Isaiah's Fiction Picks
Another of my favorite short story collections! Chiang's writing is a wonderful example of literary science fiction, not only blending themes surrounding technology but human connection, purpose, parasocial relationships, and environmental anxieties. The titular story in particularly is one of the most unique pieces of short fiction I've read from the past decade.
A wonderful and timely mix of time travel and pandemic fiction. Mandel dives back into science fiction, maintaining everything we loved in Station Eleven and incorporating the drama/mystery writing from The Glass Hotel. Taking place across multiple timelines and across a tapestry of characters, each impacted by the pandemics of their time, Sea of Tranquility beautifully balances its Sci-Fi elements with the universal experience of living through lockdown, somehow providing a book that both acknowledges and discusses the difficulty of the pandemic while finding the hope within it.
Highly recommended for fans of Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties. Mariana Enriquez's second short story collection takes your breath away with urban ghost stories told with a folkloric lilt. Renowned Argentinian author, Enriquez's work strikes a likeness to Shirley Jackson's eerily haunting voice. Ghostly toddlers, cursed carts, and undead runaways are imbued with a morbid fairy tale quality, creating a darkly haunting menagerie of stories for lovers of weird literary fiction and horror.
One of my favorite short-story collections, Revecca's writing is bold, harsh, yet tender. Stories about guilt, unrequited love, victims and saviors, all told through a post-catholic lense. Highly recommend if you are a fan of Mary Gaitskill or Ottessa Moshfegh.
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One part disfunctional family, one part fully functional psychics. I read all of Spoonbenders in one sitting, drawn in by the unique styling of story telling and depth of the characters. Highly recomend if you enjoyed instant classics like The Night Circus or The City We Became.
A stupendous debut collection from Mary Gaitskill, a master of shining light into dark places and making men out of monsters. Perhaps the epitome of stereotypical metropolitan fiction, Gaitskill takes you through all the grit and grime that you'd expect from a collection based around New York, plus some things that take you off guard. A personal favorite.
Mary Gaitskill's second short story collection continues her aptitude for expressing the complexity of interpersonal dynamics, relationships, and the liminal spaces in morality and justice.
A modern classic and the book that dragged me back into the magical realism genre. Morgenstern captures that same wonder that you remember from wimsical childrens fantasy, but matures it into a complex and emotional tale.
One of the most outstanding debut collections of the 2010s, Machado's collection is a hauntingly beautiful mix of tenderhearted body horror and genre bending twists on classical procedural tv. Striking a similar tone to Shirley Jackson's unsettling fiction, Machado modernizes the literary horror story.
One of the most critically acclaimed books of 2021, Klara and the Sun lives up to expectations in every way. Beautiful pros and a unique rumination on belief and faith from the perspective of a synthetic being. Melding the Familial drama of The Dutch House (Ann Patchett) with the thoughtful science-fiction of Ted Chiang (Author of Exhalation). Highly reccomend for anyone! regardless of genre loyalties.
This book feels like coming in from the rain or snow and feeling your bare feet buzzing from the sudden warmth. One of the most wholesome and heartfelt Sci-fi reads you'll find today. A soft sci-fi story with a hint of philosophy, asking questions around the nature and meaning of purpose.
Somewhat of a universally adored book here at Folio. Mandell's wonderful pros carry you accross her pages, spanning a plethora of characters and eras. Station 11 feels like a scenic view, a tapestry of different stories tied together by tragedy and calamaty.
What starts as an office drama centering around race slowly spirals as a mysterious group looms into the life of Nella Rogers after another person of color is finally hired at her publishing house. Touching on many cultural issues of the time regarding the cammodification of artists of color, code switching, and tokenism. Topical drama that turns into a gripping mystery thriller that is well worth the ride.
Have you been wanting to re-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer but thought to yourself "It would really take it up a notch if Sarah Michelle Geller was hunting a Lovecraftian version of the Klan." Set in an alternate version of the American south in the dawn of the 20th century, Maryse (a veteran with a sword that sings) and her fellow hunters wage war against an alternate of the Klan that has employed the aid of otherworldly creatures. Intermingling Gullah folklore and cosmic horror into an exciting fast paced dark adventure, Ring Shout doesn't over stay its welcome and makes you beg for more.
Another in the long line of love letters to New York City, Jemisin creates a jaw dropping adventure tale set in our own world. Urban fantasy at its best, New York (quite literally) comes to life as the city comes under attack from an ominous army of tentacles that seek to devour it. Jemisin does a wonderful job personifying the various Burrous' culture and history as well as their traumas. One of my favorite books of 2020 and one that touches on many issues regarding many metropolitin areas, but especially here in San Francisco.
To cut to the chase, if you've enjoyed any of Backman's work you will most likely fall in love with Anxious People. When an inept robber fails to rob a bank, they accidently take a group of people hostage at an apartment viewing across the street. A dramedy in the purest sense of the word, Backman's distinct style shines through, giving us an in depth empathetic view into the lives of everyone caught in the apartment.
Before there were mazes to run and hunger games to be won, there was the Giver. From the end of the 20th century, Lowry was before her time when writing dystopian fiction for children and young adults. Set in an orderly and seemingly idyllic society where everyone is assigned a role at the age of twelve, Jonus is given the job of receiver, a mysterious role where he must inherit the collected memories of the past that are kept from the rest of society. Paving the road and setting the bar for dystopian literature going into the 21st century, The Giver (and the rest of the Giver Quartet) is a must read!
