Three Must-Read Short Story Collections

    Tired of buying electronics or golf gadgets for Father’s Day. Hook your father figure up with a sweet read this month instead. Even if the men in your life don’t have the attention span for a novel or memoir, they will enjoy these powerful literary shorts…but old and new. Warning: These are so good, you might want to keep them for yourself!

     Reaching into the vault, you may want to try an oldie but goodie by Mark Richard (also the award-winning author of our June Read of the Month). In The Ice at the Bottom of the World (Anchor, Jan. 1991),  the reader gets the sense Richard is just toying around, experimenting with his incredible talent. He switches styles with every story, and his tricks are so numerous and varied, you feel as if each read is a brand new adventure crafted by a different author. Throughout the ten stoies, Richard moves seamlessly from redneck porch talk to lyrical Indian legends. With characters named Uncle Trash and Genius, a mama who drinks her coffee cold, “not to burn the swole lip she has,” and towns with names like Where Lightning Takes Tall Walks, there’s nothing boring or stale in this set, and once you read it, you’ll be a Richard fan for life.

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     A newer release, and one no less mesmerizing, is The Prospect of Magic (Livingston, May 2010) penned by Louisiana author, M.O. Walsh. In this loosely connected series of stories, Walsh creates a world so vivid and mystical, he brings Louisiana to life in a way no one else has done before him. It all starts when the owner of Ploofop’s Traveling Carnival dies unexpectedly. With the show at a standstill, the small town of Fluker is inundated with bearded ladies and the likes. The townspeople, a bit starved for excitement, welcome the carnies, some of whom cautiously resist the urge to join the community. As relationships develop, stories are told from the perspectives of both locals and travelers, providing an ironic glimpse into the commonalities of contrasting personalities. Emotionally riveting and incredibly charming,  Walsh has created a world and characters you won’t want to leave. It’s no wonder this book received an Honorable Mention in the General Fiction category for The Eric Hoffer Award, honoring the best books published by independent and university presses. It was one of only nine finalists for 2010, and SLR recommends it be added to your Must Read list this summer. Walsh is a writer to watch!

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     Next, check out the new compelling collection of short stories, Ladies and Gentlemen, written by the award-winning novelist, Adam Ross (author of the bestselling Mr. Peanut).  Due to hit shelves June 28 (Knopf, 2011), this collection is another Must Read. From page one, you’ll be drawn into the lives of Ross’ characters who range from a dysfunctional pair of brothers to a lonely college professor and a love-crushed child actor. Ross is a master at delivering the unexpected, and every story in this collection will hit you with a surprise punch ending. Known for his ability to navigate difficult human relationships in Mr. Peanut, Ross does it again here, with a modern edginess that rings true to anyone who has ever endured difficult friendships or strained family connections. He dips our feet into uncomfortable waters and makes us face, with clarity, the horrific things we do to one another. From serious (The Holocaust) to surreal (being pranked on public TV), Ross sheds light on human insecurities and leaves us seeking redemption. Ross is no doubt one of the most brilliant writers of our time.

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  1. Mark Shamski says

    Those are very nice, I also recommend y’all reading Julian Barnes’s “Pulse” and Joel Strivewell’s collection of extremely short stories called “Windowjumpers”. And out of the three listed above, M.O. Walsh is my favorite – definitely worth reading. Cheers!

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