Hawaiian author Kiana Davenport is perhaps best known for her short stories, which have garnered numerous prizes, including the Pushcart Prize and an O. Henry award. In her stories and novels (including the best-selling Shark Dialogues), Davenport has mostly drawn from her Pacific Islander heritage (her mother is a native Hawaiian). But in her fourth novel, The Spy Lover (Thomas & Mercer), she pulls from her Alabama-born father's family history to tell a gripping Civil War story about three complicated, suffering people—a nurse who's spying for the Union behind enemy lines, a Chinese immigrant who escapes his conscription into the Confederacy to fight for the Union instead, and a wounded Confederate cavalryman.
Davenport doesn't buffer the brutality of war, presenting a stark portrayal of its horrors and the damage it can inflict on body and soul in her well-researched tale. Here, she shares her list of Top 10 Civil War Books for readers.
By Kiana Davenport
After reading nearly 70 books on the Civil War, I find I am drawn to books written with a literary elegance and operatic sweep, which matches the tragic and haunting history of this horrendous yet magisterial engagement that gave birth to these United States.
1.) The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War—my first choice because a picture says a thousand words. A perfect introduction to the War, with in Bruce Catton's brilliant prose that accompanies each picture. The photographs are lifelike, the maps indispensable. The reader is immediately swept into the war by the sheer impact of the images!
2.) A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton—Another classic from Catton, the 20th Century's foremost American writer of the Civil War. He writes with a novelist's sensibilities about the Army of the Potomac from the point of view of young soldiers in the ranks. A heartbreaking classic. Probably the best book ever written about the war!
3.) The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Well-deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it received. Through Shaara's ingenious writing, the reader enters the mind of each officer engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg: the terrible decisions, the searing cowardice and gallantry. Only with this book did I finally and fully grasp the great tragic folly of Pickett's Charge.
4.) Shiloh by Shelby Foote. Another great chronicler of our Civil War. This was one of the bloodiest battles of that War, up until that time, rivalled only by Antietam for the number of deaths in one day. My ancestor, Warren Davenport, fought and was wounded in this battle, and the slow drumlike rhythm of Foote's prose transported me to the very heart of the engagement.
5.) The March by E.L. Doctorow. The horror of Sherman's diabolical "March to the Sea" through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, seen not just through soldiers' eyes, but through the eyes of average humans struggling through the conflagration—slaves, prostitutes, homeless children, half-mad widows—their personal tragedies silhouetted against the fires and destruction of entire cities. Biblical, horrendous.
6.) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. A classic. Depicting a young soldier confronting his cowardice, as well as his desire to be heroic. Written only 30 years after the War, the book has an authenticity that more modern novels lack. It conveys the the "innocence" of America in that era, and how that innocence was forever shattered in the War.
7.) The Black Flower by Howard Bahr. A brilliant, heartbreaking novel that should have received the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. Written with eloquence and humanity in the style of Crane, Faulkner, even Homer, it portrays young Confederate riflemen trying to keep each other alive during the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee—and the fear, suffering and intense friendships that raged during the battle and its awful aftermath. A great book; I wept repeatedly.
8.) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. A grand telling of the ravaged South, one whose sweeping style is equal to the times it describes. Aside from the operatics of Scarlett and Rhett, the novel is a sociological study of the before and after of the Civil War, and the irrevocable transformation of the South by opportunistic industrialists from the North.
9.) The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by U.S. Grant himself. Not a novel, but Grant was such a fine prose stylist, it READS like a novel. A man who was once an unemployable drunk proves that one can rise to greatness and forever shape history. Here are his brilliant observations on warfare, leading soldiers, personal integrity and honor. Grant was dying of throat cancer when he wrote these memoirs. He warded off death till his task was done. A true soldier. Fascinating!
10.) Mothers of Invention and This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust. Two brilliant companion-piece books that read like novels depicting the true legacy of war: death, and the heartbreak of caring for the dead, which is always left to women. The landscape covered with corpses, the shattered families dragging their dead home to be reburied. The mass graves, each holding hundreds of young soldiers forever lost to history. These are beautiful, elegaic, books that haunt the reader, and pose the question, "When will we ever learn?"
Photo by Frank Morgan
If you subscribe to BookPageXTRA you already know today's big news from BookPage: We're launching a Top 10 e-newsletter! Here's the scoop:
Starting this month, we are offering a new Top 10 e-newsletter. Every month, BookPage editors will tell you about 10 notable books worth your attention. In one quick read, you'll find out which books people will be talking about—and which ones you want to add to your reading list. Sign up here to receive this new monthly e-newsletter.
