Shorter Reads

Want to read a story with all the depth, questions and quality of a novel, written by highly skilled writers in about 5% of the space? Short stories can be heartbreaking, mysterious and incredibly detailed; for a perfectly formed, bite-sized smorgasbord of stories, browse our Short Story recommendations here.

I Live in the Slums

I Live in the Slums

Author: Can Xue Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/07/2020

Longlisted for the 2021 International Booker Prize A major new collection of stories by one of the most exciting and creative voices in contemporary Chinese literature Can Xue's stories observe no obvious conventions of plot or characterization. That is the only rule they follow. Instead, they tend to limn a disordered and poetic state given structure by philosophical wonder and emotional rigor. Combining elements of both Chinese materiality-the love of physical things-and Western abstract thinking, Can Xue invites her readers into an immersive landscape that blends empirical fact and illusion, mixes the physical and spiritual, and probes the space between consciousness and oblivion. She brings us to a place that is both readily familiar yet unmappable and can make us hyperaware of the inherent unreliability in our relationship to the world around us. Delightful, enchanting, and filled with secrets, Can Xue's newest collection shines a light on the forces that give contours to the visible terrain we acknowledge as reality.

No Precedent

No Precedent

Author: John Uttley Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/2020

This sequel to John Uttley’s family drama Where’s Sailor Jack? sees Bob, now past his “three score and ten”, dealing with era-defining external changes (Brexit, changes in the Labour Party, Donald Trump’s presidency) alongside day-to-day life, with his new love Wendy also given her own narrative. Having survived a divorce and a heart attack, and found himself new partner, Bob has also bought himself a grave plot “near enough to the gate for me to look for an escape if I’m sent to the wrong place,” he remarks with typically wry humour. Lively new characters are also introduced in this sequel, courtesy of teacher Lucy Fishwick, reputedly “a man-eater of all ages and sizes”, and her daughter Maddie, who’s often the object of male characters’ lascivious gazes. Reflective, nostalgic, and suffused in the author’s roots, No Precedent will appeal to those interested in personal takes on present-day political shifts. Indeed, it often reads as if lines between characters’ views and those of the author have been blurred. Tony Blair, Ed Miliband, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Teresa May, Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Bercow and Keir Starmer - and others - are discussed, and we’re also offered a reason for the collapse of Labour’s red wall in the 2019 general election: “I suppose they took the view that if you can’t beat the bastards then you might as well join them, if only for a while.”  With loss, immortality (and the fates of Bolton and Blackpool football clubs) covered alongside politics, the overall reading experience is akin to overhearing a wry-minded, well-meaning stranger, then getting to know them over the course of an evening.

Home Remedies

Home Remedies

Author: Xuan Juliana Wang Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/05/2020

At the Beijing Olympics, a pair of synchronized divers stand poised at the edge of success and sexual self-discovery. A Chinese-American girl in Paris finds her life changed when she begins wearing a dead person's clothes. And on a winter evening, a father creates an algorithm to troubleshoot the problem of raising a daughter across an ever-widening gulf of culture and experience. From second-generation rich kids and livestream stars to a glass-swallowing qigong grandmaster, this funny and wise debut collection upends the well-worn path of the immigrant experience to reveal a new face of belonging: of young people testing the limits of who they are and who they will one day become, in a world as vast and various as their ambitions.

She-Clown, and other stories

She-Clown, and other stories

Author: Hannah Vincent Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/03/2020

Quirky, provocative, and fabulous, these short stories highlight everyday normality and yet firmly shake the roots of your thoughts.  Hannah Vincent is a novelist and playwright, I first came across her writing in 2014 when I read Alarm Girl, which I can still clearly remember (bearing in mind just how many books I read, it shows you how powerful her writing is). Although these short stories might leave you with more questions than answers they are actually perfectly formed. Sweary, occasionally shouty, definitely challenging, the mundane is examined, and experienced in a completely different way. She-Clown and Other Stories is a really interesting and decidedly different collection of 16 stories that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

eBooks of the Month
Mexico Street

Mexico Street

Author: Simone Buchholz Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/03/2020

Just that little bit different (in fact strikingly different), Mexico Street challenges preconceptions and society issues, ensuring a full-on fabulous read. German public prosecutor Chastity is back, this time investigating a series of arson attacks that lead to the death of a man linked to criminal gangs. One thing to note straightaway is that I really feel you do need to have read the others in the Chastity Riley series to fully enjoy this one, otherwise too much would be unexplained and you would have to sprint like heck to keep up. Start with Blue Night, followed by Beton Rouge, both equally readable and also translated with surety by Rachel Ward. As usual Simone Buchholz snared my attention from the get-go. The words stormed my senses, falling like a sword and I found myself on full alert. Short, sharp, shocks of chapters hit, with the chapter headings almost creating their own story. Mexico Street, full of sparks and quirks, is 227 pages of wonderful. Adding to the series beautifully, I just had to include it as one of my Liz picks of the month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Quick Reads This Is Going To Hurt

