8 Short Story Collections

I’m just in the mood for lists, because I’ve created yet another one. This one is about short story collections. The short story is often considered an underrated form. It is also considered (incorrectly) to be dying out. The form is still strong, but it remains more on the fringes of most readers considerations. Here are several collections I’ve enjoyed.

Our Story Begins

Our Story BeginsThis collection by Tobias Wolff includes 31 stories. Several have appeared in other collections but there are 10 that were newly published in this one. Some of my favorites are “Bullet in the Brain” or “In the Garden of North American Martyrs”. I consider Wolff to be one of the best short story writers America has produced. Most of his work is in the short story form and he has several collections available.

Exhalation

ExhalationExhalation is Ted Chiang’s newest collection of short fiction, and it includes a novella length piece titled “The Lifecycle of Software Objects”. I really enjoyed “The Merchant and The Alchemist’s Gate” (I enjoyed all of them really). This collection was released just last year and is Chiang’s second collection. His first was Stories of Your Life and Others which I also recommend. I’ve become a huge fan of Chiang’s work and I look forward to whatever he releases next.

The Philip K. Dick Reader

Philip K Dick ReaderI consider Philip K. Dick (PKD) one of the best science fiction writers of the past century. He is probably best known for his stories that have been adapted into film. Many of these were short stories that were adapted while others were novels. A few of the films based on short stories are Minority Report, Total Recall, Paycheck, and The Adjustment Bureau. Ted Chiang admits that some of his writing has been influenced by PKD, and I think both writers have crafted stories that keep you thinking long after you finish reading, which is what I love most about them. PKD has written approximately 121 short stories and you can get all of them in about five collections with this being one of them.

Trigger Warning

Trigger WarningNeil Gaiman is better known for his novels, but he has dabbled in/mastered several genres/fields. He has a few collections of short stories with Trigger Warning being the most recent. His sense of magic and wonder are as prevalent in these shorter works as they are in his longer forms.

Rogues

RoguesRogues is a collection of stories by various authors. All the stories focus on a character considered to be rogue themselves hence the title. This collection includes a story by Neil Gaiman (but it’s not a story included in Trigger Warning). I must admit that I have not read this entire collection. I primarily got it in order to read the short story by Patrick Rothfuss which is a fun, supplemental story to his book The Name of the Wind.

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen PoeEdgar Allen Poe is known for several of his short stories. I’ve seen a lot of mentions of “The Masque of the Red Death” going around recently. I have yet to read that particular story, but I will likely do so soon. My personal favorite that I’ve read by Poe is “A Cask of Amontillado”. His stories are more on the darker side and include death in some form (but not all). He is known as a master of the macabre after all.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About LoveRaymond Carver is known primarily as a short story author. The title story is probably his best known or most referenced. It also happens to be my favorite. “Cathedral” is probably my other favorite, but it is not included in this particular collection. You can likely find a few of these stories online including the two mentioned. Carver is considered one of the best at the short form and I have to say that I agree.

I’d Die For You

I'd Die For YouThis collection of stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald is unique because it was released in 2017 and consists of all his work that had remained unpublished. These 18 stories were considered “lost” and had been recently found/discovered, collected, and published in this volume. I bought the collection back when it was first published and have read through about half of them. I was working on my MFA at the time and had to put the collection aside for a bit and haven’t picked it back up, but now that I’ve talked about it, I will probably go back and finish it soon.

If you like short stories and have a favorite story or author not on this list, let me know. I’m always open for new recommendations myself.

I hope that you give some of these a chance if you are not a regular short story reader. At the very least, I hope you go out and read a short story sometime soon. You can find many online for free. I even have several of my own on this blog you can check out (my favorite might be Children of Changyang Mountain).

Happy Reading.

12 Memoirs & Biographies

This time I’m listing memoirs and biographies I’ve read these past several years that I enjoyed. Several of them are about authors or actors I like, but some are simply ones I found or heard about and eventually read.

