I’ve been turning to collections of stories a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I’m in my last semester – last few weeks, actually – of college, and between school, graduation plans, and trying to fit in the maximum amount of fun possible, I haven’t been able to sit down and devour a novel in one sitting the way I like to. Instead, I’ve been picking reads that I can nibble on a bit every day. That’s not to say that these kinds of books are a consolation prize – in fact, the three books I write about here are some of my favorites I’ve read in the past year (which is saying a lot, because I went to Book Riot Live in the past year). Even though they were supposed to be my “light reading,” these books have legitimately improved my quality of life in the way that books can when you read them at the exactly the right time, and they give you exactly what you need.
The book that made me cry, made me think, and got me off my butt to write: Kathleen Collins’ Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? has gotten glowing reviews in pretty much every magazine I’ve so much as glanced at in the past few months. I am here to tell you it is worth every bit of the praise it has gotten. Collins’ posthumous story collection is the kind of book that is so clearly a work of genius and heart that it actually made me stop and think “I am so lucky to be literate.” That may sound a bit histrionic, but I cannot stress enough how beautiful these pieces are. Collins writes about love, friendship, race, politics, family, and sex with complete authority, and her narrators are warm and alive on the page. They’re the kind of stories that were so exciting to read that instead of feeling inadequate, as I sometimes do, I suddenly couldn’t stop journaling and trying my hand at stories of my own. That’s the best gift a book can give me.
The book that patted my head and wrapped me in a blanket: About the House by Jenny Slate and Ron Slate. Jenny Slate, an actress and comedian that I adore (see the movie Obvious Child if you haven’t already) wrote this book with her father, the writer Ron Slate, about her childhood home in Massachusetts. The book is a mix of essays and poetry, with Jenny and Ron taking turns penning memories about the house. Their topics overlap and influence each other, and it occasionally feels like you’re sitting at their dinner table listening to a father and daughter contest the details of the same funny story. It’s a quick read, but it’s also intimate and thoughtful, and, in some places, a little sad. If you’re like me, you’ll end up ruminating for hours on your own home, and everything that has happened within those walls that has made you who you are.
The book that took me as far away from “real life” as possible: Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link was weird. Really weird. Filled with fractured fairy tales, is-this-a-horror-stories, and pieces that were as well-written as they were unsettling, this book was a welcoming rabbit hole that I fell into just as I was beginning to feel my life had gotten a little mundane. “Travels With the Snow Queen” and “The Girl Detective” were my indisputable favorites of the collection, showcasing Link’s ability to write poignant, graceful prose on the most eclectic of subjects. In Stranger Things Happen, Link never lets you get comfortable – when zig, she zags – and that’s what made the experience of reading this book such an absorbing pleasure. Bonus recommendation: these stories also strongly reminded me of the poetry of Jeannine Hall Gailey, so read Gailey’s Becoming the Villainess next if you’re not ready for your psychedelic journey to end.