Quick Reads This Is Going To Hurt

Author: Adam Kay Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/02/2020

This is not a new book but a specially adapted version of Adam Kay's bestseller This is Going to Hurt for Quick Reads. These short books are perfect for adults who are discovering reading for pleasure for the first time. Welcome to the life of a junior doctor. You work 97 hours a week. You make life and death decisions. You are often covered in blood (or worse) from head to toe. And the hospital parking meter earns more money than you do. Adam Kay's diary was written in secret after long days, sleepless nights and missed weekends. It is funny, moving and sometimes shocking. This is everything you wanted to know - and more than a few things you didn't - about life on and off the hospital ward.

Darkness Rising

Darkness Rising

Author: A. A. Dhand Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/02/2020

Detective Inspector Harry Virdee has a lot on his plate. His team is facing government cuts, tensions are building between Bradford's two rival drugs gangs and his wife Saima is due to give birth any day now. So when bodies start turning up in the old industrial district, the pressure is on to get the case wrapped up as quickly as possible, or risk a full-scale gang war. But the man behind the murders is ruthless and pushy. And things are getting personal. Harry must think fast and bend the rules if he wants to keep his city, and his family, safe . . .

The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe Quick Reads 2020

The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe Quick Reads 2020

Author: Milly Johnson Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/02/2020

From the Queen of Feel-good Fiction! Lara Cliffe and her three friends are off on a mini break for her hen party. It's three weeks before her wedding to 'Steady Freddie', one of the kindest men on the planet. But something is worrying Lara. Her friends say it's wedding jitters, but she isn't so sure. Fifteen years ago the love of her life, Danny Belfont, walked out on her three weeks before their wedding and she has never been able to fully get him out of her heart. Then, on the overnight ferry, Lara finds out that Danny is playing in the onboard band and he spots her in the crowd. Will she meet him the next night to talk? As the wonderful city of Amsterdam works its magic on Lara, she tries to sort out her thoughts. And if fate has brought Lara and Danny back together ... is it really for love or for something quite different?

Notting Hill Carnival (Quick Reads) A West Side Story

Notting Hill Carnival (Quick Reads) A West Side Story

Author: Candice Carty-Williams Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/02/2020

Sapphire is the hot-headed leader of the Red Roses in an area where gang loyalty is all that matters. But after a tragic event, Sapphire vows to leave her old life, friends and her gang behind. Life without the Red Roses and the violence that always followed them is certainly quieter. When she meets a boy called Apollo on her way to Notting Hill Carnival, she forms an instant bond with him. She thinks he could be the one. Until she discovers he's a member of rival gang, the Gold Teeth. Will she ever escape her past with the Red Roses, and how many lives will be ruined until she does? Funny, emotional and raw, with the Notting Hill Carnival acting as the backdrop of this retelling of West Side Story, by the Sunday Times bestselling author of Queenie.

A Fresh Start (Quick Reads)

A Fresh Start (Quick Reads)

Author: Various, Keith Stuart, Louise Candlish, Jojo Moyes Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/02/2020

From wronged wives to nosy neighbours, from distant dads to new-found family, from secrets to lies, fresh starts to false endings - and everything in between... A collection of brilliant short stories from the best writers around. This collections contains original stories from Fanny Blake, Louise Candlish, Mike Gayle, Mari Hannah, Sophie Kinsella, Jojo Moyes, Adele Parks, Ian Rankin, Mahsuda Snaith and Keith Stuart.

The Donor Quick Reads 2020

The Donor Quick Reads 2020

Author: Clare Mackintosh Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

She gave you everything. But what does she want in return? When Lizzie's daughter Meg is given a life-saving heart transplant, Lizzie feels hugely grateful to the nameless donor. Then she receives a letter from the donor's mother, Karen, asking to meet, and it seems like the least she can do. But as soon as Karen is welcomed into their lives, Lizzie feels something isn't right. And before long, she can't help but worry that by inviting Karen in, she might have put Meg in danger . . .

Metamorphosis and Other Stories

Metamorphosis and Other Stories

Author: Franz Kafka Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2020

A collection of Kafka's greatest short fiction, translated by Michael Hofmann Kafka's masterpiece of unease and black humour, Metamorphosis, the story of an ordinary man transformed into an insect, is brought together in this collection with the rest of his works that he thought worthy of publication. It includes Contemplation, a collection of his earlier short studies; The Judgement, written in a single night of frenzied creativity; The Stoker, the first chapter of a novel set in America; and an eyewitness account of an air display. Together, these stories, fragments and miniature gems reveal the breadth of his vision, his sense of the absurd, and above all his acute, uncanny wit. Translated with an introduction by Michael Hofmann