Do you need an escape, but you don’t have a lot of time? Are you in a reading slump and need a little kick start? Or perhaps your attention span has been balking at all the door-stop books looming on your TBR? Or heck, maybe you’re just in the mood for the reading equivalent of a snack? Whatever your reason if you’re a fan of fantasy, science fiction, or horror I’m here to help you find the short read of your dreams.
Ready for Autumn? Need a shiver? Here are a few selections for fans of Horror:
Mapping the Interior, by Stephen Graham Jones
This novella won the Bram Stoker Award in 2017. Creepy and dreamlike, the childlike logic of the main character brings the world to life in evocative and effective strokes. Diving deep into how family can be toxic, especially when paired with poverty and substance abuse, this was a dark look at the damage being wrought in communities across the world, but especially within indigenous communities.
We Are All Completely Fine, by Daryl Gregory
This book asks the question: what exactly happens to all those sole survivors of horror stories? The core of the book centers around a therapy group for survivors of supernatural traumas, and the real meat is in exploring these individuals and uncovering their stories and idiosyncrasies. If you’re a fan of the horror genre there will be something in here for you. It’s creepy, interesting, and one of those books that leaves you thinking about not only this story, but so many that came before, and asking “What happened after The End?”
The Grown-up, by Gillian Flynn
Best known for her bestseller, Gone Girl, Flynn delivers a slender shiver of a book with her take on a haunted house story. While this novella is spare it packs a punch with a strong voice and evocative language. This one is best experienced rather than described.
Want to escape to another world? Looking for some magic? Here are some reads for Fantasy fans:
Winterglass, by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Reading this book is like having a daydream. The world building is intricate and lovingly conceived, the writing is artful, and the imagery is striking and fresh. The core of this book is less about plot and more about tone, and while things may not always be clear they are always intriguing. If you are a reader that doesn’t need every detail explained, or mystery solved, this story invites you to kick back, relax, and float through the painting Sriduangkaew has rendered.
A Taste of Honey, by Kai Ashante Wilson
This book perfectly evokes that life consuming intensity and abandon of a first young romance, as well as the tension and pain of love amidst cultural and familial adversity. The world is lushly detailed and interesting and feels lived in and well realized. Insightful, beautiful, and at times melancholy, this is a story of both the paths we take and the ones we leave behind, without being overly sentimental.
Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
McGuire captures both the darkness and the whimsy of youth, as well as the magic and the horror of children’s gateway escape fiction. If you’ve ever longed to find your way to Wonderland, Dracula’s castle, Narnia, or some other imagined realm, this book should transport you to the space just adjacent. A touch of darkness, a dose of reminiscence, and a heaping helping of imagination all form just the right mix for a story that will worm its way into your heart and leave you wanting more.
Want to wonder What If? These speculative fiction and Sci-Fi gems are sure to please:
The End We Start From, by Megan Hunter
Shelved in our Literature section this book has a heart of science fiction and a soul of poetry. Written in a spare and poetic style reading this story is like following a wandering stream – the events of the plot are often suggested more than they are described as you meander through the main character’s interior landscape. These are observations about the small moments that could so easily get lost in the din, the tiny things that ultimately matter even if the world is ending. It is unflinchingly human and beautiful.
This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This novella won the Nebula award in 2019 and was nominated for many many more. Surreal, abstract, and bizarre, this one is well worth savoring. It is a linguistic feast. It’s also a love story. Romantic, tragic, and comedic in turns. Red and Blue passing notes through time in the rings of trees or curls of smoke isn’t just poetic, it’s interesting and affecting. This is one best experienced rather than explained. It’s a gem of a novella, and a treat if you seek to saturate yourself in beautiful language and the enormity of the heart.
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
You have likely already heard someone on staff or elsewhere singing the praises of Murderbot. A Murderbot though, you might be asking yourself, is that what you need right now? The answer, believe it or not, is probably yes. If you look at the cover and title you would not expect this book to be on the light side, but it is absolutely laugh out loud funny and charming. This sci-fi mystery is a story about self discovery and the bonds we form (or do not form) with those around us. If you’ve been hunting for a fast sci-fi read, full of snark and relatable world weariness, you need to read this book.
In the mood for just a nibble? Check out these Short Story collections and find a new favorite author:
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl
If you love sci-fi and fantasy, and you’ve been wanting to read more works by people of color, this collection is stuffed full of wonderful authors to fall in love with. Included are stories by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Alex Jennings, Tobias Buckell, Rebecca Roanhorse, Indrapramit Das, Chinelo Onwualu and many many more.
Frangipani Hotel, by Violet Kupersmith
These stories all share a sense of unease and creeping dread. There are plenty of spooky ghosts, unsettling scenarios, and narratives that leave your skin crawling. They have a feeling of tapping into urban legends and traditional folk tales. The connective tissue that holds these stories together is a different ghost though – the specter of the Vietnam War looms in the background of all of these stories, grim and devastating.
Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado has created one of the creepiest story collections in recent decades, and it is made all the more disturbing by not shying away from feminist themes. This deft blending of genres is perfect for exploring topics like the relationships women have with their bodies, and how those bodies are treated by others and society at large. Using both old familiar stories, like The Husband Stitch, and new ones, like Eight Bites, these stories scare and illuminate in equal measure.
All Out, edited by Saundra Mitchell
While most of the stories in this collection are straight up historical fiction, some range into magical realism and pure fantasy. Each of them takes on a different time period and flavor, and explores a different queer teen experience. There is a lot in here to love, but especially offerings from Anna-Marie McLemore, Mackenzi Lee, Tessa Gratton, and Tehlor Kay Mejia.
You can purchase any or all of these marvelous short fictions online by clicking on their titles above. Remember, we’re hand delivering books on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays–no waiting for the mail!