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The ReadDown

Must-Read Short Story Collections

Revisit some of your favorite authors and their short story collections. From Zadie Smith to William Trevor, these highly acclaimed authors share fiction that will transport you to places and people around the world.

  1. 1
    Tenth of December Book Cover Picture
    Tenth of December Book Cover Picture

    Tenth of December

    by George Saunders

    One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet. Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.
    Tenth of December Book Cover Picture
    Tenth of December Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky Book Cover Picture
    What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky Book Cover Picture

    What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

    by Lesley Nneka Arimah

    In “Who Will Greet You at Home,” a National Magazine Award finalist for The New Yorker, A woman desperate for a child weaves one out of hair, with unsettling results. In “Wild,” a disastrous night out shifts a teenager and her Nigerian cousin onto uneasy common ground. In “The Future Looks Good,” three generations of women are haunted by the ghosts of war, while in “Light,” a father struggles to protect and empower the daughter he loves. And in the title story, in a world ravaged by flood and riven by class, experts have discovered how to “fix the equation of a person” – with rippling, unforeseen repercussions. Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky heralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.
    What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky Book Cover Picture
    What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    All the Names They Used for God Book Cover Picture
    All the Names They Used for God Book Cover Picture

    All the Names They Used for God

    by Anjali Sachdeva

    A dystopian tale about genetically modified septuplets who are struck by a mysterious illness; a love story about a man bewitched by a mermaid; a stirring imagining of the lives of Nigerian schoolgirls in the aftermath of a Boko Haram kidnapping. The stories in All the Names They Used for God break down genre barriers—from science fiction to American Gothic to magical realism to horror—and are united by each character’s brutal struggle with fate. Like many of us, the characters in this collection are in pursuit of the sublime. Along the way, they must navigate the borderland between salvation and destruction.
    All the Names They Used for God Book Cover Picture
    All the Names They Used for God Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture

    How to Love a Jamaican

    by Alexia Arthurs

    Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret—Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life.
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture
    How to Love a Jamaican Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    Homesick for Another World Book Cover Picture
    Homesick for Another World Book Cover Picture

    Homesick for Another World

    by Ottessa Moshfegh

    There’s something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh’s stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters  are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. Homesick for Another World is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition. But part of the unique quality of her voice, the echt Moshfeghian experience, is the way the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion.
    Homesick for Another World Book Cover Picture
    Homesick for Another World Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    Five-Carat Soul Book Cover Picture
    Five-Carat Soul Book Cover Picture

    Five-Carat Soul

    by James McBride

    The stories in Five-Carat Soul—none of them ever published before—spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. They’re funny and poignant, insightful and unpredictable, imaginative and authentic—all told with McBride’s unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail. McBride explores the ways we learn from the world and the people around us. An antiques dealer discovers that a legendary toy commissioned by Civil War General Robert E. Lee now sits in the home of a black minister in Queens. Five strangers find themselves thrown together and face unexpected judgment. An American president draws inspiration from a conversation he overhears in a stable. And members of The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band recount stories from their own messy and hilarious lives.
    Five-Carat Soul Book Cover Picture
    Five-Carat Soul Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    The Largesse of the Sea Maiden Book Cover Picture
    The Largesse of the Sea Maiden Book Cover Picture

    The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

    by Denis Johnson

    The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is the long-awaited new story collection from Denis Johnson. Written in the luminous prose that made him one of the most beloved and important writers of his generation, this collection finds Johnson in new territory, contemplating the ghosts of the past and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves. Finished shortly before Johnson’s death, this collection is the last word from a writer whose work will live on for many years to come.
    The Largesse of the Sea Maiden Book Cover Picture
    The Largesse of the Sea Maiden Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    Dear Life Book Cover Picture
    Dear Life Book Cover Picture

    Dear Life

    by Alice Munro

    In story after story in this brilliant new collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human: a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, an adulterous mother and her neglected children, a guilt-ridden father, a young teacher jilted by her employer. Illumined by Munro’s unflinching insight, these lives draw us in with their quiet depth and surprise us with unexpected turns. And while most are set in her signature territory around Lake Huron, some strike even closer to home: an astonishing suite of four autobiographical tales offers an unprecedented glimpse into Munro’s own childhood. Exalted by her clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, Dear Life shows how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.
    Dear Life Book Cover Picture
    Dear Life Book Cover Picture

