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All Books

Author:

Vandana Singh

This novella has a really original and fascinating premise, in which mathematics can be explored in a quasi-physical state. The universe it builds is one I'd love to revisit, but this story stands on its own and feels complete. The theme about leaving home and whether you can ever really return is explored in a thought-provoking but not heavy-handed way. But the real strength of this novella is the writing, which pulls you along through the story and the necessary world-building detours so expertly that it feels like a leisurely read, and yet I couldn't put it down. In short, this is a great sci-fi novella that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Favorite Thing:
The unique premise and how well it was explored
Distances book cover (a representation of the space described by a mathematical function)
Book Length:
Short
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
High
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Su-Yee Lin

This interesting short story is about a worker in a factory in China, who doesn't know what the factory is making and doesn't really care, until things start getting weird. It is an enjoyable and quick read. I would have liked a little more from the ending, but even so, the story planted some things to think about. This is a good pick for you if you like magical realism and are looking for a diverting short story.

Favorite Thing:
The hint that the factory was somehow selecting the right type of workers.
Dream Machine book cover
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Mona Simpson

This is an interesting short story about a past-her-prime actress who is contacted by the family of her former stepfather. He is dying, and wants to see her. The story follows her response, and the emotions and memories it stirs up. It is a really well-written story. When I finished it, I first wished it would have resolved a few more things, but as it "settled" in my mind, I think that perhaps leaving those things unresolved was central to what it says about family and what we can expect from them.

Favorite Thing:
The last part of the story (I don't want to say more, because I don't want to spoil it!)
Book cover for Steps: text with some small graphic elements
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Sonya Huber

This is a combination of reporting and personal memoir about the direct care industry. The author worked in the industry for several years, and saw both its limitations and its promise first hand. In this book, she describes her experiences as well as the experiences of a woman injured working in a care home, and then reports on the facts about the industry. I wish she had gone a bit deeper in her reporting, perhaps interviewing former residents of these homes and executives in the companies that run them. Still, I found the book interesting and well-written, and I certainly learned from reading it.

Favorite Thing:
The fact that the author shows the promise of the direct care industry as well as its problems.
Two Eyes Are Never Enough book cover. A young woman sitting in a bare room, with her hands over her face.
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Erin Hogan

This short ebook is an excerpt from a longer work, but it stands well on its own. The author takes a road trip to visit "land art" in the American west, and interweaves travel writing, personal essay, and art criticism in her account of the trip. This excerpt covers her first stop, which is to see a piece called Spiral Jetty on the shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I enjoyed the way the book helped me understand the art better, but it there is still a fair amount of art criticism jargon. I was able to make sense of it, and I think most other non-experts will, too. So while the book would have been stronger if the author had found a way to write in more general language about the art, I still recommend it for anyone curious about modern art in general, and large, site-specific installations in particular. As a testament to the book, I am now tempted to try to tack a visit to Spiral Jetty onto an upcoming trip to Salt Lake City!

Favorite Thing:
The fact that I now have a better understanding of the type of art described in the book
Spiral Jetta Summer book cover
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Excerpt from a longer book
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Jonathan Biss

This is a musician's meditation on the meaning he finds in composers' late works, but that description doesn't do it justice. Jonathan Biss has an extraordinary ability to write about music, and help us lesser musicians and non-musicians appreciate how music speaks to him and for him. When I read his writing about a piece I know, I feel I understand that piece more deeply. When I read his writing about a piece I don't know, I want to listen to that piece immediately. I recommend this book both for classical music lovers and for people who don't get why classical music still speaks to so many of us.

Favorite Thing:
His descriptions of how music makes him feel
Cover of Coda, by Jonathan Biss
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
High
Categories:
Disclosures:
None
Author:

S.L. Huang

This is a really nice retelling/mashup of the Beauty and the Beast and Red Riding Hood fairy tales, told from the viewpoint of Beauty's teenage daughter. It is a well-constructed and well-told story, and I liked how it makes you think not just about what is left out of the traditional viewpoint of those tales, but also about what viewpoints we might be overlooking in our own world.

Favorite Thing:
The worldbuilding
Hunting Monsters book cover: a young woman with a red scarf, fur wrap, and a gun
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Carlyn Zwarenstein

This book intertwines the author's own experiences taking opioids to control the pain from ankylosing spondylitis with a discussion of our current problems with opioid addiction and a look at the role of opioids in the Romantic period. The title is a reference to a book by Thomas De Quincey, a Romantic-period writer who wrote about his experiences with laudanum. Zwarenstein compares De Quincey's experiences with comments from online forums for present day opioid users and her own observations. She also discusses how the development of tolerance for the drug and the worries about addiction complicate the use of opioids to control chronic pain like hers, and considers how these processes played out in De Quincey's life as well as the lives of other famous opioid users. This is a thought-provoking and interesting book that also connects on an emotional level.

Favorite Thing:
The author's honest descriptions of her experiences with opioids
Opium Eater book cover: a black and white image of opium poppies
Book Length:
Short
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
High
Categories:
Disclosures:
Received free copy
Author:

Kai Ashante Wilson

This short fantasy story is set in the same world as a longer book. As I read it, I suspected that it would make deeper sense if I'd read the longer book, but even without that background, the story is wonderful. The characters and the world feel real, and the writing is just beautiful.

Favorite Thing:
The characters
Super Bass book cover
Book Length:
Shortest
Part of Series:
Short story/novella related to a series of long books
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None
Author:

Heather Havrilesky

This short ebook is a collection of six Ask Polly columns, along with a short introduction. If you like Ask Polly columns, you'll probably like this book. If you've never read one, this book is a good introduction. I enjoyed the columns, but what I really appreciated in this book was the way the columns were selected to look at the various types of problems/worries in our lives. In doing so, they help you examine your own approach to these sorts of crises, and maybe think a little bit more deeply about what really matters in your life.

Favorite Thing:
The answer to "Should I Give Up on My Writing"
Book cover of Ask Polly's Guide to Your Next Crisis
Book Length:
Shorter
Part of Series:
Not part of a series
Stand Alone:
Yes
Stickiness:
Moderate
Disclosures:
None

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