Reading Suggestions

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Quicks Reads: Short Fiction

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short on timeOnly have a few minutes to read at a time?  Why not try a book with short chapters, essays, poems or stories?  Short stories run the gamut from horror to romance and are perfect when you want all the intensity of a full novel but without the time commitment.

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Check out our Short Story section for more titles!

Uwen Akpan. Say You’re One of Them.

A collection of tales about modern African children in crisis includes “An Ex-Mas Feast,” in which an eight-year-old child shares in his family’s sacrifices to obtain enough food and enable his education.

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Sherman Alexie. The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

A collection of twenty-two interconnected short stories portrays life on the Spokane Indian Reservation, relating the stories of a child with alcoholic parents, a letter-writer who is dying of cancer, and others.

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Louisa May Alcott. The Uncollected Works of Louisa May Alcott.

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Isaac Asimov. The Return of the Black Widowers.

Six clever, wonderfully writen “Black Widower” mysteries penned by the award-winning science fiction writer reveal the inner workings of a mind that was capable of crossing genres easily to produce some of the best mystery writing on the market.

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Elizabeth Berg. Ordinary Life.

Exploring diverse facets of women’s lives, a collection of short fiction by the best-selling author of Open House reflects on seemingly ordinary and insignificant moments in life when events and memories come together to create a sense of wholeness and understanding in such works as “White Dwarf,” “Today’s Special,” and the title story.

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Frank Bill.*  Crimes in Southern Indiana.

A debut collection set in southern Indiana features protagonists who test the boundaries of their sanity and survival skills, from a man who violently snaps and flees when his wife falls terminally ill to a former hunting dog breeder who clashes with a Salvadoran drug smuggler.

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Robin Black. If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This.

Written with maturity and insight, and in beautiful, clear-eyed prose, these stories plumb the depths of love, loss, and hope. A father struggles to forge an independent identity as his blind daughter prepares for college. A mother comes to terms with her adult daughter’s infidelity, even as she keeps a disturbing secret of her own. An artist mourns the end of a romance while painting a dying man’s portrait. An accident on a trip to Italy and an unexpected connection with a stranger cause a woman to question her lifelong assumptions about herself. Brilliant, hopeful, and fearlessly honest, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This illuminates the truths of human relationships, truths we come to recognize in these characters and in ourselves.

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Truman Capote. Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

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Agatha Christie. Partners in Crime.

Taking over a near-bankrupt detective agency, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford tackle a Russian Bolshevik conspiracy utilizing the methods of the world’s greatest detectives, including Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

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Philip K. Dick. The Minority Report.

Eighteen short stories by the master of science fiction features “The Minority Report,” in which Commissioner John Anderton’s clever use of “precogs,” people who can identify criminals before than can do any harm, turns against him when he is identified as the next criminal.

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Theodore Dreiser.* The Best Short Stories of Theodore Dreiser.

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Adam Haslett. You Are Not a Stranger Here.

A collection of short stories features characters confronting the concerns of both classic literature and contemporary life, from an aging inventor who visits his gay son to an orphaned boy who finds solace in a classmate’s violence.

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Stephen King. Full Dark, No Stars.

In four previously unpublished short works, a man explores his dark nature, a writer confronts a stranger, a cancer patient makes a deal with the devil, and a woman makes a horrifying discovery about her husband.

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Jill McCorkle. Final Vinyl Days.

When Jill McCorkle feels a short story coming on, she goes right ahead and “wastes” wonderful ideas instead of hoarding them for a novel. The result is another extraordinary collection of stories and characters. In “It’s a Funeral! RSVP,” the storyteller is a woman who takes up self-styled “careers” that suit her circumstances. Now she’s stumbled onto one that’s so successful that she just can’t quit. It’s planning funerals, what she calls Going Out Parties, in which the clients are the soon-to-be-deceased themselves. In “Life Prerecorded,” perhaps McCorkle’s finest short piece to date, the pregnant narrator finds the real meaning of new life by visiting with a very old neighbor who’s waiting, too, for his own new life. In these and the rest of the nine stories, Jill McCorkle acts on her penchant for taming the outrageous, humanizing the forbidden, and grounding the hilarious.

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Elizabeth McCracken. Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry?