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  9. 9
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture

    The April 3rd Incident

    by Yu Hua

    Now available in English for the first time, these early stories find Yu Hua masterfully guiding us from one fractured reality to another: “A History of Two People” traces the paths of a man and a woman who dream in parallel throughout their lives. “As the North Wind Howled” carries a case of mistaken identity to absurd and hilarious conclusions. And the title story follows an unforgettable narrator determined to unearth a conspiracy against him that may not exist. By turns daring, darkly comic, thought-provoking, and profound, The April 3rd Incident powerfully captures a singular moment in Chinese letters.
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture
    The April 3rd Incident Book Cover Picture

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  10. 10
    The Thing Around Your Neck Book Cover Picture
    The Thing Around Your Neck Book Cover Picture

    The Thing Around Your Neck

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    In these twelve riveting stories, the award-winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.
    The Thing Around Your Neck Book Cover Picture
    The Thing Around Your Neck Book Cover Picture

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  11. 11
    Lovers on All Saints' Day Book Cover Picture
    Lovers on All Saints' Day Book Cover Picture

    Lovers on All Saints’ Day

    by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

    Lovers on All Saints’ Day is an emotional book that haunts, moves, and seduces. Juan Gabriel Vásquez, the brilliant novelist, now brings his keen eye and rich prose to the themes of love and memory in these seven powerful stories. Vásquez achieves an extraordinary unity of emotion with these fragmented lives. A Colombian writer is witness to a murder that will mark him forever. A woman sits alone in her house, waiting for her husband to return from an expedition to find wood for their stove, while he lies in another woman’s bed a few miles away, unable to heal the wound in his own marriage. In these stories, there are love affairs, revenge, troubled pasts, and tender moments that reveal a person’s whole history in a few sentences.
    Lovers on All Saints' Day Book Cover Picture
    Lovers on All Saints' Day Book Cover Picture

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  12. 12
    Exhalation Book Cover Picture
    Exhalation Book Cover Picture

    Exhalation

    by Ted Chiang

    In these nine stunningly original, provocative, and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.
    Exhalation Book Cover Picture
    Exhalation Book Cover Picture

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  13. 13
    Grand Union Book Cover Picture
    Grand Union Book Cover Picture

    Grand Union

    by Zadie Smith

    Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and her inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. Interleaving eleven completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from The New Yorker and elsewhere, Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us.
    Grand Union Book Cover Picture
    Grand Union Book Cover Picture

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  14. 14
    Home Remedies Book Cover Picture
    Home Remedies Book Cover Picture

    Home Remedies

    by Xuan Juliana Wang

    In stories of love, family, and friendship, here are the voices, faces and stories of a new generation never before captured between the pages in fiction. What sets them apart is Juliana Wang’s surprising imagination, able to capture the innermost thoughts of her characters with astonishing empathy, as well as the contradictions of the modern immigrant experience in a way that feels almost universal. Home Remedies is, in the words of Alexander Chee, “the arrival of an urgent and necessary literary voice we’ve been needing, waiting for maybe, without knowing.”
    Home Remedies Book Cover Picture
    Home Remedies Book Cover Picture

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  15. 15
    The King Is Always Above the People Book Cover Picture
    The King Is Always Above the People Book Cover Picture

    The King Is Always Above the People

    by Daniel Alarcón

    Migration. Betrayal. Family secrets. Doomed love. Uncertain futures. In Daniel Alarcón’s hands, these are transformed into deeply human stories with high stakes. In “The Thousands,” people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives’ mysterious deaths and his father’s mental breakdown and incarceration in “The Bridge.” A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in “The Ballad of Rocky Rontal.” And in the tour de force novella, “The Auroras”, a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman. Richly drawn, full of unforgettable characters, The King is Always Above the People reveals experiences both unsettling and unknown, and yet eerily familiar in this new world.
    The King Is Always Above the People Book Cover Picture
    The King Is Always Above the People Book Cover Picture

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  16. 16
    Sour Heart Book Cover Picture
    Sour Heart Book Cover Picture

