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Tag Archives: short stories

Books discussed at the January 2020 Just Desserts “Anthologies” meeting

At the January 30th, 2020 meeting of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, the assigned reading topic was “Mystery Anthologies and/or Short Story Collections”. Each participating group member was to have read ANY multi-author mystery anthology or single-author mystery short story collection, and everyone was given an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions on whatever they had read.

Here’s the list of mystery, thriller and suspense anthologies or short story collections discussed by Just Desserts members in January 2020:

  • Murder on the Run (12 stories) by the Adams Round Table
  • Manhattan Mayhem (17 stories all set in Manhattan) edited by Mary Higgins Clark
  • Strange Highways (short story collection all by Dean Koontz)
  • FaceOff (11 stories by pairs of authors, crossing over each of their best-known characters) edited by David Baldacci on behalf of the International Thriller Writers (two members of Just Desserts read this, one in the audiobook format)
  • The Big Book of Female Detectives (approximately 80 stories) edited by Otto Penzler
  • A Study in Sherlock (16 stories) – a Sherlock Holmes collection edited by Laurie King
  • Matchup (11 stories by pairs of authors – one male/one female – crossing over each of their best-known characters) edited by Lee Child on behalf of the International Thriller Writers (three members of Just Desserts all read this one)
  • Midnight Louie’s Pet Detectives (17 stories strongly featuring animals as sleuths or sidekicks) edited by Carole Nelson Douglas


Reading List from Just Desserts “Anthology” meeting – January 2017

At the January 26th, 2017 meeting of the Just Desserts mystery fiction discussion group, the theme of the monthly meeting was “Mystery Anthologies and Short Story Collections”. First, we had a round robin in which each attendee shared comments about whichever Anthology or Collection they had read for the month, then we had a second round robin in which all 15 attendees were able to share recommendations of other books they’ve been reading recently.

Here were the Anthologies/Collections read by group members specifically for the January 2017 meeting:

Here’s the list of mystery books recommended by Just Desserts members in January 2017:

And here were some non-mystery titles some group members recommended in January 2017:

What mysteries have you been reading lately that you’d recommend?

What a Notable! Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Now THIS was the kind of book I’d been seeking, one that had me scheming about how to get back to it, even when I really should have been doing other stuff.

Unaccustomed Earth” is on this year’s American Library Association Notable Books list. It’s a collection of short stories, set in contemporary America, about young people who are of Bengali descent. Typically, the stories explore issues of having two cultures to bridge, of finding love in those circumstances, of staying true to the best in one’s upbringing.

Apparently, I’m one of the last people to find out about Jhumpa Lahiri; she won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Interpeter of Maladies.” I was amazed by how many people to whom I’ve mentioned this book (and I’ve mentioned it to a LOT of people) have already read it, or have it on their bedside tables.

What makes these stories so good? One, the characters are so well-drawn. Two, the endings are hopeful in sometimes unexpected ways. Three, the language is so good that I didn’t even notice it. Four, she observes people so well. Five, the cultural issues are fascinating.

Thanks to the Notable Books committee for bringing this excellent book to my attention. I’m grateful.  Have you read it already?  What did you think?

Another Notable–Olive Kitteridge

So far, “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout may be my favorite from this year’s Notable Books List.  It also won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Olive Kitteridge is a character in each of these short stories, set in a small town in Maine during the late twentieth century.  Olive stars in some of the stories, but barely walks through other ones.  She’s a teacher, and so in a position to know many people.  Strout describes her as physically large and awkward.  Socially, she often says the wrong thing and finds herself stoking her own resentment when people disappoint her.

Strout makes the most of the short story.  Each one seems to answer a “what if” question.  What if the mother of the groom hears the bride laughing at her?  What if a man on his way to commit suicide is called on to save a drowning woman?  What if a little girl must keep her older sister’s secret about running away?  She turns a sharp eye to social interactions, not looking away when cruelty enters where kindness would help.  And yet, people figure out how to connect with each other and get on with life.  In some ways, Strout reminds me here of my favorite short story writer, Alice Munro.

I read this book more like a novel, straight through.  I usually find, though, that I enjoy short stories more when I take some time to savor one before moving on to the next.

To whom would I recommend this?  To people who like short stories, and to some who say that they don’t.  To people who find small town life interesting, and to people who love everyday life described well.

Have you read this?  What did you think?