This Boy’s Life & In Pharoah’s Army

This Boy's LifeThese first two are by Tobias Wolff. The first recounts his unexpected childhood while the latter covers much of his time serving during the Vietnam War. I’m a big fan of Tobias Wolff and enjoy all of his fiction, but his memoirs are equally intriguing and entertaining. This Boy’s Life was actually adapted into film and won the Ambassador Book Award.

The Princess Diarist

The Princess DiaristThis memoir by Carrie Fisher covers her time during the filming of the first Star Wars movie and her eventual launch into stardom as the iconic Princess Leia. It includes a section that reprints her original diary entries from her time during filming including her affair with Harrison Ford. What I found most interesting was Carrie’s admission that she did not plan to enter the field of acting, and then her discussion of what it was like interacting with fans who only saw her as Princess Leia. She had to almost live a double life from the time of these events through the end of her life. I know she has several other memoirs and I plan to check them out sometime.

Robin

Robin WilliamsDave Itzkoff’s biography of Robin Williams was released in 2018 and is a great, detailed account of his adult life. Most of the book events discussed are supplemented by accounts from Robin’s friends and family. The book covers his early years briefly, goes into how he became an iconic comedian and actor. It then ends briefly after his death to tell an all-encompassing account that gives us a holistic view into who he was and what he faced. I learned a lot about about him and I am glad I did.

 

Amazing Fantastic Incredible

Stan LeeAmazing Fantastic Incredible is a graphic novel memoir of comic icon Stan Lee. This account is beautifully illustrated and shows a great history of the comic industry. It gives us an overview of Stan’s life (including his real name) but don’t look for any in-depth details of his life here. A full biography would be better if you want to know more about the man. However, this does give a great insight to the man who was behind many of the hugely popular characters in the Marvel Universe, and it is in his own words and his own style.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

J.R.R. Tolkien BiographyThis biography of J.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter is, as far as I am aware, the best biography of the man behind The Lord of the Rings. I at least think it is the only authorized biography. Carpenter actually met Tolkien and had access to many materials and resources surrounding the author’s life prior to his passing in 1973. I, of course, greatly enjoy Tolkien’s works and enjoyed learning more about the man himself. If you read this and want a little more, I suggest watching the recent biopic titled Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult. It only covers a brief part of his childhood and ends shortly after his time in the war, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

What if Our World is Their Heaven? The Final Conversations of Philip K. Dick

What If Our World Is Their Heaven?This “book” is unique as I’m not sure it would be considered memoir or biography. It is a transcription of the last interview with Philip K. Dick. I randomly came across this book in a used book store and picked it up as I am a fan of PKD’s works. The interview covers a lot of areas, including the unfinished book PKD was working on at the time and his excitement at seeing early footage of the film Blade Runner which is an adaptation of his book Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? Unfortunately, PKD died of a stroke months after this interview. I haven’t read a full biography of PKD, but I will likely do so in the future. However, I think this interview proves to be a great insight into who he was.

Educated

EducatedThe most recent memoir I’ve read is Educated by Tara Westover and it is captivating. This book details Tara’s childhood through her eventual pursuit of a college education. She grew up without access to school but was always a highly curious child. Her father did not believe in education as he believed it indoctrinated people. He didn’t believe in modern medicine either. Both stem from his religious and personal beliefs. The events of Tara’s life are both shocking and, from an outside view, infuriating at times, but I think this book is important because it highlights more than the importance of knowledge. It highlights the importance of family and doing what is best for yourself.

