras and upbringings who are either in the circus or a part of its orbit.
Author Junot Diaz centers each story in this collection around Yunior–a protagonist enamored with love but consistently sabotaged by his own recklessness. Inventive, tender, and funny This Is How You Lose Her is an interconnected story collection that is not to be missed.
For the next several weeks we’ll be focusing on short fiction gems that are easily lost in the stacks. I have a passion for short story collections and my favorite author in this medium is Aimee Bender. Whimsical, daring, provocative, surreal, and unforgettable are the primary adjectives that come to mind when I think of Ms. Bender’s stories. Here are her collections:
The Girl in the Flammable Skirt Aimee Bender’s stories portray a world twisted on its axis, a place of unconvention that resembles nothing so much as real life, in all its grotesque, beautiful glory.
Willful Creatures conjures a fantastical world in which authentic love blooms. With her singular mix of surrealism, musical prose, and keenly felt emotion, Bender once again proves herself to be a masterful chronicler of the human condition.
The Color Master In these deeply resonant stories–evocative, funny, beautiful, and sad–we see ourselves reflected as if in a funhouse mirror. Aimee Bender has once again proven herself to be among the most imaginative, exciting, and intelligent writers of our time.
Enjoy this brilliant and wildly different author.
*Brief synopses taken from the publisher.
Graphic novels or, if you’re being fancy, “sequential art” is a fantastic literary medium that engages the reader with both text and images. We are always ordering new volumes for our young adult section and recently we’ve gotten some fun, diverse offerings:
Princeless Volume 1: story by Jeremy Whitley, art & colors by M. Goodwin, letters by Jung Ha Kim, edits by Shawn Gabborin.
Princess Adrienne is tired of waiting to be rescued. Along with her sidekick Bedelia the Blacksmith and her guardian dragon Sparky this interesting band of heroes goes on a quest to rescue Princess Adrienne’s sisters.
Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur: written by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder, art by Natacha Bustos, color by Tamra Bonvillain, letters by VC’s Travis Lanham, edits by Mark Paniccia & Emily Shaw, and cover art by Amy Reeder.
Lunella Lafayette is an inhuman preteen genius who wants to change the world! (This tagline to volume 1 brilliantly sums up my new favorite Marvel superhero, well, tied for first with Ms. Marvel.)
Monstress: Awakening written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda.
“A beautifully told story of magic and fear, inhumanity and exploitation, of what it means to be human, and the monsters we all carry inside us.”–high praise from master of speculative fiction Neil Gaiman.
If you’ve never given graphic novels a try, you should. You may be surprised by your reaction.
In honor of Valentine’s Day I wanted to post some recommendations that build upon the work of Jane Austen, the woman responsible for (in my humble opinion) one of literature’s greatest couples Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett.
Released last year, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is part of The Austen Project–a series of modern retellings of Jane Austen. In Eligible Sittenfeld tackles my favorite Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. Despite the scathing review from the NY Times, I enjoyed this novel tremendously and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, light read that will find you just as frustrated and invested in the stubborn protagonists as you were when reading the original.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding is also an update on Pride and Prejudice, starring the sassy, self-deprecating, and often hilarious protagonist Bridget Jones.
Also part of The Austen Project is Val McDermid’s take on Northanger Abbey. Read this if you want to laugh at the antics of a teenage girl with an overactive imagination. Though one of her less polished works, Northanger Abbey was perfectly suited to update and McDermid’s reimagining is wonderful.
The cold, dark days of winter are the perfect time to dive into the wonderful world of “cozy” mysteries. Cozy mysteries, also referred to as “cozies”, are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. If you’re new to this subgenre here are some authors to get you hooked.
Alan Bradley is the author of a series of mysteries with the wonderful 11 year old protagonist Flavia de Luce described by some as “a combination of Eloise and Sherlock Holmes.”
Louise Penny is the writer of 12 (and counting) Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries. The first in the series is Still Life, but feel free to jump around as each of these novels will stand on its own.
Alexander McCall Smith has several cozy mystery series to his name, but his first, and my favorite, is the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency led by Botswana’s premier lady detective, Mma Precious Ramotswe and her loyal associate Grace Makutsi.
To close out our blog series on crafting titles, here’s a neat little book called Embellish Me: How to Print, Dye, and Decorate Your Fabric by Laurie Wisbrun.
Full disclosure: I have never used any of the techniques in this book, but now that I’ve read it I want to try them all!
“Embellish Me is the ultimate guide to achieving the perfect surface finish for your fabric-based projects. Comprehensive step-by-step instructions are accompanied by detailed illustrations that illuminate an extensive range of fabric alteration and embellishment techniques. Learn tie-dyeing, bleaching, and shibori; block, silk-screen, and digital printing; and beading, embroidery, and applique. This information-rich guide will equip you with all the information you need to apply these techniques to any number of fabric projects, from tote bags and clothes to cushion covers, lampshades, toys, and home furnishings.”
A blog series on crafting books wouldn’t be complete without a knitting title, this week Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter: The only instructions you’ll ever need to knit sweaters that make you look good and feel great!
This is a wonderful book of patterns that help you make the most flattering sweaters possible. A must-read for any knitter.
“There’s nothing worse than spending countless hours on a handmade garment, only to find that the fit is horrible and unflattering. Knitwear designer Herzog, known for her online and in-person workshops on creating well-fitting knitted garments, compiles years of experience into this confidence-building book. After some self-analysis, knitters will easily be able to determine their own body type-top-heavy, bottom-heavy, or proportional-as well as sweater designs that complement each shape. Herzog not only shows each design on a model, she explains why the design works for that body type, allowing women of all shapes and sizes to find garments with similar elements. The directions for the sweaters are clear, and Herzog presents suitable modifications for each garment.”
To continue our series on crafting books, I’d like to turn our attention to crocheting with Clever Crocheted Accessories edited by Brett Bara.
If you’re anything like me, you like quick projects. I may have the desire to knit or sew or crochet but it needs to be a manageable piece or I get bored and/or frustrated–also my skills just aren’t up to those big projects anyway. 😉 If you like to crochet this is a great book that includes 25 weekend projects.
“Crocheters will satisfy their hunger for unique small projects with former Crochet Today editor Brett Bara’s Clever Crocheted Accessories . Brett collected 25 delightful, practical pieces that make perfect gifts–though you may be tempted to keep them all to yourself! The ideal curator, Brett shares a first-rate lineup of projects. Whether you are a beginner or experienced crocheter, there is something for everyone: hats and caps, including a cloche, porkpie hat, and tam; scarves, shawls, and cowls, from chunky to drapey to snug; eye-catching mittens and arm warmers; delicate lace socks and cozy man-slippers; flirty bags; and sparkly jewelry.”
To continue our blog series on crafting books, here’s Modern Bee: 13 Quilts to Make with Friends by Lindsay Conner.
I have always loved the idea of a quilting circle. A group of people connecting and creating beautiful quilts. If you’ve ever wondered about starting your own quilting bee, this should be your go-to text.
“Create. Grow. Connect. This how-to book features 13 projects for a virtual one-year quilting bee. Crafted with a modern aesthetic, the patterns are inspired by traditional quilt blocks as well as bits and pieces of daily life. As you quilt along with this book from month to month, you’ll master sewing techniques of increasing difficulty from easy to advanced. Each project includes instructions for assembling the block and for finishing a full-size quilt. You’ll also find a comprehensive section on quilting basics and plenty of tips on organizing your own virtual bee.”