Quick Beach Reads: New and Notable Short Story Collections

Do you want to pick up a good book to read but just don’t have the mental energy for something the length of a novel? Here are some new and notable short story collections that can offer quick yet excellent reads for short attention spans and brief reading interludes whether at the beach or under a cool shade.  All are available to borrow with your Livingston Public Library card.

Big Time : Stories by Jen Spyra

An uproarious, addictive collection of short stories that include a twisted exchange between a wealthy New York woman and the child she is sponsoring in Ecuador, a disturbingly hilarious tale about just how far one woman will go to achieve the perfect wedding body, a civil war soldier’s far-too-forthcoming letters home, and a reimagining of a Christmas classic in which the snowman who comes to life turns out to be a real pervert.

Burning Girls And Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes

Schanoes crosses borders and genres with stories of fierce women at the margins of society burning their way toward the center.  History and fairy tales are reimagined, repurposed, and remixed in this intriguing debut story collection. Drawing deeply from history (particularly leftist, labor, women’s, and Jewish history), folklore, fairy tales, and pop culture, Schanoes explores themes of historiography, queerness, duty, justice, and oppression.

The Dangers of Smoking In Bed : Stories by Mariana Enriquez ; translated by Megan McDowell.

Written against the backdrop of contemporary Argentina, and with resounding tenderness towards those in pain, in fear, and in limbo, this new collection from one of Argentina’s most exciting writers finds Enriquez at her most sophisticated, and most chilling.  The stories in this collection are as terrifying as they are socially conscious, and press into being the unspoken — fetish, illness, the female body, the darkness of human history — with unsettling urgency.

The First Person Singular : Stories by Haruki Murakami

 The eight masterful stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator: a lonely man. Some of them (like “With the Beatles,” “Cream,” and “On a Stone Pillow” ) are nostalgic looks back at youth. Others are set in adulthood–“Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova,” “Carnaval,” “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” and the stunning title story. The stories all touch beautifully on love and loss, childhood and death . . . all with a signature Murakami twist.

The Ghost Variations : One Hundred Stories by Kevin Brockmeier

One hundred funny, poignant, scary, and thought-provoking ghost stories that explore all aspects of the afterlife. A spirit who appears in a law firm reliving the exact moment she lost her chance at love, a man haunted by the trees cut down to build his house, nefarious specters that snatch anyone who steps into the shadows in which they live, and parakeets that serve as mouthpieces for the dead–these are just a few of the characters Brockmeier presents in this extraordinary compendium of spectral emanations and their wildly various purposes in (after) life. 

Land Of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen

A debut story collection offering a kaleidoscopic portrait of life for contemporary Chinese people, set between China and the United States.

Life Among The Terranauts by Caitlin Horrocks

A story collection that moves between the real and the surreal features tales of the residents of a Midwestern town who decide to hibernate through the bitter winters, and six people who move into an experimental biodome for two years for a chance at a million dollars.

Love Like That : Stories by Emma Duffy-Comparone

A collection of nine darkly playful and moving stories about women who-at their darkest and loneliest times-discover what is worth loving in the world.

Milk Blood Heat : Stories by Dantiel W. Moniz

Set among the cities and suburbs of Florida, each story in this collection delves into the ordinary worlds of young girls, women, and men who find themselves confronted by extraordinary moments of violent personal reckoning. These intimate portraits of people and relationships scour and soothe and blast a light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, consumption, and what we may, or may not, owe one another.

The Ocean House : Stories by Mary-Beth Hughes.

Eleven interlaced stories circle around two families in a wealthy community on the Jersey Shore, a place literally built on the sand, from the 1960s to the end of the century, as children grow up, or don’t. Death, often accidental or self-inflicted, is a recurring motif, with those shattering events piercing the surfaces of otherwise mundane lives.

The (Other) You : Stories by Joyce Carol Oates

Presents a collection of stories that explores the musings of a writer, a prisoner, a student, and others who consider how their lives might have unfolded differently had they made different choices.

Prayer For The Living : Stories by Ben Okri

Playful, frightening, even shocking – the stories in this collection blur the lines between illusion and reality.  Stories here are set in London, in Byzantium, in the ghetto, in the Andes, in a printer’s shop in Spain. The characters include a murderer, a writer, a detective, a man in a cave, a man in a mirror, two little boys, a prison door, and the author himself. 

Reality and other stories by John Lanchester

Eerie stories of contemporary life and the perils of technology that plunk the reader down in the uncanny world of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.  A mysterious tall man haunts a country house in search of a cell signal; a translator at an academic conference starts hearing things over his headset that nobody should hear; a family discovers their dependence on the latest technological gadget goes to the very foundations of human relations; and the merry contestants in a reality TV show may actually be… somewhere very hellish indeed. This is a  book of disquiet that captures the severe disconnection and distraction of our time.

Sarahland : Stories by Sam Cohen

Cohen brilliantly (and often hilariously) explores the ways in which traditional stories have failed us, giving its cast of Sarahs new origin stories, new ways to love the planet and those inhabiting it, and new possibilities for life itself.  Readers watch as the ever-evolving “Sarah” gets recast: as a biblical trans woman, a lesbian literally growing roots, a being who transcends the earth as we know it. While Cohen presents a world that will clearly someday end, “Sarah” will continue. In each Sarah’s refusal to adhere to a single narrative, she might even help build a better home for all of us, a place to live that demands no fixity of self, no plague of consumerism, no bodily compromise, a place called SARAHLAND.

The Souvenir Museum : Stories by  Elizabeth McCracken.

Award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken is an undisputed virtuoso of the short story, and this new collection features her most vibrant and heartrending work to date.”

Tiny Tales : Stories Of Romance, Ambition, Kindness, and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

This collection features brief, utterly engaging tales that offer lasting surprise and delight. From the original Greek financial crisis, when the profligate Gods of Olympus were punished by Odin and the other Norse Gods for their unchecked spending, to a handy unintended benefit of cosmetic surgery; from Pope Ron, the first Australian Pope, who wants nothing more than to live quietly, to a rather droll cat named Stanley, to Good President Wenceslas, benevolent leader of a snowy land: these stories are by turns funny, poignant, and deliciously wicked, each one a gift begging to be unwrapped and enjoyed again and again.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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