2023 Holiday Picks - Essays / Short Stories


Essays / Short Storie

The Book of (More) Delights by Ross Gay. The acclaimed poet's second foray into the realm of noting daily “delights” is sure to please. Eighty-one of his daily ruminations over the course of a year are included, each no more than a few pages. Dip In, Dip Out. Or read it through. You’ll smile, laugh, and whisper “Wow!” inside, probably more than once. You’ll feel happier than when you began, and who of us couldn't do with more of that? Jump in to #72 to read Gay’s thoughts on books and bookstores, “wandering through other people’s minds.” 

The End of the World is A Cul de Sac by Louise Kennedy. Wow. This short story collection by Louise Kennedy (author of debut novel Trespasses) is simply fantastic. Kennedy's writerly chops are on full display in these breathtaking and haunting stories of women on the edge of control, struggling for selfhood, fighting for a marriage, at odds with life and their surroundings. To create a world, to introduce characters and make us care, and to instill tension in just a few pages is an art form, and with this collection Kennedy proves she is in the full power of her craft. Brava. Publishes 12/5

Normal Rules Don’t Apply: Stories by Kate Atkinson. Nothing is quite as it seems in this collection of 11 dazzling stories. We meet a queen who makes a bargain she cannot keep; a secretary who watches over the life she has just left; a man who bets on a horse that may--or may not--have spoken to him. Everything that readers love about the novels of Kate Atkinson is here--the inventiveness, the verbal felicity, the sharp observations on human nature, and the deeply satisfying emotional wallop. 

Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri's stories are quiet and acutely observed - a series of poignant reflections on issues of estrangement, exile and discrimination. I was flooded with the feeling of Rome in reading these stories - the history, multiple cultures, and both the spareness and vibrancy of the environment and the lives lived there. Larihi, living in Rome since 2011, composed this collection in Italian, then translated it beautifully into English with editor Todd Portnowitz. Jhumpa breathes life into the barest of sketches. Read the stories slowly and savor them!

Tabula Rasa by John McPhee.  A nonfiction master offers a fascinating look back at his writing career in a series of 50 short essays (some less than a page) and recollections that focus on projects and inspirations that never came to fruition. You wish McPhee would have pursued some subjects, but his descriptions of why they intrigued him are delights on their own.