Click here to view September's list. What's on your personal Top 10 for September?
As booklovers know, summer reading can be fun—although many children and teens don't exactly see it that way. To help anyone looking for some exciting new choices, we've combed through books published so far this year and come up with our top 10 summer reading selections for 2012 in both the middle grade and teen categories. These books range from fantasy to mystery to contemporary stories. All are guaranteed to keep young readers turning pages all summer long. What books would you add to the list?
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Published by Harper; ages 8 to 12
In Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, the story is told by Ivan, a silverback gorilla who is the main attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall. Read more>>
Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child
Published by Candlewick; ages 10 to 13
Get ready, puzzle lovers! Author Lauren Child introduces Ruby Redfort, a young code-cracking genius who gets caught up in a great mystery. Read more>>
I Don't Believe It, Archie! by Andrew Norriss
Published by Random House; ages 7 to 10
There are only seven chapters in this funny little book by Andrew Norriss, one for each day of the week.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
Published by Balzer & Bray; ages 8 and up
How do you make the most of an unthinkable situation? Well, tweenage Stella—named after her long-gone father’s favorite song, “Stella by Starlight”—has always been able to make the best of things. Read more>>
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published by Scholastic; ages 8 to 14
Sage has led a rough life. He arrived at an orphanage five years ago with nothing, the son of a failed musician. His only chance for survival comes from his ability and willingness to steal. Read more>>
The Homemade Stuffing Caper by John Madormo
Published by Philomel; ages 9 and up
Charlie Collier is smart. Really, really smart. Ask him a question like “How many of each animal did Moses take on the ark?” and he’ll be able to tell you in about five seconds that Moses didn’t take any animals on the ark, it was Noah.
King of the Mound by Wes Tooke
Published by Simon & Schuster; ages 8 to 12
It is rare for a small book to have a big impact, but Wes Tooke’s King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige is one that does.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Published by Dial; ages 10 and up
In the town of Tupelo Landing (pop. 148) on the eastern shore of North Carolina, most residents have small wallets but big hearts—and even bigger mysteries.
Libby of High Hopes by Elise Primavera
Published by Simon & Schuster; ages 7 to 10
Almost-11-year-old Libby Thump is told by her teacher at the end of fourth grade that she needs “to live up to her potential.” Libby is encouraged by this since it must mean she has potential, but worries what that is exactly. Read more>>
Bink and Gollie, Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
Published by Candlewick; ages 6 to 8
By Gollie, they’re back! And fans of this easy reader series—the first won the 2011 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award—will be thrilled to reunite with the droll duo of wild-haired Bink and skinny but solemn Gollie in Bink and Gollie, Two for One. Read more>>
The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Published by Little, Brown; ages 14 & up
Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut YA novel (and Printz Award winner) Ship Breaker imagined a future America dependent on scavengers for survival after global warming and peak oil have irrevocably altered the landscape. The Drowned Cities is not a sequel per se, but a “companion” volume packed with new thrills and provocations. Read more>>
Losers in Space by John Barnes
Published by Viking; ages 14 & up
In the year 2129, the United Nations’ Permanent Peace and Prosperity governs the world and 96% of the global population al lows robots to do their work and lives on the social minimum, a government allowance comparable to two million dollars a year today. Read more>>
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Dutton; ages 14 & up
It would be completely understandable to discover, upon meeting John Green, that he’s tired and hoarse and must sleep with his hands elevated on the softest of pillows every night. Read more>>
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Published by Dutton; ages 14 & up
Colby is about to embark on a year he’s been dreaming of forever: Once he graduates, he’s both driver and roadie for his best friend Bev’s band as they tour the Pacific Northwest, after which he and Bev will take off and spend a year exploring Europe. Read more>>
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Published by HMH; ages 14 & up
Grave Mercy, the first volume in an exciting new trilogy for teens, is set in a 15th-century French convent where the nuns are trained killers for the god of death.
