A word of caution: none of these books are new. Nor are they on this year’s NYT best sellers list, or on the entry table as you walk into your local bookstore. They are, as the title simply suggests, good reads. And while they may not be the hot pick for book clubs this month, a good read is always a good read; worth revisiting if you’ve already shelved them.
Other Stories & Other Stories, by Ali Smith: When I tell people that Ali Smith is one of my favorite writers, and that this collection of her short stories is amazing, a not uncommon response I get is “Oh, I can never really get into short stories…” What is there to get into? They’re short! There is as much depth and momentum in a six page story than a 20 chapter novel. In Other Stories & Other Stories, I got sucked into Ali Smith’s world. Her magical, genderless, mystical, off-kilter world. I was pulled into the stream of consciousness that flowed through each of her stories, sometimes leaving me unsettled, but only in how much her words resonated. My favorites in this collection? The Theme Is Power and Okay So Far.
Drown, by Junot Diaz: Another collection of short stories that will throw your moral compass without you even realizing. I love the way Diaz makes his native Spanish words weave in and out of the English narrative as though they always belonged there; mingled and poetic. Reading this book reminded me of my sisters and I speaking Spanglish, even though the subjects of our conversations were PG versions compared to those of Diaz’s characters. The stories are connected, following the life of a young Yunior, his older brother Rafa, and their parents, as they move from Santo Domingo to the neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York. The characters jump off the page in each story but, in particular, read: Aurora.
Generation X, by Douglas Coupland: I was given this book as a gift, as the blurb seemed to describe my current 20-something-year-old angst quite accurately. Though the characters are from a different generation, their feelings, worries, and conflicting thoughts are not entirely unrelatable. What struck me most about Coupland’s story was the detail. It’s as though he lived through this era with special x-ray-zoom-lens glasses, recording every color, song, street name, catch-phrase, and hipster that crossed his path. I got lost in the Palm Springs desert in the 80s with Andy, Dag, and Claire. So should you.
Oh Comely: This isn’t a book, but it is a terrific magazine full of great stories all the same. I only recently discovered it and had to share. The articles are personal, intelligent, and thought-provoking, with content like “what happens when you introduce 1500 strangers to each other?”, an interview with author Lionel Shriver, and how to measure one’s life in a soundtrack.