    Sour Heart

    by Jenny Zhang

    Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.
    Sour Heart Book Cover Picture
    Sour Heart Book Cover Picture

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  17. 17
    American Housewife Book Cover Picture
    American Housewife Book Cover Picture

    American Housewife

    by Helen Ellis

    Meet the women of American Housewife. They wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies from the oven. Taking us from a haunted pre-war Manhattan apartment building to the unique initiation ritual of a book club, these twelve delightfully demented stories are a refreshing and wicked answer to the question: “What do housewives do all day?”
    American Housewife Book Cover Picture
    American Housewife Book Cover Picture

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  18. 18
    Sabrina & Corina Book Cover Picture
    Sabrina & Corina Book Cover Picture

    Sabrina & Corina

    by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

    Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force. In “Sugar Babies,” ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. “Any Further West” follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In “Tomi,” a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, “Sabrina & Corina,” a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual.
    Sabrina & Corina Book Cover Picture
    Sabrina & Corina Book Cover Picture

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  19. 19
    You Think It, I'll Say It Book Cover Picture
    You Think It, I'll Say It Book Cover Picture

    You Think It, I’ll Say It

    by Curtis Sittenfeld

    Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. Throughout the ten stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It, Sittenfeld upends assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided. With moving insight and uncanny precision, Curtis Sittenfeld pinpoints the questionable decisions, missed connections, and sometimes extraordinary coincidences that make up a life. Indeed, she writes what we’re all thinking—if only we could express it with the wit of a master satirist, the storytelling gifts of an old-fashioned raconteur, and the vision of an American original.
    You Think It, I'll Say It Book Cover Picture
    You Think It, I'll Say It Book Cover Picture

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  20. 20
    What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Book Cover Picture
    What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Book Cover Picture

    What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

    by Helen Oyeyemi

    Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. Oyeyemi’s tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation? What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours captivates as it explores the many possible answers.
    What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Book Cover Picture
    What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Book Cover Picture

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  21. 21
    Men Without Women Book Cover Picture
    Men Without Women Book Cover Picture

    Men Without Women

    by Haruki Murakami

    Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are lovesick doctors, students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, and even Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, brought together to tell stories that speak to us all. In Men Without Women Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic, marked by the same wry humor and pathos that have defined his entire body of work.
    Men Without Women Book Cover Picture
    Men Without Women Book Cover Picture

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  22. 22
    Olive Kitteridge Book Cover Picture
    Olive Kitteridge Book Cover Picture

    Olive Kitteridge

    by Elizabeth Strout

    In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge. At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.
    Olive Kitteridge Book Cover Picture
    Olive Kitteridge Book Cover Picture

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  23. 23
    Awayland Book Cover Picture
    Awayland Book Cover Picture

    Awayland

    by Ramona Ausubel

    Acclaimed for the grace, wit, and magic of her novels, Ramona Ausubel introduces us to a geography both fantastic and familiar in eleven new stories, some of them previously published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Elegantly structured, these stories span the globe and beyond, from small-town America and sunny Caribbean islands to the Arctic Ocean and the very gates of Heaven itself. And though some of the stories are steeped in mythology, they remain grounded in universal experiences: loss of identity, leaving home, parenthood, joy, and longing.
    Awayland Book Cover Picture
    Awayland Book Cover Picture

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  24. 24
    Florida Book Cover Picture
    Florida Book Cover Picture

    Florida

    by Lauren Groff

    Lauren Groff brings the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature. A family retreat can be derailed by a prowling panther, or by a sexual secret. Among those navigating this place are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple, a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable, recurring character—a steely and conflicted wife and mother. The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida—its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind—becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence.
    Florida Book Cover Picture
    Florida Book Cover Picture

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  25. 25
    Last Stories Book Cover Picture
    Last Stories Book Cover Picture