The Vindico by Wesley King
Published by Putnam; ages 12 & up
The League of Heroes would be out of a job if there were no supervillains for them to vanquish, and the Vindico have played that role for a long time now—too long. Read more>>
The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Published by Amulet; ages 12 & up
Lena’s hands have a third knuckle and her feet are too long. Her grandmother thinks she’s inherited these traits from her absent goblin father, one of the Peculiars relegated to half-citizenship in a mythical land reminiscent of late-19th-century England. Read more>>
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
by Jennifer E. Smith
Published by Poppy/Hachette; ages 13 to 17
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?”For Hadley Sullivan, heading from JFK to London as a reluctant bridesmaid in her father’s (second) wedding to a woman she hasn’t met, four minutes means she misses her flight. Read more>>
Double by Jenny Valentine
Published by Hyperion; ages 12 & up
Midway through Double, the novel’s narrator—at this point beginning to fear (rightfully) for his life—thinks about his new family, “Maybe none of them were what they seemed. Maybe it wasn’t just me.” Read more>>
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Hyperion; ages 14 & up
Dystopia, fantasy and science fiction crowd the YA shelves these days, but Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein’s astonishing new World War II novel, is a reminder of the power historical fiction can have in the hands of an accomplished author. Read more>>
In honor of Women's History Month, we're celebrating 10 female authors that readers need to keep an eye out for this spring and summer. Whether they are debut novelists or authors who are still waiting for their first trip to the bestseller list, these women are not household names—but they should be.
Carry the One (S&S, March)
The author of three previous novels, Carol Anshaw has written a book that is a page-turner, thought-provoking and beautiful on the sentence level with Carry the One. The story revolves around three siblings (and their significant others) who are bound together by a fatal car accident after a wedding. Anshaw follows the characters for 25 years, as life goes on and they must live with their guilt. The prose is gorgeous and the characters all compelling (and oh-so-human). If you've never read one of Anshaw's books before, start here. You won't regret it.
The Lifeboat (Regan Arthur, April)
Rogan worked in the architecture and engineering fields and raised triplets before turning to novel-writing with The Lifeboat. Her debut, set in 1914, is an intricately structured tale of a woman who believes she's found security in a wealthy marriage, but then finds herself literally adrift: Their luxury liner sinks on the way back to America and she is floating with 38 other people in the middle of the Atlantic. It's a suspenseful, thoughtful work that contemplates some of life's biggest questions and is guaranteed to get a book club talking.
The Uninvited Guests (Harper, May)
British novelist Sadie Jones has earned literary acclaim with her two previous novels, both historical tales featuring characters who are a bit out of step with the rest of the world. In her third novel, she's taking on the traditional English country house story with a tale set during "Downton Abbey" days. Over the course of one wild and memorable night, the Torrington-Swift family finds their life turned upside down. It's a gentle comedy of manners, full of eccentric characters and evocative turns of phrase.
The Killing Moon (Orbit, May)
A popular blogger who just received her third Hugo nomination (for her third book!), Jemisin is not exactly unknown in the sci-fi community. In fact, we dubbed her 2010 debut "the must-read fantasy of the year." But we think she deserves a much larger readership. The Killing Moon is the first in the Dreamblood trilogy, which creates a whole new desert world based on ancient cultures (think Egyptians). The second book, The Shadowed Sun, will be published in June. If you are looking for a touch of magic in your summer, this is your book.
KAREN THOMPSON WALKER
The Age of Miracles (Random House, June)
Every morning for three years, before leaving for her job as an editor at Simon & Schuster, Walker was typing away on her first novel. The result is a debut that has already been optioned for film and was the subject of major auctions on the US and UK. The Age of Miracles is the sensitively told story of Julia, who is just 11 years old when it becomes apparent that the world's rotation is slowing. As the days—and nights—get longer, the world must decide how to cope. Juxtaposing this extreme situation with Julia's discovery of her first love and other coming-of-age dilemmas makes for a compelling read. This one has YA crossover written all over it.
Equal of the Sun (Scribner, June)
Amirrezvani's 2007 debut, The Blood of Flowers, was a word-of-mouth hit and ended up being longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her second novel, Equal of the Sun, is another ambitious, well-crafted historical tale set in her native Iran, featuring a memorable heroine. This time, the setting is the intrigue-filled 16th century Persian court (picture the Tudor court, times 10), where the Shah has died without naming an heir. The brilliant Princess Pari Khan (a real historical figure) knows more about the court than just about anyone else, and she and her eunuch friend Javaher dive into the power struggle. Fans of smart historical fiction should be on the lookout for this one.
Into the Darkest Corner (Harper, June)
Named the best book of 2011 by Amazon UK, where it was published last year, Elizabeth Haynes' debut has been praised by the likes of Karin Slaughter, S.J. Watson and Chevy Stevens—and promises to be one of the biggest thrillers of the summer. A police intelligence analyst who started working on her book during National Novel Writing Month, Haynes writes about obsession, domestic violence and complicated personal relationships in Into the Darkest Corner. The story revolves around Catherine, a woman whose charismatic boyfriend turns violent. Years later, when she finally thinks she’s free of him, her living nightmare returns.
