A Little Escape from Reality

Staff PicksNortheast Library

A Little Escape from Reality

A stressful day? Don’t have time for this and that? Want to start a new book but can’t commit, yet the need for an escape from your mundane daily routine nags at you? Well, reading a short story might remedy your plight. You ask how, and I say: it’s short enough to fit into your hectic life and good enough to provide you a contained but transcendental experience of great fiction. Here are five amazing short story collections:

Our story begins: new and selected stories by Tobias Wolff

This collection of stories by Tobias Wolff, which is a must read - regardless of your age, gender, and profession - displays his superb way of storytelling in the short format: a gift he has developed over a quarter century of writing. Pick up the book anytime, anywhere. Read any of the stories and you will have an amazing American journey. According to The New York Times Book Review: 

"To read a Tobias Wolff story is to sink into the soft seat of your grandfather’s strong, modest old Buick and let yourself be carried through an America of small towns, small joys, small struggles and small despairs."

"Desert Break Down," "Deep Kiss," and "Bullet in the Brain" are some of my favorites. In 2015, Tobias Wolff received a National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. So don’t wait. Request the copy now!

Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon

Esquire magazine called him "a maestro, a conjurer of universes..." Aleksandar Hemon is all that, plus a maestro of dazzling prose. He is an extraordinary writer who moved to the United States in 1992 and learned English as a second language remarkably well. Like an alchemist, he transforms words into golden sentences: beautiful and shining. All eight linked stories in Love and Obstacles are colored by the Bosnian war (1992-1995) and depict the stories of a coming-of-age narrator - a boy-poet - who relocates to the U.S. and navigates life through loneliness, adolescent angst, and occasional moments of hilarity. "Everything" and "American Commando" are some of my favorites.

The collected stories of Amy Hempel by Amy Hempel

This collection of short stories by Amy Hempel has all four of her short story collections in one volume and displays the prose of one of the masters of the minimalist school of writing. Amy Hempel wastes no words and writes with such wit, simplicity, and sophistication that each and every story of hers deserves time to do their work. Like good wine, they have to be aired and sipped slowly. She portrays characters that make inevitable choices, whose doubts and longings speak of the human condition in a way to which we all can relate. "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried," "In a Tub," and "In the Animal Shelter" are some of my favorites. Her collection was selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of the year 2006.

Fortune smiles by Adam Johnson

This collection of six masterly stories by Adam Johnson won the National Book Award for Fiction and The Story Prize in 2015. These stories are almost novella-like in length, so they are a little longer than an average short story. Adam Johnson is a virtuoso of the craft, whose prose is crisp, and his narrative approach is fresh and inventive; he shows an incredible range of emotional depth in his characters and their stories that are set all over the world (one is even set in the future). "Nirvana" and "Interesting Facts" are some of my favorites. His novel Orphan Master’s Son won the Pulitzer prize in 2013.

The Best American Short Stories 2015

In the introduction of the Best American Short Stories, which is also the 100th edition, guest editor T. C. Boyle writes:

"The Model T gave way to the Model A and to the Ferrari and the Prius . . . modernism to postmodernism and post-postmodernism. We advance. We progress. We move on. But we are part of a tradition."

In this anthology, Boyle has included a variety of characters that will keep you reading and turning the pages until the last sentence. The stories range widely, but they have one thing in common: the writing is outstanding and the plots are well-crafted. Among my favorites are "Happy Endings" and "Unsafe at Any Speed."