By: Emily Perper
Ask any bookseller: One of the best parts of the job is recommending books and having books recommended to you. With that in mind, we’ll continue our summer series on short stories with recommendations from Curious Iguana booksellers and customers to sate you this summer.
Devin G. recommends Controlled Burn: Stories of Prison, Crime, and Men by Scott Wolven. “[It’s the] best short story collection I’ve ever read,” she said. Controlled Burn is divided into two sections, “The Northeast Kingdom” and “The Fugitive West.” Both sections contain stories about convicts, addicts, sheriffs, and other men interacting with the darkest aspects of the law. Wolven’s style has been compared to everyone from Denis Johnson (R.I.P.) to Ernest Hemingway, and Devin says he’s an excellent writing teacher. (Simon & Schuster, $15.99)
Jennie H. recommends Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die. “Some [stories] are funny, some are haunting, they all stick with you,” she said. Machine of Death is an anthology, so each story is by a different author. The only constant is the inevitability of death, courtesy of the all-knowing Machine. The characters in each of these stories have to contend with the freedom and fear intrinsic in knowing how they will die, whether it’s via drowning, choking, cancer, or something else. This is a perfect choice for fantasy and sci-fi fans. (IPS, $18)
Leslie F. recommends Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and The Great War for all you historical fiction (and romance!) fans out there. Set in the wake of World War I, Fall of Poppies is edited by Heather Webb and features nine acclaimed authors, including Beatriz Williams and Hazel Gaynor. Leslie wrote, “I absolutely loved this book! It transports readers to a time in history where the rules of warfare, as well as society in general, were undergoing major transformations.” (HarperCollins, $15)
Becky C. recommends So Much For That Winter, a pair of witty novellas by Dorthe Nors: “Without revealing too much content, So Much For That Winter offers a glimpse into the psyche of lovesick Minna. We’ve all been there. I enjoyed the stylistic choice of the first novella, which reads like a poem. The second novella resonated with me more due to the juxtaposition of fraught emotion and mundane cataloging of everyday life.” (Macmillan, $15)
Marlene recommends Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Author Campbell is “one of our top ten writers of rural noir,” according to the Guardian. Her working-class heroines clash and connect over issues of death, love, sex, and revenge. (W.W. Norton, $15)
Mel recommends A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls, a short story anthology geared towards young adults, edited by Jessica Spotswood. Curious Iguana was lucky enough to host Spotswood and three of Petticoats’ contributors—Caroline Tung Richmond, Lindsay Smith, and Robin Talley–earlier in 2017. We learned about what drew each author to their particular time period and storyline, from 19th-century quadroon balls to the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s. (Candlewick, $18)
Lauren recommends American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis. Whether she’s skewering cultish book clubs or narrating from the perspective of a bra-fitter’s wife, American Housewife is funny, sharp and unrelenting. (Random House, $15)
Lydia recommends Hall of Small Mammals: Stories by Thomas Pierce (Penguin, $16), which blends quirk and Southern gothic with masterful writing.
(I’ll add that “This is An Alert,” a short story of Pierce’s published in the New Yorker, is one of my favorites.) Lydia also enjoyed A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin (Macmillan, $16). The first of Berlin’s 77 short stories was published when she was only 24 years old. Berlin died in 2004, and A Manual for Cleaning Women debuted posthumously to much acclaim in 2015. It centers primarily on the lives of working women, and the stories are richly detailed, dark, and funny.
Kari recommends Flying Lessons & Other Stories, a collection of short stories for midgrade readers (ages 8-12). Flying Lessons is edited by Ellen Oh, cofounder and president of We Need Diverse Books. Contributors include children’s lit luminaries like Jacqueline Woodson, Meg Medina, Kwame Alexander, Walter Dean Myers, and many, many more. If your young reader is into sports, romance, humor, or adventure, this collection has a story for them. (Random House, $17)
Finally, I (Em) recommend Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar (Consortium, $16) for when you want to feel the bigness of the world and how small we all are and Always Happy Hour by Mary Miller (W.W. Norton, $25) if you need a friend with whom to wallow. In addition, I’m anticipating Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang, which drops in August. Sour Heart will be the first book published by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s imprint, Lenny.