The Chaperone (Riverhead, June)
Kansas author Laura Moriarty's reputation has been building slowly ever since the publication of her lyrical 2003 debut, The Center of Everything. But we think her fourth novel—with its of-the-moment 1920s setting and memorable portrayal of real-life silent film star Louise Brooks—could be a breakthrough hit.
Tigers in Red Weather (Little, Brown, July)
Klaussmann has perhaps the best literary pedigree of our women to watch out for: her great-great-great grandfather was Herman Melville. Her debut sounds a little bit like what The Great Gatsby would be if it were set in the era of "Mad Men," and spans two decades of the lives of a wealthy family with a summer house where significant events take place. Klaussmann has worked as a journalist for The New York Times and has a BA in Creative Writing from Barnard College.
Goodbye for Now (Doubleday, August)
Three grad student friends are living together. One of them gets pregnant, and the others help raise the baby. Hardly the most electric premise for a debut, yet Frankel's The Atlas of Love felt fresh, funny and true. So it will be exciting to see what Frankel, who lives in Seattle with her family, does with her second book, which has a much more original elevator pitch: What if you could reconstruct a virtual version of someone you've lost? In Goodbye for Now, software engineer Sam has done just that, as a favor to the woman he loves. But is love meant to last forever?
March is Women's History Month, and tomorrow we'll be celebrating 10 women writers to watch in 2012. But today is all about some of our favorite fictional women.
I bet we can all relate to this feeling: While reading a book, we feel a certain kinship to, or admiration for, a particular heroine. Or maybe we just think she's really fierce.
Keep reading for a list of 10 female heroines* we've especially admired in recent years. Who else should be on this list? Let us know in the comments.
ALICE from True Confections
by Katharine Weber; Crown, 2009
Though I suspect readers are probably most familiar with Katharine Weber's novel about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, my favorite of hers is the darkly hilarious and oddball True Confections, starring Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky. The story (which includes a Virgin Mary chocolate sculpture, a “Bereavemint” line of candies and many more absurdities) is about a family feud that's tearing apart a dysfunctional candy company. Alice, an in-law to the family who has worked her way up to becoming CEO of the company, tells the story via an affidavit. She's an unreliable and kooky guide, but her cut-throat personality only makes the reader root for her success.
ANJALI from Miss New India
by Bharati Mukherjee; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
Miss New India is a coming-of-age story set in Bangalore. Its heroine is Anjali Bose, a rebellious 19 year old who flees an arranged marriage and tries to make her own future away from the provincial low-income life she was born to. Anjali gets a promising job at a call center, but her personal reinvention isn't as simple as just running away from home. This is a fascinating look at contemporary India and a memorable main character with big dreams.
Geraldine Brooks tells a story of crossing boundaries and quiet strength in Caleb’s Crossing. Narrated by Bethia Mayfield, a Puritan minister’s daughter, the novel is based on the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard—in the 1660s. Bethia and Caleb strike up an unlikely friendship, and Bethia manages to use her cleverness to slyly gain knowledge, even though women were denied an education at this time in history. This is a satisfying historical novel told in the voice of a woman with a hungry mind.
DR. SWENSON from State of Wonder
by Ann Patchett; Harper, 2011
Dr. Marina Singh—a scientist at a pharmaceutical company who journeys to the Amazon to figure out why the heck her coworker died on a visit to a research lab—may be the main character of State of Wonder, our favorite novel of 2011. But it is Dr. Annick Swenson, Marina's former mentor, who wins the "best character" award, at least in my book. Not only is Swenson strong, incredibly intelligent and fearless—she'll run scientific tests on herself, if it means she might figure out how a drug works—but her relationship with Marina provides the primary tension in the novel. So many books about women focus on their love lives; we appreciate this look at a complicated relationship based on mutual respect, science and survival.
HANNAH from When She Woke
by Hillary Jordan; Algonquin, 2011
Hillary Jordan's dystopian retelling of The Scarlet Letter offers a worthy successor to Hester Prynne: Hannah Payne, a brave woman who is punished for having an abortion (she is "chromed" and her skin is turned red)—then goes rogue instead of quietly accepting her punishment. This is an exciting story about standing up for your beliefs and challenging those you love most.