Tesla: Man Out of Time

Tesla Man Out of TimeMargaret Cheney may be the best biographer of Nikola Tesla. She has written a few, but this one is a great resource if you are wanting to know more about the man who rivaled Edison and became an important figure in the development of electricity. Yes, he is also the person the Tesla Company is named after, but Nikola Tesla never had a company all of his own. I’m glad to see that he has not been lost to history since he is an important contributor to much of the technology we have today, and he continues to inspire and influence research into new technology.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You WishIf you are a fan of The Princess Bride, you will greatly enjoy this memoir by lead actor Cary Elwes. He recounts his time on the set and the making of the film and tells many stories that only make the fellow actors and the film even more lovable. Especially Andre the Giant. I recommend checking out the audiobook version because Cary narrates it himself and it includes snippets from fellow actors and production crew who give their accounts of events as well. This book adds to the film and will make you likely make you want to rewatch it while you read.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Man's Search for MeaningVictor Frankl’s memoir/psychological novel is small but powerful. This insight into Victor’s time inside a concentration camp during World War II not only gives us a glimpse into history and some of the worst things humans have done to each other, it analyzes the human psyche during such harsh conditions. However, I believe this little book is an insight into the human condition and provides a bit of hope through all the sadness. The first part is the memoir of his time during the war while the second goes into his own psychological theories.

A Moveable Feast

Ernest Hemingway’s book telling of his times in Paris during the 1920’s was fun and insightful. I think it is a great glimpse into a bygone world as we are now almost exactly 100 years removed from the time it took place. I’ll admit my favorite part includes F. Scott Fitzgerald and a broken-down car, but this book gives a look into the life of the iconic author and the world he knew.A Moveable Feast

18 Fantasy Books to Escape Into

I ran a short poll on Twitter to determine which list of books (by genre) I would write about next. The majority vote was Fantasy. I was surprised the lowest amount of votes went to Science Fiction and Memoir with Short Story Collections coming in second. Without further delay, here are 10 fantasy books I’ve read and enjoyed, and 8 I look forward to reading in the future.

10 Fantasy Books I’ve Enjoyed

The Magician: Apprentice

The Magician: Apprentice is the first book in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga which is the core of the even larger Riftwar Cycle. It tells the story of Pug, a seemingly low status, serving-boy in a castle who unexpectedly finds himself as the apprentice of the lord’s magician. He also quickly realizes he has an aptitude for magic. It’s been some time since I’ve read this book, but I greatly enjoyed it and have fond memories of the story. Perhaps a reread is in order.

The Once and Future King

This book by T.H. White is sometimes classified as science fiction for reasons I don’t quite understand outside of inferred time/inter-dimensional travel. But this book (a collection of four books in one volume) tells a mostly fun, easy-to-read version of the legend of King Arthur. The first part, The Sword in the Stone, inspired the animated film of the same name.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I will always recommend Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I simply love this book, but I still need to read the other two in the trilogy. I also greatly enjoy the animated film adaptation by Studio Ghibli despite the several, smaller changes made to the story. The story follows young Sophie, who gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She sets out to find a cure for the curse placed on her and makes a pact with the fire demon Calcifer who requires her to break his contract with the wizard Howl in exchange for his help.

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is book one of The Kingkiller Chronicle and is an excellent read. It tells the tale of Kvothe as he survives tragedy to then enter the famous University. There, he learns many incredible skills that lead to his eventual fame. The story is told by Kote, the older version of Kvothe, who has since forsaken his abilities. Books one and two of this trilogy have been published along with a supplementary novella and short story. I will be re-reading these books to prepare for when the third is published.

The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a phenomenal read if you have not read it yet. The films by Peter Jackson do it much justice, but the books are still better. You can often find all three in one volume (hence the grouping under the one title). Frodo sets out to destroy the One Ring as he is hunted by the forces of evil who seek to reclaim the ring and allow the Dark Lord Sauron to rule Middle Earth. This trilogy laid a strong foundation for much of the fantasy books we know today.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone as it was originally titled in the UK) is the first in J.K. Rowling’s world-wide bestselling series that was adapted into eight films. This book is the first of seven that tell the story of Harry Potter as he learns he is a wizard and is swept off to the Wizarding School Hogwarts the day after his 11th birthday.

