Tag Archive: reading recommendations

Stories to Read Online in July



For whatever beach, balcony or sweaty train you’re on today, some proper hot stories for the start of summer in these new summer issues:

About Her and the Memories that Belong to Her by Mieko Kawakami in Granta Online

Kawakami is a new discovery for me this month. The little prologue to this story is itself a stunning piece.

“If we think of our memories as having a shape, then one possibility is that they come in the shape of a box. I know that this is not entirely an original idea, but that doesn’t make it untrue,” the prologue begins. It’s a beautifully and confidently abstract beginning to a surprisingly specific, grounded story, set at the narrator’s middle school reunion, where she is shocked to learn that an old classmate of hers has died and struggles to remember why the girl is so significant to her.

Dole Girl by Barbara Hamby in the Boston Review

Rightly selected as the winner of the Aura Estrada contest 2015, this story feels so true and surrounding, even though I have absolutely no experience of a Hawaian pineapple canning factory. In fact, you can almost taste the pineapples. A ripe, vivid sense of time and place, plus a compelling character with a burning desire is a winning combination. This story has both in excess. It’s a real lesson in voice, too; the voice of our “Dole Girl” is strong, youthful, naive and streetwise at the same time, making me wish I could read a whole novel of it.

Taxidermy by Vladislava Kolosova in Ploughshares

Set in after-dark Moscow, this is an unsettling story about a young woman who has started having sex for money, to help pay for her studies. One night, she’s picked up by a charismatic, authoritative “New Russian” called Eva who buys a night with her and takes her home to her quiet, boxer-like husband. Like all good shorts, Taxidermy plants its real lightbulb moments just left of center. After the sex, after the drama, the quiet moment gives this story its edge.

My Life by Chantal Clarke in N+1

This is a terrifying but profoundly funny little story. We are tricked by the narrator at first, as in plain childlike language, she describes the bare bones of her life, “I HAVE A HOUSE, and it’s great. My money bought it, so it’s mine. I love to live in it,” she begins. But she reveals after a while, and with glee, that she’s really “Predator 923,” a drone who is “writing simply so you’ll trust me.” Be warned, this story might make you want to try all kinds of weird stuff in your work.

Congregation by Christopher Alessandrini in the Harvard Advocate

A little treat from a magazine very close to my heart. This story follows a girl working at a summer camp. From the outside, she seems to be on the brink of something, some beginning of real life, but to her, the world of the camp and the array of girls and boys that form her camp society, is its own special kind of real life. Searing sharp human observation meets beautiful lines describing the architecture, natural and otherwise of “Link’s Seafood & Bait” where the camp is situated: “Out by the sheds, the bulrush swells with frog song and birds, whip-thin plovers and orioles halving through the stalk like light on water, all that good gossip and whisper.”

What are your reading recommendations for July?

Picks from the Web: Top Stories Under 1000 Words


If you haven’t entered our short story contest to win $100 in Amazon vouchers, maybe a few picks from June’s newly released lit mag editions will give you some ideas. These shorts show that you don’t need a twist in the tail or a punchy style to give the reader a transforming experience:

Hotel by Monica De La Torre in The White Review

“The women at the gym enjoy talking to hotel guests at the fitness centre.

A man carrying his fresh dry-cleaning complains about the slow elevator.

A man carries bulky photo equipment and drags a console on wheels.

A woman at the coffee bar admires my shoes. ‘Comfortable,’ she says.”

In the current issue of the White Review, Monica De La Torre shows her prowess in the short form, placing prose and poetry next to one another, she uses the space of the page with freedom, laying her objects and subjects out as if drawing rather than writing them. Very quickly but without pressure to come to a conclusion she presents her setting, letting it speak for itself.

Geographies by Sayantani Dasgupta in Contrary Magazine

“He dumped her via a terse, two-line email.”

So begins this story about a long-distance relationship carried out over letters and messages. Our narrator thinks her lover, though she’s never really “met” him, is perfect, his words are “sweet like the segment of a perfect orange,” each little thing that he does from a distance is beautiful. But after this email, the break up, she becomes dissatisfied and longs to make an actual memory of him. Dasgupta uses a short form to present the ideal and real relationship, but the schism between manages to be a hopeful rather than sad realisation.

iphone by Charlie Latan in Litro

This tiny weeny story shows you don’t need long with a simple idea and a resonant ending. Latan conjures an absurdly realistic idea, of a little person living inside his phone, dropping his mother’s calls.