MA from Room
by Emma Donoghue; Little, Brown, 2010
Who could forget the protagonist from from BookPage's favorite book of 2010? The mother in Room is placed in an unimaginably horrible situation: She is kidnapped, raped and held captive for years, forced to raise her son within the confines of a single 12 x 12 room. Though part of what makes this novel so memorable is the child narrator (the story is told from five-year-old Jack's perspective), it's Ma's resourcefulness, resilience and fierce love for her child that is truly inspiring and powerful.
MARGO from Once Upon a River
by Bonnie Jo Campbell; Norton, 2011
Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River brings to mind a hybrid of Annie Oakley lore and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Set in the 1970s in southwestern Michigan, the novel is about 16-year-old Margo Crane, a brave young woman who sets off alone down the Stark River to find her mother. It takes courage, stubbornness, the ability to wield a rifle and knowledge of the natural world for Margo to survive her quest. Readers will not forget her harrowing journey.
MARINA from The Realm of Hungry Spirits
by Lorraine López; Grand Central, 2011
Lorraine López’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits introduces readers to Marina Lucero, a fierce Latina heroine who longs for peace in a world of chaos. Though spirituality eludes her, Marina opens her home to the broken-hearted and the beaten in San Fernando Valley. Readers will appreciate the life lessons and the friendships depicted in this story, but it is Marina—and her humor, kindness and hungry spirit—that will stick with you long after finishing the novel.
ROSA from A Good American
by Alex George; Amy Einhorn Books, 2012
The character who stuck with me the most from Alex George's epic, heartfelt story of a family who immigrates from Germany to Missouri was Rosa Meisenheimer, the daughter of main characters Frederick and Jetta. She's a misunderstood hypochondriac as a child, then grows to become a chess whiz, joke teller, book lover, crackerjack teacher, keeper of a important secrets—and a joy to read about.
At last, our editors have made their choices for the best children's books of the year, from picture books to middle grade to young adult titles. It wasn't easy to decide, but after we roared our terrible roars, and gnashed our terrible teeth, we settled down long enough to agree on 30 excellent books.
What are your favorite children's books of the year? Let us know in the comments below. You can also click here to enter a contest for a selection of winter/holiday books and, as a bonus, a few titles from the list above. Happy reading!
Today is the pub date of Stephen King's 11/22/63, which is a great novel for fans of time-travel, love stories and books that give you the creepy crawlies.
Maybe it's the fact that I grew up watching my aunts, grandmother and mom cry over the film version of Somewhere in Time, but I have long had a soft spot for time-travel stories. If you finish 11/22/63 hungry for more, check out one of these classics.
1. Time and Again by Jack Finney (1970). In Finney's world, all you need to go back in time is the power of the mind. Just lock yourself in a period-perfect 1882 apartment (reading nothing but the news and books of the day, wearing the clothes, eating the food), and you'll eventually open the door and find yourself in 1882. Talk about an imagination-capturing idea. The swoon-worthy love story is just a bonus. Will someone make a movie of this book already? (Trivia tidbit: King is a fan of this one too, and would have dedicated 11/22/63 to Finney if a baby granddaughter hadn't arrived on the scene...)
2. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (1889). One of my favorite things about time-travel books is the potential for fish-out-of-water humor, and this classic has it in spades. It's the most hilarious look at medieval times until Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
3. The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen (1988). Modern-day teenager Hannah is bored by her Jewish heritage and all the sad stories and ceremonies that mean so much to her parents. That is, until she opens the door during a Seder dinner and finds herself in 1942 Poland, just before the town is rounded up by the Nazis. This heartbreaking story has a lot to say about compassion, respect for history and growing up.
4. Many Waters by Madeline L'Engle (1986). Yes, A Wrinkle in Time is terrific! But there's something about seeing secondary characters Sandy and Dennys finally get their own story that's appealing. The fact that it's a twist on the Noah's Ark story doesn't hurt either; L'Engle is at her best when she's working with biblical themes. Also: angels! unicorns! hot blond twins in tattered outfits on the cover! I'm pretty sure all those things are major reasons I read this to pieces in my tweenage years.
5. Forever by Pete Hamill (2003). OK, so it's not a time-travel novel per se, but it feels like one. Hamill's hero comes to New York from Ireland in 1741, and is cursed/blessed with eternal life by an African priestess—as long as he never leaves Manhattan. He's New England's Forrest Gump, with angst. A brilliant evocation of Manhattan's storied history and a sympathetic tale of a man who must watch everyone he loves die, this is Hamill at his best.
Yep, you've read this post right—there's no mention of The Time-Traveler's Wife! But hey, it's not in my top 5. Maybe it's in yours? If not, what's your favorite time-travel book?