    Last Stories

    by William Trevor

    With a career that spanned more than half a century, William Trevor is regarded as one of the best writers of short stories in the English language. Now, in Last Stories, the master storyteller delivers ten exquisitely rendered tales—nine of which have never been published in book form–that illuminate the human condition and will surely linger in the reader’s mind long after closing the book. Subtle yet powerful, Trevor gives us insights into the lives of ordinary people. We encounter a tutor and his pupil, whose lives are thrown into turmoil when they meet again years later; a young girl who discovers the mother she believed dead is alive and well; and a piano-teacher who accepts her pupil’s theft in exchange for his beautiful music. This final and special collection is a gift to lovers of literature and Trevor’s many admirers, and affirms his place as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
    Last Stories Book Cover Picture
    Last Stories Book Cover Picture

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  26. 26
    Let Me Tell You Book Cover Picture
    Let Me Tell You Book Cover Picture

    Let Me Tell You

    by Shirley Jackson

    Let Me Tell You brings together the deliciously eerie short stories Jackson is best known for, along with frank, inspiring lectures on writing; comic essays about her large, boisterous family; and whimsical drawings. Jackson’s landscape here is most frequently domestic: dinner parties and bridge, household budgets and homeward-bound commutes, children’s games and neighborly gossip. But this familiar setting is also her most subversive: She wields humor, terror, and the uncanny to explore the real challenges of marriage, parenting, and community—the pressure of social norms, the veins of distrust in love, the constant lack of time and space.
    Let Me Tell You Book Cover Picture
    Let Me Tell You Book Cover Picture

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  27. 27
    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere Book Cover Picture
    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere Book Cover Picture

    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

    by ZZ Packer

    ZZ Packer dazzles with her command of language, surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on the periphery, unsure of where they belong. We meet a Brownie troop of black girls who are confronted with a troop of white girls; a young man who goes with his father to the Million Man March and must decides where his allegiance lies; an international group of drifters in Japan, who are starving, unable to find work; a girl in a Baltimore ghetto who has dreams of the larger world she has seen only on the screens in the television store nearby, where the Lithuanian shopkeeper holds out hope for attaining his own American Dream.
    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere Book Cover Picture
    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere Book Cover Picture

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  28. 28
    Unaccustomed Earth Book Cover Picture
    Unaccustomed Earth Book Cover Picture

    Unaccustomed Earth

    by Jhumpa Lahiri

    These eight stories by beloved and bestselling author Jhumpa Lahiri take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. Here they enter the worlds of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. Rich with the signature gifts that have established Jhumpa Lahiri as one of our most essential writers, Unaccustomed Earth exquisitely renders the most intricate workings of the heart and mind.
    Unaccustomed Earth Book Cover Picture
    Unaccustomed Earth Book Cover Picture

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  29. 29
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Book Cover Picture
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Book Cover Picture

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

    by Raymond Carver

    In his second collection, including the iconic and much-referenced title story featured in the Academy Award-winning film Birdman, Carver establishes his reputation as one of the most celebrated short-story writers in American literature—a haunting meditation on love, loss, and companionship, and finding one’s way through the dark.
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Book Cover Picture
    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Book Cover Picture

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  30. 30
    Flights Book Cover Picture
    Flights Book Cover Picture

    Flights

    by Olga Tokarczuk

    From the incomparably original Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk, Flightsinterweaves reflections on travel with an in-depth exploration of the human body, broaching life, death, motion, and migration. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time. Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going? we call to the traveler. Enchanting, unsettling, and wholly original, Flights is a master storyteller’s answer.
    Flights Book Cover Picture
    Flights Book Cover Picture

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  31. 31
    Cockfosters Book Cover Picture
    Cockfosters Book Cover Picture

    Cockfosters

    by Helen Simpson

    In these nine virtuoso stories, Helen Simpson turns her wickedly wry wit to the stations of life, the vulnerabilities of age, and the lives of ordinary people in complicated times. The title story follows two old friends as they ride the London Underground to Cockfosters—the end of the line—to retrieve a pair of newly prescribed bifocals. “Erewhon” depicts a reversal of gender roles as a man lies awake in bed fretting about his body shape, his dissatisfaction with sex, his children, and his role in his marriage. And in “Berlin,” a fiftysomething couple embarks on a “Ring Cycle package” trip to Germany, recalling the ups and downs of their life together as they make their way through Wagner’s epic. Funny, warmhearted, and deeply insightful, these tales brilliantly balance devastation and optimism as only Helen Simpson can.
    Cockfosters Book Cover Picture
    Cockfosters Book Cover Picture

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