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Quick Bits for Busy Readers

If you’ve ever said, “I wish I read more, but I just don’t have time any more!” allow us here at the library to introduce you to the secret shortcut to sounding well-read.

“Ah yes,” you’ll say knowingly, “I read an early version of that story! It’s striking how Novik can build such a complete world in so few pages. And it’s so sad that Toni Morrison died – have you read her retrospective on Beloved?”

Essays and short stories are shortcuts into the literary world for busy people like you. Generally sitting between 15-30 pages, they’re easily read in small scraps of free time – waiting for an appointment, before bed, or over lunch. Because they have such a small window to accomplish so much, they are often more tightly edited than their novel-length counter parts. And if one isn’t quite to your taste, there’s probably an entirely different story just a few pages away.

Here are several of the best collections published this year.

New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl

Watch for Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Rebecca Roanhorse, two authors writing out of their personal backgrounds and spinning out amazing fantasy stories. Speculative fiction spans genres from magical realism to horror and anthologies, with their multiple authors, are great ways to find new writers and writing styles to love.

Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom

Pick up Cottom’s National Book Award nominated collection for clever perspectives about Saturday Night Life, infant mortality, BBQ Becky, and LinkedIn. Her eight essays blend her analysis with her personality for a series of vivid, snappy commentaries on today’s world. Expect pop culture interwoven with discussions on race, gender, and economics. Recommended for fans of Roxane Gay and Rebecca Traister.

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian

A dozen twisty, nasty little tales probe the darker parts of the human soul – these are stories of guilt, anger, pleasure, terror, the inflicting of pain, and the receiving of it. Some are almost mundane, others supernatural. The viral short story “Cat Person” is included among them, but so are tales of a birthday wish for “something mean” gone wrong and a biter who dreams of sinking her teeth into her coworker’s flesh.

Cover of Everything in Its Place by Oliver Sacks

Everything in Its Place by Oliver Sacks

Medical storyteller Oliver Sacks’ final, posthumous collection of essays. His explorations range from the brain-destroying kuru of Papua New Guinea to the discovery of laughing gas in 18th century England to a celebration of the humble herring.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

How do you survive a world in which “ethical consumption” is both an expectation and an impossibility? If you should increase your fitness, your productivity, better your eating habits and 1000 other things in just 15 minutes a day, what do you do when you run out of 15 minute increments? Tolentino picks apart the pressure of today and the ways they trap us and warp our views of the world. And although she doesn’t promise solutions, she does stand up and say “yes, I have felt it too, and you are not alone.”

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Published just a few months before her death this past August, Toni Morrison’s new book collects not only her writings, but her Nobel lecture, commencement speeches, eulogies, political critiques and reflections on her own work. Her writings are windows into the works of painters, directors, and other authors, as well as her own writing process – valuable insight into one of America’s most beloved authors.

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

Eight tales from Danticat explore suffering, love, community, and truth. Simple, lyrical prose looks inside the lives of families having weddings or shocked by kidnappings, the last reflections of a dying man, and a student working at a Haitian recovery center. Danticat’s writing places a wide range of unique characters at the center of her writing and offers them authentic voices that share both their suffering and their hope.

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