Pig Out by Heather Villa in Bartleby Snopes

After Paula drops a precious ceramic pig belonging to one of her mother’s friends, the pig is put behind glass, and Paula becomes known as the girl who breaks things. The heat of this gossipy suburban environment is created by the repeated whispers about Paula.

“Isabelle looked up at Paula’s mother and said, “Before you come over Mommy puts away fancy things. Paula breaks things.””

Drive by Aaron Gansky in Apeiron Review

This one isn’t technically from June, but I couldn’t help it. A beautifully succinct story about a boy whose dad sometimes leaves him in their car under a blanket reading comics while he goes to do some kind of mysterious work. This time though, he comes back to the car more shaken up than usual…

Give us your best shot! Send us something under 1000 words, of anything, scene, shocker, monologue, anything. And I’ll be revealing the short listed entries next week. 

Top 5 Short Things To Read Online This Month



More unconventional stories to get you thinking this month, from journals, mags and other places online.

A Numbered Graph That Shows How Each Part of the Body Would Fit Into A Chair by Mary Jo Bang in Granta

A little square paragraph of poetry to bring out your experimental side today. The illusion of prose that Mary Jo Bang creates here gives a feeling of domesticity, of simple confession, but the inner workings and convolutions make it a much denser, deeper animal.

Tuesday Night Figure Drawing at the Community Center by Diana Smith Bolton in Anderbo

This delightful little scene is a great example of how effective it can be to create your own unique jargon as you write, a language that belongs only to the world of your story. Here, Bolton’s life model navigates different faces as she changes poses, each introduced by its nickname, the “Renaissance Face” transforming into the “Les Miserables Face;” this unique language creates a comic peculiarity that sticks in the mind after the story is done.

The Easing by Gary Joshua Garrison in decomP

This is an uncomfortable narrative. In a stream of violent sensations and little idea of the rules and physics of this setting, The Easing reminds me of the opening of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, huge, abstract scope but with a very real sense of menace. A good one to read if you’re trying to write some horror or suspense.

Pleasure to Make Your Acquaintance by Sarah Kokernot in Crazyhorse

Character and place are quickly and gorgeously evoked in this story, which follows the young, charismatic Magdelena Schuller as she begins to work for Mrs. Woods of Hot Springs, Arkansas one spring. Read for its exquisite sense of place and time, and the way detail, gesture, and routine create characters’ relationships with one another.

Dead Mouse by Caroline Macon in [PANK]

“There is a teeny tiny dead mouse on the back porch. He died about three days ago and looks corpsier every time I pass by.” What a way to start a story! This creepy but super colloquial voice has a strange fresh kind of lyricism to it. It lulls us in with its unserious tone and then comes out with gems of human observation – “It takes a lot of energy to miss someone I hardly know at all”  – and it comes with an audio version so you can get your fiction fix on the go.

What are your reading picks of the month? Share them with us!

6 Books to Read Instead of the 2015 Election Manifestos


The UK parliamentary election is front and center of UK news this month and as the undecided make up their minds before May 7th, party political broadcasts, traveling campaigners, and two-cents pundits are all trying to make sense of the potential reshuffle of the House of Commons. But if you’re less than impressed with the party manifestos to choose from, there is another way to make up your mind… sort of.  Here are 6 unlikely political manifestos from the land of literature, which may well give you a better idea of your own mind than the official documents:

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

The conservative-led government of the last four years has been focused on stabilizing the economy, imposing cuts and frugality to right the deficit. Compared to the other parties, the conservatives are promising a much slower return to feeling richer. Many feel let down by this invisible progress and distrust the hard times led by David Cameron. Charles Dickens would have been fascinated by this episode in our national politics and I’m sure would have penned an epic about it, but Hard Times, Dickens’ study of the Poor Law, Utilitarian philosophy and the trade unions, is the closest we’ll get.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend

Besides being a hilarious coming-of-age tale of a precocious and sensitive teenager, Adrian Mole’s diary shows us a humble view of the political landscape that preceded Tony Blair’s Labour. Adrian grows up page by page of Townsend’s books, always very aware of the class system in the Thatcher-led society he’s growing up into. If you feel like your knowledge of the immediate ancestors of our front-runners Ed Milliband and David Cameron is lacking, this book will give you an education without you even realizing it.

