NATALIE BLAKE | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE
I went most of this summer without reading because I’m lazy and because rewatching “Invader Zim” delivers faster gratification than opening up a book. What broke me out of my reading funk was short stories.
I really think everyone should read more short stories. They don’t take too long and they can fit so much character and story inside of a couple of pages. Sometimes you have to go back and reread them to understand things, or really take your time, but that usually just means there’s more to discover outside of reading it through.
I am calling this month Short Story September, and I am demanding you read some. We’ve got a variety of collections for you — some grounded in reality, and some dipping a little more into the fantastic — but all exploring their characters and how people interact with each other. As always, you’re required to read every book by the end of the month. I’ll know if you haven’t.
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver
Yes, I know. Truly a bold and unexpected choice for a short story collection.
Raymond Carver is possibly the most popular short story writer of all time, so this recommendation is not digging up any hidden gems. But there are reasons Carver is so popular. The main one for me is how his characters all start out as everyday people, dealing with everyday things, and he takes his time peeling them back, revealing their inner secrets, and then all those seemingly ordinary actions have so much more weight and context.
Some of the short stories take time to understand, and, to be honest, sometimes I checked SparkNotes to understand how an ending happened or why a character did something. There is a lot to get out of these stories, and this is not your English class, so you can look things up. Take time to enjoy them, and you’ll see why Raymond Carver is so popular.
“Collected Fictions” by Jorge Luis Borges
If you’re not into literature, you probably haven’t heard of Jorge Luis Borges. He’s one of the biggest names in Latin American literature and, in my opinion, one of the best classic writers, even though he only wrote short stories.
I got into Borges through “The Aleph,” the story about a man who finds a portal that allows him to see every point in history and tries to write an epic poem with it. It’s a great story, and if it wasn’t enough to get me hooked to Borges, hearing about his other stories did. Like a story about a library that contains literally every book in existence, or an immortal man trying to die.
Borges will present these insanely interesting concepts in his stories and not only explore them but how his characters interact with them and what that says about them (and us in a way).
If you like classic literature, this is a great short story collection for you. If you don’t, read it anyway and you might find it interesting.
“Heads of the Colored People: Stories” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
I’m not sure how to describe this collection other than it’s a bunch of stories about Black people, and that’s what makes it so cool.
The stories are all about the different ways people navigate being Black in mostly white spaces. Thompson-Spires really makes a diverse cast of Black people in these stories, and it’s cool to read Black people in roles and dealing with problems we don’t often get to see. This includes characters like the only two Black mothers in a school arguing with each other over email, or a Black girl trying to become “Blacker” with the help of her friend. They might not sound the most intriguing at first, but Thompson-Spires knows how to explore her characters and make even mundane things serious, funny or interesting.
I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for more modern writing. After the first story, you’ll be hooked.