The Eye of the World

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan’s magnum opus, begins with The Eye of the World. The first of 14 books (plus a prequel) with the final three installments finished posthumously by Brandon Sanderson. The story follows Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve (as well as a plethora of other characters), as they are swept out of their small village onto an epic journey that leads one of these characters (no spoilers here) as they become the savior of the land against evil forces.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Admittedly, I have only read this first book in V.E. Schwab’s magical trilogy, which I recently heard may have more story to come with future books. This story follows Kell who has the unique ability to travel between the four Londons. The London in each dimension is always the same as far as layout, but each world suffers from different leaders and levels of magic. Red London is teeming with magic and is Kell’s home. Grey London is where us non-magic folk live. White London is slowly losing it’s magic and is ruled by strength. Black London was consumed by magic and effectively no longer holds life. Follow Kell as he must travel through the London’s in order to find the mystery of a powerful artifact given to him that seemingly came from Black London.

The Eyes of God

The Eyes of God is the first of four books by John Marco which follow the knight Lukien. I read the first three books as a trilogy and only recently discovered a fourth was published that follow the events of the original trilogy. I have not read this newer book, so I am unsure what parts of the story it expands upon or if it adds only new material. Lukien, much like Lancelot, falls in love with his king’s wife, Cassandra, and is later tasked with finding a magical item, called the eye of god, to heal Cassandra from an inexplicable illness.

The Stormcaller

Another unfinished series for me begins with The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd. I read the first three books before the fourth and fifth were published. Unfortunately, it has been some time since I’ve read them so I will likely start from the beginning and read them all the way through. This story follows Isak who is a white-eye, a human with traits that designate them as outcasts. Isak is thrown into the middle of a war and must learn to control his powers and find out what he is really capable of.

8 Fantasy Books I Want to Read

The Sword of Shannara

My wife bought me this book, or the trilogy in one volume, a while back and I’ve always heard it is a great read. It’s been in my to-read list for some time and I need to bump it up and actually read it. Another reason for me to read it is because I have not yet read anything by Terry Brooks.

The Wizard of Earthsea

Another series, the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin have been on my radar for some time. I have read other books by Le Guin and have enjoyed them so I’m sure I’ll like this one and the sequels. Ironically, this is also another series my wife bought me (because she loves me). She bought the illustrated edition, all in one volume, and it is a massive text.

The Gunslinger

Technically I have already read this book. I just haven’t read the remaining six books in Stephen King’s acclaimed Dark Tower series. A friend of mine recommended this series to me and I will get around to finishing it at some point.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

This book by Scott Lynch I had picked up in a bookstore simply from browsing and thinking it was interesting. This was before I had a massive TBR and I developed the habit of always finding new books to read before I finish the ones I have. I keep seeing this book come up time and time again in mentions by other authors or fans, which bumps it up on the TBR list each time.

Gardens of the Moon

I purchased the first few books in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series but have not read them yet. I think I held out because the series was not yet finished. I think the series is now finished and has a total of 10 books, so I will get around to it soonish. I just finished Wheel of Time which is a big series so I am taking a break at the moment on bigger series.

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a series that I believe is still on-going. If I remember correctly, the fourth book is slated to be released at the end of this year. I first discovered Sabaa Tahir when I discovered Patrick Rothfuss when I came across them interviewing each other (or maybe it was Patrick interviewing Sabaa). I think I will like this series so will give it a shot one day.

Game of Thrones

I did get into the Game of Thrones craze and greatly enjoyed the show. I am holding out until the book series is finished before diving in because I prefer to be able to read it all in one go without a large hiatus. I believe George R.R. Martin stated there will be two more volumes before the series is completed.

The Fifth Season

Honestly, I do not know much about The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin except it is the start of a trilogy. I’ve heard great things about it and I’ve added N.K. Jemisin to my list of authors to read having only heard great things about her writing and books.

Dune Looks Beautiful

DuneTitleI found out they were filming a new Dune movie when I was reading the book for the first time about two years ago. The movie is slated to release at the end of this year on December 18th. A few images were released just today and I must admit that I am very much looking forward to this movie adaptation.

I knew the cast was filled with talented actors when the film was first announced. I had finished the book by the time they began gradually announcing casting decisions so luckily my interpretation of the characters were not influenced by the film choices (which has happened in other occasions but few and far between). Below is the majority of the main character castings.