McCracken’s stories are a delightful blend of eccentricity and romanticism. In the title story, a young man and his wife are intrigued and amused when a peculiar unknown aunt announces a surprise visit–only the old woman can’t be traced on the family tree. In What We Know About the Lost Aztec Children, the normal middle-class son of a former circus performer (the Armless Woman) must suddenly confront his mother’s pain. In It’s Bad Luck to Die, a young woman discovers that her husband’s loving creations–he’s a tattoo artist–make her feel at home in her skin for the first time.

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Lorrie Moore. Birds of America.

 From the opening story, “Willing”–about a second-rate movie actress in her thirties who has moved back to Chicago, where she makes a seedy motel room her home and becomes involved with a mechanic who has not the least idea of who she is as a human being–Birds of America unfolds a startlingly brilliant series of portraits of the unhinged, the lost, the unsettled of our America. In the story “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People” (“There is nothing as complex in the world–no flower or stone–as a single hello from a human being”), a woman newly separated from her husband is on a long-planned trip through Ireland with her mother. When they set out on an expedition to kiss the Blarney Stone, the image of wisdom and success that her mother has always put forth slips away to reveal the panicky woman she really is. In “Charades,” a family game at Christmas is transformed into a hilarious and insightful (and fundamentally upsetting) revelation of crumbling family ties. In “Community Life,”a shy, almost reclusive, librarian, Transylvania-born and Vermont-bred, moves in with her boyfriend, the local anarchist in a small university town, and all hell breaks loose. And in “Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens,” a woman who goes through the stages of grief as she mourns the death of her cat (Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Häagen Dazs, Rage) is seen by her friends as really mourning other issues: the impending death of her parents, the son she never had, Bosnia.

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Joyce Carol Oates. Dear Husband.

With the unflinching candor and sym­pathy for which Joyce Carol Oates is celebrated, these fourteen stories examine the intimate lives of contemporary American families: the tangled ties between generations, the desperation—and the covert, radiant happiness—of loving more than one is loved in return. In “Cutty Sark” and “Landfill,” the bond between adolescent son and mother reverberates with the force of an unspoken passion, bringing unexpected consequences for the son. In “A Princeton Idyll,” a woman is forced to realize, decades later, her childhood role in the destruction of a famous, beloved grandfather’s life. In “Magda Maria,” a man tries to break free of the enthralling and dangerous erotic obsession of his life. In the gripping title story, Oates boldly reimagines the true-crime story of Andrea Yates, the Texas mother who drowned her children in 2001. Several stories—”Suicide by Fitness Center,” “The Glazers,” and “Dear Joyce Carol,”—take a less tragic turn, exploring with mordant humor the shadowy interstices between self-awareness and delusion.

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Ruth Rendell. The Copper Peacock.

Nine stories of psychological suspense plunge into the hidden depths of ordinary events when the death of a cat changes someone’s life, and a scholar receives a mysterious gift from the woman he is obsessed with.

Jean Shepherd.* In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.

In God We Trust, Shepherd’s wildly witty reunion with his Indiana hometown, disproves the adage “You can never go back.” Bending the ear of Flick, his childhood-buddy-turned-bartender, Shepherd recalls passionately his genuine Red Ryder BB gun, confesses adolescent failure in the arms of Junie Jo Prewitt, and relives a story of man against fish that not even Hemingway could rival. From pop art to the World’s Fair, Shepherd’s subjects speak with a universal irony and are deeply and unabashedly grounded in American Midwestern life, together rendering a wonderfully nostalgic impression of a more innocent era when life was good, fun was clean, and station wagons roamed the earth.

Booth Tarkington.* Women.

Kurt Vonnegut.* While Mortals Sleep.

An anthology of 16 previously unpublished works includes selections from the iconic writer’s early literary career and is complemented by more than one dozen of his original works of art and a foreword by the National Book Critics Circle Award-finalist author of What Is the What.

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Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories.

An anthology of bite-sized tales represents the work of some of today’s best fiction writers and includes Rick Moody’s definition of an armoire, Lydia Davis’s sojourn into the world of cats, and Dave Eggers’s exploration of narrow escapes.

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Mark Twain. Selected Shorter Writings of Mark Twain.

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Dancing with Mr. Darcy: stories inspired by Jane Austen…

The Jane Austen Short Story Competition celebrates the immortal author and her works, and the blessed home that afforded her the peace and security to create them. Judged and chosen by Sarah Waters, bestselling author of Tipping the Velvetand Fingersmith, Dancing with Mr. Darcy includes the winning selection and nineteen runners-up, as well as introductions from Waters and Rebecca Smith, the great-great-great-great-great niece of Jane Austen.

*Indiana author

 

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