Richard II by William Shakespeare

Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s most complex, and unlikely tragic heroes. From the very first scene, his place on the English throne is insecure, and a crumbling, emasculating of his character follows until he is inevitably overthrown and killed. Bit dramatic, I know, but there are some similarities between Richard’s tragic silencing and the hung parliament we’ve just experienced, especially where Nick Clegg is concerned. Could this tragic hero rise from the ashes?

The Lorax by Dr. Suess

The Greens have filled out their manifesto with policies like ending austerity, making services like the rail network public, and generally doing better for “the common good.” But their reputation as eco-warriors still precedes them. The Lorax is Dr. Suess’ most didactic tale, about a creature who gives the tongue-less trees a voice under greedy dictator, the Once-ler. Through Suess’ signature rhymes and silliness, there is an actual message being communicated, to look after our weird and wonderful world; I confess it makes me want to vote Green much more than the manifesto does.

Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

The quintessential Welsh writer and his quintessential text. Under Milk Wood, a play for voices, portrays the musical, interwovenness of rural Wales. The story follows a huge array of characters who call the sleepy fishing village Llareggub home, through their dream lives, into their waking lives, and back to sleep again. Plaid Cymru may not affect those of us outside Wales, but its proud community is very much like the community of Llareggub, a rare example that can teach us how to stick together as neighbours.

The Bridge by Iain Banks

Scotland is closer than ever to the goings-on of Westminster since the referendum for independence last year, and the election coverage has expressed this change. The SNP is now a household name throughout the UK, and its figurehead Nicola Sturgeon has been impressing with her bold, unintimidated performances in the televised debates. But for people outside Scotland, the struggle for independence and other nuances of the SNP’s manifesto may be difficult to empathize with. The Bridge is a novel with traditional and developing Scotland at its heart, and gives an atmospheric insight into the recent history of Scotland and the symbolic nuts and bolts of its hardworking identity.

What political fiction are you reading right now? Or is all the election gossip enough of a fiction-trip? Let us know!

Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA, via The Guardian

Top Reading Picks for April


April is the cruelest month. Its consolation is poetry, it seems. This month’s picks from the web are lyrical, mad, and wise. They innovate and mold the forms they inhabit, and should give you some helpful inspiration as you surge on toward summer in your own writing…

Leaves by Philip Levine in The Threepenny Review

This is a poem for the morning. Energy enough to replace your caffeine hit. Its title is deceptively gentle, taking nature’s whispy, fragile pieces, but replacing with the ferocious plates of steel of the Chevy stamping plant (though it turns out these cogs are just as vulnerable to the weather.)

This Is the Suffering Part by Lisa Ciccarello in Boaat

All night I dreamed it:

the dream was bad.

Read on, do. This is a beautifully restrained poem. Simple, blunt, but becomes quickly almost nightmarishly intimate with the reader.

Zoo Station by James Harms in Idaho Review

And a third innovative poem, this one from James Harms. From the narrow ledge of this poem, the poet creates a mammoth sense of scope and space, of time passing.

Me and My Orion by Ethan Gilsdorf in DRUM

How does one write the night sky? Gilsdorf grapples with the sublime above him in this audio story in April’s Drum, and also employs some brilliant, modest phrases that communicate something really pure about the feeling of connecting with the universe as a child: “I look up at the coffee-dark sky and see Orion tilted over the horizon. In my mind, he’s always been there, a constant presence. My protector.”

America Loves Mimes by Paul Beckman in [PANK]

I love this funny little story. Who’d have thought the secret world of mimes could be so fascinating, so silently serious, and so vivid? Well, Paul Beckman did. [PANK] also gives us this gem in audio form so listen in a free minute and set the rest of your day alight.