Dune Cast

I must admit that I am very interested to see how they transform Stellan Skarsgard into Baron Harkonnen, but I have no doubt that he will portray the character well. A beardless Jason Momoa is interesting but he will likely do well as Duncan Idaho (which I always thought was a strange name). I love Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica and Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides. DuneI haven’t seen too many films with Timothee Chalamet, but I understand he is an excellent actor who has already established himself in Hollywood, so I am looking forward to seeing his portray of Paul. I love all the other choices. My only reservation is that movies that have this many stars tend to struggle with sharing screen-time of characters. I think this movie is currently planned as two parts so I hope that will help with this concern. I also think that all the characters are distinct enough that it shouldn’t be an issue.

If you haven’t read Dune, then I recommend that you read it before this movie comes out, and I am excited for you to experience this story. I consider it one of the best science fiction novels of the past century as do many others. I hope you take the opportunity to read it. You’ll likely then join me in the excitement to see a modern adaptation. If you’ve already read it, you’re probably already hyped.

Dune

From the few glimpses we are given in the pictures, alongside knowing the cast, I am already impressed. Of course I am trying not to get my hopes up too high, but there is plenty of time to let the excitement settle and better prepare for the film. Going in with too high of expectations always hinders the enjoyment of a movie.

I can already see from the few stills that their portrayal of the desert planet Arrakis is going to be great. I think splitting it into two parts is a wise decision considering the length of the book and the accumulation of events that take place. Doing so will help prevent trying to cram the entirety of the story in one film which has hurt other films in the past. Though I don’t think they will have much room to do so, I am curious if they will include any original concepts that were not in the book. This is always tricky to do but some films pull this off well. I’m not sure what they would even add if they did do this as I think there is plenty already.

Many films also change some things to better adapt it for the screen. It usually works best when the change is necessary to make it presentable in the new medium. Some things just don’t translate well onto the screen. One thing that comes to mind for this film is how they will portray Paul’s growth of mental acuity through the Bene Gesserit training.

Regardless of how they do things, I hope this film adaptation turns out well and does the story justice. I’m happy it will bring the story to a wider audience and even get more people interested in reading the book.

Dune2

 

Bricks on the Shelf

I think we all have at least one, massive book we’ve wanted to read but just haven’t started because it would be a commitment. Below are five books that fit this description for me. These are books I want to read, but just haven’t done so yet because they can double as a door-stopper.

It by Stephen King

ItI’ve always heard this is a great book. I have watched the new movie adaptations of this book and I did like them. I also have already had several parts of the book spoiled (primarily the most disturbing parts) from discussions about what wasn’t included in the movies. I think this has contributed to my stalling on actually reading the book, but I will get around to it one day.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Count of Monte CristoI first discovered The Count of Monte Cristo after seeing the 2002 movie adaptation, which I greatly enjoyed. I picked up a copy of the book a long time ago but just haven’t brought myself around to reading it yet. I know I’ll enjoy it as I already consider the story one of the best ‘revenge’ stories out there.

 

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas ShruggedHonestly, I can’t even remember what drew me to this book it has been so long since I picked it up. I think I had just discovered Ayn Rand and wanted to try some of her work. I’m sure the mythological reference also drew me in, and the fact it is considered a great novel in general, though I have heard it is a little tough to get through. Her other, large novel that is said to be great is The Fountainhead which a friend of mine did read and really liked. I may try that one if I like Atlas Shrugged.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Infinite JestI’ve only read a little of David Foster Wallace but I want to read more, and supposedly Infinite Jest is one of his best works. It’s apparently a bit unconventional in structure but a lot of people seem to love it. Since I’ve liked what little if read of David Foster Wallace, I figure I’ll like this one too.

 

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Don QuixoteThis book I want to read mainly because it has been referenced in several shows I like, but also because I know it has influenced a lot of writers and their work. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve watched a show or read a book that was influenced by this book. The main one that comes to my mind at the moment is the show The Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels.