Do You Have Time for a Cup of Coffee?
No? Me neither. Let's have one anyway. Know what my life's been like lately? I leave for work in the dark and I come home from work in the dark. The only thing I want to do is throw myself onto my bed. Sometimes I go to bed at 8:00 or 8:30. Sometimes I sit up grading essays. What am I not doing? Finishing big fat juicy novels in a week. It took me forever to finish The Blind Assassin.
So, here's my antidote for when life is too busy, too messy, and too overwhelming for a long and powerful book: read something short and powerful. Here are some suggestions.
1. Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett. This entrancing work of fiction is a series of linked vignettes--some with more narrative tension than others--all from the perspective of a solitary woman living in an isolated cottage in Ireland. This book is lovely, lyrical, enchanting. At 208 pages, it is a relatively quick read.
2. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. At 116 pages, this little book is so gorgeous and affecting you will wonder why people bother to write longer books. Train Dreams is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century. This little book captures history at the ground level, but is also suffused with emotion and myth. Simply beautiful.
3. Ayiti by Roxane Gay. The author is better known for Bad Feminist, An Untamed State, World of Wakanda, and her mordantly funny twitter feed. Ayiti, 121 pages, is an introduction to the author through a series of brief stories set in Haiti.
4. Drown by Junot Diaz. Powerful linked stories set in Santo Domingo and New York.So good they will make you glad you are alive to read them. 208 pages.
5. Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver. If I could, I think I would live entirely in the world of Mary Oliver. A modern-day Romantic and Transcendentalist, Oliver will make you look at life and nature with fresh eyes. 128 pages.
6. American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell. The most beautiful, gritty, disturbing, real stories about people you feel you can touch they are so deeply imagined. Incredible, graceful, compassionate writing. 170 pages.
There you have it: six short but powerful books that will remind you that you are a reader, and why.
Isn't Mary Oliver wonderful? I finished her collection Blue Horses recently and felt like I wanted to highlight every single page. Hope you at least have some downtime to look forward to now that we are in the Holiday season!
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