Summer Reading may be the publishing industry's pet project, but I buy into it completely. Even if my schedule is as harried in June, July, and August as it is the rest of the year, I feel it's my duty to indulge in good fiction.
Short stories seem particularly well suited for summer months--they can be read in one sitting, but leave you mulling for days.
Here's a list of my all-time favorite short fiction collections:
1. Barry Hannah's Airships. Published in 1970, it's still relevant and startling. "My head's burning off and I got a heart about to burst out of my ribs," writes Hannah in 'Love Too Long,' giving us a taste of the efficient, biting melodrama that fills the book.
2. Lorri Moore's Bird's of America. Her stories tenderly explore home, body, comfort and unrest. They're about smart people who want simple things. I always go back to this passage, about a middle aged woman in the midst of transition: "Never a temple, her body had gone from being a home, to a house, to being a phone booth, to being a kite. Nothing about it gave her proper shelter."
3. Amy Hemple's Collected Stories. This book reads like a perfectly timed joke with unsettling, heartrending undertones that can't be shaken off. Read Chuck Palahniuk's flattering LA Weekly review here.
These two books don't fit the short fiction bill, but they're on my coffee table right now, and I'm excited to dive in:
1. Elmore Leonard's Road Dogs. Robert Pinsky's New York Times review sold me on this book. Writes Pinsky: "Leonard keeps his fight scenes quick and understated, and they too involve cons and trickery. They also involve games: some one-on-one basketball that turns violent in an unexpected way; a kind of one-on-one dodgeball with one player’s heels at the edge of a flat roof, high enough for a mistake to be fatal. Both scenes recall the reason certain kinds of deception are called confidence games."
2. Terry Eagleton's Figures of Dissent. A friend recommended this, and I'm looking forward to reading as Eagleton tears into Spivak, Fish, and Zizek.
(Above image by writer, cartoonist, and web designer Austin Kleon)