Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation, recently told her Twitter followers that she has been reading a short story a day and that “it has been a deeply satisfying little project.” Lisa’s tweet reminded me of a truth I often lose sight of: You’re not required to read a story collection cover to cover, all at once, as if it were a novel. As a result, I’ve started hopscotching among stories by old favorites such as Lorrie Moore, Deborah Eisenberg, and Alice Munro. I’ve also turned my attention to some collections that are new this fall. Here are three:

Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale edited by Lauren Groff (Library of America, Oct. 1). Like so many neglected women writers of short fiction from the middle of the 20th century — Maeve Brennan, Edith Templeton, Mary Ladd Gavell—Hale isn’t widely read today and is ripe for rediscovery. Her tales of stultifying upper-crust life in New England and Virginia are precise and beautifully written—Groff refers to the “hard and brilliant glaze of Hale’s prose—with a powerful undercurrent of resistance to the confining mores of that society. My favorite so far is “To the North,” the shrewdly observed and wildly lyrical tale of a wealthy Maine summer community, the working-class Finns who serve them, and the young boy who crosses the social divide. I look forward to dipping in and out of these stories in the months to come.

Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press, Oct. 8). Did I say that short stories were meant to be consumed one at a time as the mood strikes? Well, I tore through this kaleidoscopic collection in one long mad rush—but then Zadie Smith’s prose often has that effect on me. There’s much to unpack here and a wild variety of modes and styles—from the grim fantasy fiction of “Two Men Arrive in a Village” to the surreal post–9/11 road trip of Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando—quite possibly based in fact!—of “Escape From New York” to the literary realism of “Just Right,” set in the bohemian Greenwich Village of the 1950s. My favorite of the bunch is “Miss Adele Among the Corsets,” in which an aging African American drag queen pays a visit to the Clinton Corset Emporium on the Lower East Side, leading to a culture clash of epic proportions with the shop’s Old World proprietors.


Finally, on the impassioned recommendation of a friend, I’m picking up Edwidge Danticat’s new story collection, her first in more than a decade, Everything Inside: Stories (Alfred A. Knopf, out now). These are tales of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, loss and grief—the great subjects of Danticat’s many works of fiction and memoir. In a starred review, the Kirkus reviewer writes, “These are stories of lives upended by tragedies big and small, from political coups to closely guarded maternal secrets. Throughout each story, Danticat attends to the ways families are made and unmade….An extraordinary career milestone: spare, evocative, and moving.”

With this many promising stories on the docket, I may have to tackle two a day.

Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews.