It’s easy to get lost in the hype, to get so busy reading big books from big publishers that you don’t have time for anything else. Before that happens to you, please consider picking up some less-heralded gems from small presses. October is the perfect time for that, because it’s when Dorothy, A Publishing Project produces its annual list of two books—on Oct. 1, to be exact. We gave starred reviews to both of this year’s titles: Wild Milk by Sabrina Orah Mark is a collection of “24 short, strange tales….Stories in which laughter is sometimes the only response to sorrow, beauty is strange, and love is fierce and unending. A necessary book for our perilous age,” while The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza is an “existential mystery about desire, hauntings, and the failure of language….An eerie, slippery gem of a book.”
Or how about White Dancing Elephants by Chaya Bhuvaneswar (Dzanc, Oct. 9): “The 17 stories in this debut collection take place around the world, exploring queer and interracial love, extramarital affairs, and grief over the disappearances of loved ones.” Our reviewer calls it “exuberant.” Alyson Hagy’s Scribe (Graywolf, Oct. 2), “set after a civil war and deadly fevers decimate the country…is a slim and affecting powerhouse.” In An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans (Archipelago, Oct. 2), which takes place toward the end of World War II, “a partisan soldier finds a quiet sanctuary that delivers a brutal lesson about humanity at its worst….A dark wartime vision that evokes Koestler, Orwell, and Vonnegut.”
If those don’t appeal, you could try a classic mystery brought to you by Otto Penzler’s new house, Penzler Publishers: The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes (Oct. 2), originally published in 1940, tells the story of “a movie star–turned-designer [who] gets swept into a murderous hunt for a precious gem.” Our reviewer says, “The debut by one of the great American suspense writers will suck you in even as it makes you keep asking, ‘Did I just read that?’ ” Sounds good to me! Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.