Short Stories for Summer Attention Spans
Summer—when just stepping outside means you’re sweating enough to water your houseplants—is not the time to read War and Peace. Get thee to a local bookstore and grab The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. The book combines Hempel’s four previously published volumes, giving you a chance to fall in love with all of her precise, moving, wryly funny work.
History Buffs, Take Note
Anil’s Ghost, by Michael Ondaatje, is not an easy read. It’s the kind of novel that can temper your summer with unease, but it’s worth the mental angst. Anil, a forensic pathologist, returns to her homeland of Sri Lanka in the midst of the country’s civil war. While investigating a string of murders with a local official, she finds a more recent body, leading the team to suspect government-sanctioned killing. Ondaatje’s prose is profound without being pretentious, and a deliberate omission of war statistics makes this work of historical fiction more universal.
Being a “nerd” finally became cool, but liking sci-fi for real hasn’t…yet. Break the mold and check out Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke, the granddaddy of classic sci-fi. Don’t worry about not understanding science jargon or tech terminology—Clarke’s plot-driven space story is tightly executed in layman’s terms.
Keep It Real: Nonfiction Section
Griftopia, by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone fame, will make you mad while educating you about “the long con that is breaking America”. Taibbi explains in no uncertain (and often colorful) terms that 2008’s financial meltdown was only a sample of the worldwide damage being done by Wall Street wealthmongers. Composed of giant financial players and puppet politicians in backroom deals, the “grifter class” is steadily hijacking more and more of the average American’s money and political power.
For the Love of Local
Lest you think all New Orleans-flavored writings fall between Anne Rice and Chris Rose, hit up the American Book Award winner Victory Over Japan, by quintessential Southern writer Ellen Gilchrist. Published in 1984, Victory is a collection of short stories, many featuring strong-willed redhead Rhoda Katherine Manning. This book was forbidden to me when I was a kid, so naturally, I stole it from the bookshelf and read it over and over again.