Tag Archives: Short Stories

These Children Who Come At You With Knives

Title: These Children Who Come At You With Knives and Other Fairy Tales

Author: Jim Knipfel

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, June 2010

Summary: Fractured fairy tales have long been a popular genre in youth literature, and in this wicked, inspired collection, the grown-ups finally get their own twisted takes on ‘happily ever after.’ If you are expecting a modern-day Cinderella or Little Mermaid story, this is not the book for you.

Instead, you will meet a chicken who is too smart for her own good, a demented gnome bent on world domination, and a gossipy houseplant that would give Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors a run for her (it’s?) money. And it’s not giving too much away by saying that none of the stories has the traditional fairy tale ending. This bold collection will make you laugh and squirm at the same time.

Who will like this book?: Fans of satire. Cynics. People who think to themselves, ‘if Cinderella’s slippers were really made of glass, wouldn’t she cut up her feet?’

If you like this, read this: Another great (albeit less brutal) take on fairy tales for grown-ups, the Fables graphic novel series by Bill Willingham.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Where the God of Love Hangs Out

Title: Where The God of Love Hangs Out

Author: Amy Bloom

Publisher: Random House, January 2010

Summary: Amy Bloom’s new collection of short stories will make you laugh, cry, cringe and gasp and it is possible that you will feel all these emotions in just one story. In this book there are two sets of stories that are intertwined and then there are four stand alone stories. One set of stories revolve around William, Isabel, Clare and Charles who are old friends until two of them start an affair. The other set of stories are about a mother and her stepson and what foolishly happens after the death of her husband! Bloom writes about life and love in a real way which is sometimes messy, sometimes raw and sometimes joyous. The characters are so memorable and each story will leave you satisfied but also hungering for more! Bloom explores the themes of love, aging and death with such grace and gusto that she will blow you away. At the core of every story is family in all their glory – good, bad and ugly. I could not put this book down and then it stayed with me long after the last page.

Who will like this book? Fans of Amy Bloom’s Away.

Recommended by: Claudia, Circulation

Complete Stories

Title: The Complete Stories

Author: Flannery O’Connor

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971

Summary: When I travel, I like to read books written by authors from that part of the world. So, on a recent trip to Savannah, I finally picked up A Good Man is Hard to Find, a book that had been on my ‘to-read’ list for ages. That book is contained within this larger collection of all the O’Connor’s short stories. While her career was relatively short, Flannery O’Connor was a highly-regarded master of the Southern Gothic: the scenery is dripping with humidity and the haunted characters all struggle as they are forced to face the darkness in their twisted souls.

Some of the tales are downright terrifying and some, like The River and A Stroke of Good Fortune end in a shocking, unpredictable turn of events. Almost all have characters coming to a not-so-pleasant realization about their place in the world. These are not happy stories, but the writing is so mesmerizing that you will find yourself rereading each turn of phrase. Don’t wait as long as I did to pick up this American classic!

Who will like this book: Fans of short stories, regional fiction, and darker themes. People who like their books a little twisted.

If you like this, try this:Other great Southern Gothic authors include Truman Capote, Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams. Flannery O’Connor: A Life by Jean W. Cash.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Selected Stories

Title: Selected Stories

Author: Andre Dubus

Summary: For me, summer is a great time to read short story collections: You can pick up a book, read a bit, and then put it down and enjoy the sunshine. That said, I’m not a fluffy ‘beach read’ person – I like intense, realistic fiction. Selected Stories by Andre Dubus fits the bill perfectly. The name might be familiar to you – but this is not a collection by the celebrated author of The House of Sand and Fog, but instead by his equally-celebrated, if lesser known, father.

The most famous story in this book is Killings, which became a movie called In the Bedroom. Most of the stories are set just outside of Boston, and describe the escalation of small (and sometimes petty) dramas into something more profound, from a woman being stalked by her ex-husband, a cadet going through a brutal basic training exercise, a newlywed rejecting her perfect life by gorging on candy, and a devout young man discovering the joys – and limits – of physical affection.

Who will like this book?: Readers of short stories. Fans of regional fiction set in New England.

If you like this, try this: The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III. Tooth and Claw, a collection by another American short story master, T.C. Boyle.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

Title: Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

Author: Lara Vapnyar

Summary: A fabulous and creative collection of short stories that revolve around food in the lives of a New York City Russian community. The stories are well written, humorous and witty. Some of the humor is very black, but that bit of gloominess makes the stories more poignant and human. The Russian flavor, vivid descriptions and wonderful prose makes this author and unique and entertaining story teller.

Recommended by: Laurie, Circulation

When You Are Engulfed In Flames

Title: When You Are Engulfed In Flames

Author: David Sedaris

Summary: In his latest collection of comedic essays, David Sedaris picks up right where he left off – spinning amusing, unforgettable anecdotes from everyday topics, from walking through a zoo alongside (or far behind) his partner, his unwitting friendship with town outcasts, and busybody neighbors, his obsession with house spiders and an attempt to quit smoking in a tobacco-permissive Japan.

It’s not just that Sedaris is the undisputed master of this form: It’s that he doesn’t allow the humor to get in the way of the heartfelt sentiment of the tales he tells - and vice versa. Each essay takes you on a journey you’d never expect, and to conclusions you would never imagine when reading its opening sentences.

Who will like this book?:If you enjoy the satire and humor of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and you haven’t read any Sedaris yet, what are you waiting for! It doesn’t have the political bent, just the same sharp social critique and merciless self-deprecation.

If you like this, try this:Anything else by Sedaris, especially Holidays on Ice. Also note: The audiobook versions of his stuff are excellent. Fraud by David Rakoff. Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Title: I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Author: Sloane Crosley

Summary: This collection of witty, self-depricating, utterly hillarious essays examine what is means to be young, single and whipsmart in New York today. Crosley, who grew up in Westchester and has written for the New York Observer, Playboy and The Village Voice, touches on many of the common experiences of growing up in suburbia: summer camp, being a bridesmaid, secretly wishing you lived somewhere more exotic; as well as life in post-9/11 New York, from the secret kindness of strangers, dinner parties and moving to a new apartment. However, like the essays of David Sedaris, these mundane events transform into irreverant, laugh-out-loud commentaries on the intricacies of modern life.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book calls Crosley “a 21st century Dorothy Parker.” Usually statements like these bother me, but in this case, the proof is in the reading. This is an outstanding debut collection, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Who will like this book?: People waiting patiently for the next David Sedaris book. Young, single, urban (or wannabe urban) women.

If you like this, try this: The books of David Rakoff, including Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable. Or try Sarah Vowell’s witty commentaries on pop culture and history, particularly Assassination Vacation.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian