Bark


Lorrie Moore - 2014
    In "Debarking," a newly divorced man tries to keep his wits about him as the United States prepares to invade Iraq, and against this ominous moment, we see - in all its irresistible wit and darkness - the perils of divorce and what can follow in its wake.In "Foes," a political argument goes grotesquely awry as the events of 9/11 unexpectedly manifest themselves at a fund-raising dinner in Georgetown ... In "The Juniper Tree," a teacher visited by the ghost of her recently deceased friend is forced to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a kind of nightmare reunion ... And in "Wings," we watch the inevitable unraveling of two once-hopeful musicians, neither of whom held fast to their dreams nor struck out along other paths, as Moore deftly depicts the intricacies of dead-ends-ville and the workings of regret… Here are people beset, burdened, buoyed; protected by raising teenage children; dating after divorce; facing the serious illness of a longtime friend; setting forth on a romantic assignation abroad, having it interrupted mid-trip, and coming to understand the larger ramifications and the impossibility of the connection... stories that show people coping with large dislocation in their lives, with risking a new path to answer the desire to be in relation - to someone... Gimlet-eyed social observation, the public and private absurdities of American life, dramatic irony, and enduring half-cracked love wend their way through each of these narratives in a heartrending mash-up of the tragic and the laugh-out-loud - the hallmark of life in Lorrie-Moore-land.

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories


Lucia Berlin - 2015
    With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they'd ever overlooked her in the first place.

Uncommon Type


Tom Hanks - 2017
    A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game--and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN's newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

No One Belongs Here More Than You


Miranda July - 2007
    Screenwriter, director, and star of the acclaimed film Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection.

Hot Water Music


Charles Bukowski - 2002
    With his characteristic raw and minimalist style, Charles Bukowski takes us on a walk through his side of town in Hot Water Music.  He gives us little vignettes of depravity and lasciviousness, bite sized pieces of what is both beautiful and grotesque.The stories in Hot Water Music dash around the worst parts of town – a motel room stinking of sick, a decrepit apartment housing a perpetually arguing couple, a bar tended by a skeleton – and depict the darkest parts of human existence.  Bukowski talks simply and profoundly about the underbelly of the working class without raising judgement. In the way he writes about sex, relationships, writing, and inebriation, Bukowski sets the bar for irreverent art – his work inhabits the basest part of the mind and the most extreme absurdity of the everyday.

Homeland and Other Stories


Barbara Kingsolver - 1989
    Homeland and Other Stories offers comic, often heart-warming but always true to life tales told as only the author can, creating a world of love and possibility that listeners will want to take as their own.

Fresh Complaint


Jeffrey Eugenides - 2017
    The stories in Fresh Complaint explore equally rich­­—and intriguing—territory. Ranging from the bitingly reproductive antics of “Baster” to the dreamy, moving account of a young traveler’s search for enlightenment in “Air Mail” (selected by Annie Proulx for Best American Short Stories), this collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. We meet a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real-estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; a clavichordist whose dreams of art founder under the obligations of marriage and fatherhood; and, in “Fresh Complaint,” a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her immigrant family lead her to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged British physicist. Narratively compelling, beautifully written, and packed with a density of ideas despite their fluid grace, these stories chart the development and maturation of a major American writer.

Tenth of December


George Saunders - 2013
    And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antique store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill—the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders' signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov's dictum that art should "prepare us for tenderness."

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories


B.J. Novak - 2014
    Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak's assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes - only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins - turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. We learn why wearing a red t-shirt every day is the key to finding love; how February got its name; and why the stock market is sometimes just... down.Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

That Old Ace in the Hole


Annie Proulx - 2002
    But Bob Dollar is determined to see his new job as hog site scout for Global Pork Rind through to the end. However he is forced to face the idiosyncratic inhabitants of Woolybucket and to question his own notions of loyalty and home.A brilliant novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain. That Old Ace in the Hole is a richly textured story of one man's struggle to make good in the inhospitable ranch country of the Texas panhandle, told with razor-sharp wit and a masterly sense of place.

Speedboat


Renata Adler - 1976
    It remains as fresh as when it was first published.

Your Duck Is My Duck: Stories


Deborah Eisenberg - 2018
    With her own inexorable but utterly unpredictable logic and her almost uncanny ability to conjure the strange states of mind and emotion that constitute our daily consciousness, Eisenberg pulls us as if by gossamer threads through her characters—a tormented woman whose face determines her destiny; a group of film actors shocked to read a book about their past; a privileged young man who unexpectedly falls into a love affair with a human rights worker caught up in an all-consuming quest that he doesn't understand.In Eisenberg’s world, the forces of money, sex, and power cannot be escaped, and the force of history, whether confronted or denied, cannot be evaded. No one writes better about time, tragedy and grief, and the indifferent but beautiful universe around us.

Pulse


Julian Barnes - 2011
    From an imperial capital in the eighteenth century to Garibaldi's adventures in the nineteenth, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in our time, he finds the "stages, transitions, arguments" that define us. A newly divorced real estate agent can't resist invading his reticent girlfriend's privacy, but the information he finds reveals only his callously shallow curiosity. A couple come together through an illicit cigarette and a song shared over the din of a Chinese restaurant. A widower revisiting the Scottish island he'd treasured with his wife learns how difficult it is to purge oneself of grief. And throughout, friends gather regularly at dinner parties and perfect the art of cerebral, sometimes bawdy banter about the world passing before them.Whether domestic or extraordinary, each story pulses with the resonance, spark, and poignant humor for which Barnes is justly heralded.

Honeydew


Edith Pearlman - 2015
    Pearlman writes about the predicaments of being human. The title story involves an affair, an illegitimate pregnancy, anorexia, and adolescent drug use, but the real excitement comes from the intricate attention Pearlman devotes to the interior life of young Emily, who wishes she were a bug. In "Sonny," a mother prays for her daughters to be barren so they never have to experience the death of a child. "The Golden Swan" transports the reader to a cruise ship with lavish buffets-and a surprise stowaway. In prose that is as wise as it is poetic, Pearlman shines light on small, devastatingly precise moments to reflect the beauty and grace found in everyday life. She maps the psychological landscapes of her exquisitely rendered characters with unending compassion and seeming effortlessness. Both for its artistry and for the lives of the characters it presents, Honeydew is a collection that will pull readers back time and again. These stories demonstrate once more that Pearlman is a master of the form and that hers is a vision unfailingly wise and forgiving.

The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories


Joy Williams - 2015
    A literary event of the highest order. Joy Williams has been celebrated as a master of the short story for four decades, her renown passing as a given from one generation to the next even in the shifting landscape of contemporary writing. And at long last the incredible scope of her singular achievement is put on display: thirty-three stories drawn from three much-lauded collections, and another thirteen appearing here for the first time in book form. Forty-six stories in all, far and away the most comprehensive volume in her long career, showcasing her crisp, elegant prose, her dark wit, and her uncanny ability to illuminate our world through characters and situations that feel at once peculiar and foreign and disturbingly familiar. Virtually all American writers have their favorite Joy Williams stories, as do many readers of all ages, and each one of them is available here.