Yesterday we posted a little something on Bristol Palin's memoir, Not Afraid of Life, including an excerpt and a quick summary of what readers might expect in the book.
We then asked readers: Will you be reading Bristol Palin's new memoir?
A roaring wave of responses came back at us (and more keep on coming!) on Facebook and Twitter and had us laughing all day. So naturally, we picked our (and your!) Top 10 favorite reader responses. Enjoy!
1. "Sure, just let me finish lighting my face on fire." - Zach
2. "Would rather clean toilets with my tongue." - Jennifer
3. "Sure, right after I finish Snooki's book." - April
4. "I stopped reading children's books decades ago!" - Cherie
5. "Or will I be afraid of life after reading the book...?" - @NYUPress
6. "I have so many other things to do first--like watch grass grow." - Bev
7. "Waste of a tree's life." - Amanda
8. "Sure! Right after I have a lobotomy." - Victoria
9. "Can the Palins write books? We know they don't read them!" - Tracy
and last but not least, a cheerful:
10. "All of these comments make me happy." - Rachel
So according to, oh, everyone we know on the Internet, a self-taught biblical scholar says the world is ending on Saturday, and a whole lot of people (though not necessarily their families!) believe him.
I suppose we'll find out the truth in due time (I had some ice cream this afternoon just in case), but whether or not the end of the world is nigh, post-apocalyptic literature definitely is. This week's top 10 list highlights our favorite books in the genre from the past 10 years, from the obvious to the obscure:
What's your favorite end-of-the-world novel?
Several of you requested a Top 10 list of short story collections back when I asked what "best" lists you want to see.
So, here are 10 collections BookPage strongly recommends, ordered alphabetically. Read 'em from beginning to end, or read them in bite-sized pieces. That's what I love about story collections. They're perfect when you don't have time to read a whole book, or you want the satisfaction of a beginning, middle and end in a short period of time.
In Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans takes as her subject people in transition: adolescents, children split between divorced parents, college graduates drifting between partners and jobs. Moral ambiguity is explored beautifully in the best of these stories as well as the deeply felt moments of choice and regret. (Keep reading this review.)
In Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, Yiyun Li explores the big themes—individuality, honor, family ties and love—and sets them against a richly detailed tapestry of Chinese life. Though each story takes place in modern-day China, they are formally rigorous and crafted with an elegance that harkens back to stylists like Chekhov and William Trevor. (Keep reading this review.)
Kelly Link's second short story collection is aptly titled Magic for Beginners, for the short fiction she presents here is truly magical, with masterfully crafted stories that are as dark as they are delightful. (Keep reading this review.)
David Bezmozgis' Natasha: and Other Stories, seven stories about growing up a poor Russian Jewish immigrant in Toronto, are so Russian in tone they should be read with a glass of tea at hand and a cube of sugar between one's teeth. Yet they are so Western in theme that even if you've never set foot outside your hometown, they'll make your heart ache. (Keep reading this review.)
Hailed as Alice Munro's best collection yet, Runaway is the 12th book from an author who has perfected the short story form. In these eight selections, each of which takes place in her native Canada, Munro examines the nuances of human relationships, exploring the complexities of marriage, the difficulties of parenting and the responsibilities inherent in friendship. (Keep reading this review.)
Karen Russell's startlingly original collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, features graceful and seductive prose that transports the reader into surreal and yet utterly plausible realms. (Keep reading this review.)
The stories in Swim Back to Me, Ann Packer’s collection, are powerful. They focus on situations that make us uncomfortable to varying degrees—from the disorienting feeling of misjudging a co-worker, to the adolescent recognition of being ditched by a friend, to the excruciating pain of losing a child. (Keep reading this review.)
From the opening tale of Nam Le's The Boat, it's hard not to be giddy: Wait, was that a brilliantly self-conscious and humorous slice of the writing life, which doubled as a poignant story about fathers and sons and family tragedies? Yes. Yes, it was. Things only get better from there. (Keep reading this review.)
Most of the 12 stories in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck focus on men and women who travel between Africa and the United States. Nigeria is the place where most of Adichie’s characters live, leave and long to return, while the U.S. is a place of promise, new beginnings and ultimate disappointments. (Keep reading this review.)
Jhumpa Lahiri has carved out a distinctive literary niche, and her tales of Indians encountering contemporary American life have resonated with a wide swath of readers. Her story collection, Unaccustomed Earth, only burnishes that estimable reputation. (Keep reading this review.)
What collections are we missing from this list? Why do you love short stories?