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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What I'm Reading: Short Stories Edition

I have two reviews of collections in the current issue of Booklist to share with you.

  Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror.

Datlow, Ellen (editor).

Nov. 2016. 432p. Tachyon, paperback, $16.95 (9781616962326)
REVIEW.  First published November 15, 2016 (Booklist).

Widely considered the best editor in the horror community, Ellen Datlow is without peer, and with this collection readers are in for a treat because Datlow has chosen to collect the twenty-four stories that she has most enjoyed from 2005-2015. Building off her indispensable Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which covered the years 1985-2005, this new volume is aided greatly by the fact that the last decade has been a fertile one for the genre with the emergence of incredible new voices and the decision by non-genre writers to give horror a try. Arranged in chronological order by year of publication, these tales represent the breadth of horror from psychologically chilling to all out terrorizing, and feature just about every type of monster or ghost imaginable. As a result of this range, however, not every reader will like every story they encounter, but that is not this book’s goal. Rather it should be taken as an exemplary and accurate representation of what readers can expect from horror, in general, today in one concise volume. Of particular note are the stories by rising stars Laird Barron and Stephen Graham Jones, Australian Kaaron Warren, and a refreshingly original entry into the crowded field of zombie stories by award-winning, literary fiction author Dan Chaon. This volume is not only the perfect discovery tool for readers looking for the very best of today’s horror, but also, it should be used as a collection development tool by staff.

Further Appeal: I cannot stress enough how good this book is to add to EVERY library collection. Readers will love it and staff can and should use it to understand the genre as it is right now. I am not alone giving this book a star, every major review journal agrees with me. It is a classic that will stay on library shelves for years.

Three Words That Describe This Book: showcase, unsettling, range of gore

Readalikes: This one is easy, if you like a story, read more by that author. Here is the full table of contents.

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing.

Beukes, Lauren (author).

Nov. 2016. 288p. Tachyon, paperback, $15.95 (9781616962401)
REVIEW.  First published November 15, 2016 (Booklist).

Beukes has garnered much attention for her intricately plotted, creepy and compelling psychological fiction, and here she turns her menacing eye to 26 short pieces of mostly fiction. The works here are varied in topic and even form- from flash fiction, to Tweets, to more traditional short stories- but all are tantalizing, dark, and thought provoking. Particularly strong are the dystopian stories, such as, “Slipping,” “The Green” and “Pop Tarts” that hit uncomfortably close to home. In the five nonfiction essays, Beukes opens up about the stories behind work and offers up a beautiful love letter to her daughter. Interestingly, the volume also prominently features her home of South Africa as an inspiration, setting, and even a bit of a character at times; there is also a much needed glossary of South African terms included at the end. The collection stands as a testament to her technical skill and original voice, but it may leave readers impatient for her next novel. A great option for fans of her writing for sure, but it is also a good suggestion for readers of other atmospheric and complex tales like those written Gillian Flynn, Lauren Groff, and Karen Russell.

Further Appeal: This is a slim volume. It has nonfiction too. I am not sure where libraries are going to put it, but Beukes is a popular author and there will be demand for this title. [Here is my review of The Shining Girls.]

You will have requests for this title by people who only want it because of the author. Please use my review to help you book talk it to those patrons so that they know what there are getting. If readers know ahead of time that this is an unconventional volume, they will not be disappointed. Without that knowledge, they may be less happy. It's a solid collection, don't get me wrong, but it is nontraditional.

Three Words That Describe This Book: offbeat, disturbing, atmospheric

Readalikes: To the list of authors in the review, I would also add Elizabeth McCracken and Keith Donohue. By the way, I have read and reviewed multiple books by all five of the readalike authors, so a quick search of their names using my blog's search box in the top left corner will get you even more information.

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