Librarian's Picks: Short Story Favorites

Cover for T.C. Boyle's 'After the Plague'

Cover for T.C. Boyle's After the Plague Viking hide caption

itoggle caption Viking
Cover of 'A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories' by Victor Pelevin

Cover of A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories by Victor Pelevin New Directions Publishing Corp. hide caption

itoggle caption New Directions Publishing Corp.
Cover of Dan Chaon's 'Among the Missing'

Cover of Dan Chaon's Among the Missing Random House hide caption

itoggle caption Random House
Cover of Lorrie Moore's ;Birds of America'

Cover of Lorrie Moore's Birds of America Picador hide caption

itoggle caption Picador

Steve Inskeep talks with librarian Nancy Pearl, who's back with another hefty stack of book recommendations. This time, Pearl talks about some of her favorite short story collections:

Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry by Elizabeth McCracken

Pearl calls this collection a "wonderfully wacky" assortment of short tales about oddball individuals inhabiting neglected corners of the familiar. Pearl's favorite character? Aunt Helen Beck, a homeless eccentric who adopts families by pretending she's a long-lost relative.

A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories by Victor Pelevin translated by Andrew Bromfield

Victor Pelevin in a Russian author in the style of Kafka or Borges — a "fabulist" who shrugs off the ponderous gravity embodied by Tolstoy. "These are the kind of stories you just delight in reading and re-reading, because it's just so fascinating to see where this guy can take you," Pearl says. The title story follows the tale of a young slacker who finds the hinterlands full of werewolves — and then he makes an interesting discovery...

After the Plague by T.C. Boyle

Boyle is best known for his string of successful novels, such as The Road to Wellville and, more recently, The Inner Circle. But many Boyle fans gravitate to his many collections of short stories, especially After the Plague. Why short stories? "You don't have time for leisure, you have to draw readers in immediately," Pearl says. For short fiction, the opening lines and last lines are most important. "T.C. Boyle's last lines are the kind that kind of reach in and twist your heart a little bit," she says.

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

"This is one of those collections where one would be hard pressed to find a bad story," says Pearl. "Moore is one of those people whose every word is chosen carefully to move the story forward just a little bit — so that as you're reading, you get caught up in the lives of her characters." The characters in the 12 stories here have no connection with one another — yet each is afflicted with an angst and aimlessness that's both engrossing and unnerving.

All This Heavenly Glory by Elizabeth Crane

This is a collection of interlinked short stories, charting the amusing and slightly askew life of main character Charlotte Anne Byers. "I was just totally blown away by the humor and grace, and ability... to bring her characters to life," Pearl says. "The voice is so confiding and so honest."

The Lone Pilgrim by Laurie Colwin

Colwin, who died in 1992, was the author of five novels and three other short story collections. Most of the stories revolve around the dizzy glee of being young and discovering the maddening and enriching complications of adult life.

Samuel Johnson Is Indignant by Lydia Davis

This isn't so much a collection of short stories as a distillation of meaning, a flurry of ideas in 56 chapters. Some of those chapters are just a paragraph long. Some are one-liners. Her work has been described as "visionary, philosophical, comic prose — part Gertrude Stein, part Simone Weil."

Among the Missing by Dan Chaon

This National Book Award finalist is a collection of 12 vignettes exploring the complicated geography of human relationships, full of characters who fight loneliness even when surrounded by others. But the stories aren't morbid — Chaon's writing buoys the mood, creating emotional landscapes that are unsettling but beautiful.

Pearl is the author of More Book Lust, a book of recommended reading, and is also the model for a librarian action figure (no kidding!).

Books Featured In This Story

A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories

by Victor Pelevin and Andrew Bromfield

Paperback | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories
Author
Victor Pelevin and Andrew Bromfield

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry

Stories

by Elizabeth McCracken

Paperback, 210 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry
Subtitle
Stories
Author
Elizabeth McCracken

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

The Lone Pilgrim

by Laurie Colwin

Paperback | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
The Lone Pilgrim
Author
Laurie Colwin

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Samuel Johnson Is Indignant

by Lydia Davis

Hardcover, 201 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Samuel Johnson Is Indignant
Author
Lydia Davis

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Among the Missing

by Dan Chaon

Paperback, 274 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Among the Missing
Author
Dan Chaon

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Birds of America

by Lorrie Moore

Paperback, 291 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Birds of America
Author
Lorrie Moore

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

After the Plague

And Other Stories

by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Hardcover, 303 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
After the Plague
Subtitle
And Other Stories
Author
T. Coraghessan Boyle

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

All This Heavenly Glory

Stories

by Elizabeth Crane

Hardcover, 230 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
All This Heavenly Glory
Subtitle
Stories
Author
Elizabeth Crane

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.