When I think of summer reading, I tend to think of dense novels I can get lost in for a good long time. The Golden Notebook carried me through the whole summer of 1985; in 1999, I left home early every morning to sit in Union Square reading Moby-Dick before walking to work. But summer can also mean a day at the beach or an afternoon in the park when you just want to throw something light in your bag. Here are some recent short story collections—all with starred reviews—that fit the bill:
Some Trick by Helen DeWitt: Of course, if you’re in the market for a long, engrossing book, you can’t do better than DeWitt’s The Last Samurai, which our reviewer called “witty, wacky, and endlessly erudite.” But for a short hit of DeWitt, try this new collection, in which she “continues to explore the limits of storytelling.” Here’s more from our review: “ ‘Many years ago a friend commented that we rarely see fiction that shows the way mathematicians think.’ Few authors would take this observation as a challenge, but few authors are like DeWitt. One of the distinguishing features of DeWitt’s work is a sense of curiosity. She seems to find everything interesting, so she makes everything interesting.”
If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel: “Always thoughtful and often aching, the 11 sharp stories in Patel’s debut find his characters—mostly first-generation Indian-Americans; usually young, or youngish; often in Midwestern cities—navigating love, loss, and disappointment.”
The Pre-War House and Other Stories by Alison Moore: “An understated series of stories…captures facets of loss and obligation. Set in empty homes, isolated fortresses, and seaside cottages, these stories use physical spaces as echo chambers of memory—of what once was or what might have been. In and out of them, women and girls (plus two male protagonists) skirt life’s darkest forces, particularly the weight of birth, death, and infidelity.” Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.