There There was one of those books that knocked me off my feet and kept me there. Weaving the complex and overlooked history of californa's indiginous peoples with the modern reality they survive in today. Orange's novel feels like a character study each chapter, capturing your interest and pulling you under, only to resurface three hours later with no clue how time went by so quickly.
One of my favorite books as a kid and one that I read over and over again. Done with the demands of their parents, two siblings run away from home to only the best place to runaway to! Why... the Metropolitan Museum of Art of course! Funny, adventurous, and an instant recommendation!
A personal favorite middle reader! The story of a rich, smart, and devious child attempting to steal fairy gold and the Fairy cop who is determined to stop him. A magical cyberpunk adventure that will get you hooked into the series as a whole. Highly recommend if you enjoy heists and action.
Bears, billionaires, and final girls. A gripping meta-horror novel centered in a gentrifying rural lake town. Amidst a rash of murders, Jade (a classic horror movie buff) has determined that her and the entire town are caught up in a slasher movie of their very own. A witty, smart, and engrossing twist on the slasher genre!
The grand halls are lined with strange sculptures that encompass all of existence. Piranesi and his companion the 'Other' are two of fifteen people to have ever existed. The other thirteen are the skeletons that litter the great halls. A wonderfully ominous and mysterious book that will capture your attention and never let it go.
Following her two standout novels, Murata's short story collection continues her bizarre yet intriguing fascination with nature, cannibalism, collectivism, and love affairs with curtains... Highlighting her penchant for eye-catching premises, each new story throws you into new and stranger realities.
What if you were so good at reading aloud that you accidently conjured a dastardly fairy-tale mob boss into our world? When Meggie's dad does exactly that, it's up to her to rescue him with the aid of the mysterious firebreather named Dustfinger and her Aunt Elinor. Absolutely one of my favorite middle readers, Inkheart is the marvelous adventure that every reader deserves.
Almost 10 years since his last short story collection, George Saunders makes a triumphant return. Saunders' mix of singularly curious premises, humor, and heart is on full show and as stunningly thought provoking as his previous works. No one does weird short fiction quite like Saunders and Liberation Day continues to prove it.
One of the best (if not THE best) short story collections of 2021. Beautifully succinct stories revolving around the Khmer population in the bay area and the generational trauma of the Cambodian Genocide. Another in a long line of amazing Bay Area Fiction. An Absolute essential read.
Emi Yagi's debut novel is both strange and filled with heart. After lying about having morning sickness at work, Ms. Shibata sets out to complete her imaginary pregnancy. From Japanese work culture and everyday sexism, to expectations placed on pregnant folk, Diary of a Void somehow combines both a sense of melancholic malaise and the satirical surreal, blurring the lines between reality and the power of lies.
What happens when you cross 'The Royal Tenenbaums' and Marina Abramović. Once a family of avant garde public performance artists (more so pranks on unsuspecting bystanders), the Fang family reunites after one of them is shot in the face with a potato cannon. A humorous novel about the peculiarity of family that spirals into a mystery.
A curious and enrapturing novella told through a series of HR interviews in another solar system. Detailing the interactions between human and humanoid employees as they investigate strange and law defying objects. Highly recommended for those who enjoy experimental fiction and fans of This is How You Lose the Time War.
Beautifully revolting. Amelia Gray is tenderly loving with her characters' interior worlds and gleefully fascinated with their grotesque exteriors. Oscillating between these two ends of the spectrum, Gutshot contains stories that push the edges of your discomfort while imbuing these bizarre scenes with tender moments of intimacy.
A world I want to snuggle up in set in a future I want to burn. Corporations manufacture planets for real estate, seeding them with humanoid peoples to terraform the environment to a sellable condition. A world filled with intelligent mammals of all shapes and sizes with a story spanning thousands of years, The Terraformers is an exploration of personhood, environmentalism, and capitalism that will make you want to dip in for a second helping.
When her brother dies, Nyokabi's strange aunt gives her a potion that sends her spiraling back through time as she attempts to reverse what cannot be undone. A short but touching story about loss, grief, and time travel. Intertwining Kenyan folklore and history, Kagunda packs so much into under a hundred pages.
When a world famous chef is found dead in his hotel room, the culinary world converges to see who can profit from his death. A humorous thriller from a writing team made up of three food journalists, the book pokes at the culinary industry and how celebritydom is exploited for profit.
Gilda is not doing great. But after a series of misunderstandings and an advertisement for a free therapy session, she's accidentally gotten a receptionist job at a catholic church, despite being an anxious lesbian atheist. Both an exploration of chronic anxiety and a mystery about what really happened to the previous secretary.
A charmingly curious novel that skirts the edges of both classic Irish themes surrounding faith and loss that also blends it with a supernatural coming of age comedy. Somehow The Gospel of Orla is simultaneously zany and sincere, tackling both parental loss and a whimsical, yet heartbreaking, look at a post-Christianity Jesus. This is a triumphant debut for Walls and makes me excited for their next work.
Set during and after the Argentine dictatorship of the 70s and 80s, Our Share of Night tells the story of a father and son haunted and pursued by an ominous cult that demands mediums. A literary gothic horror epic centering on the complicated and strained relationship between father, son, and their shared legacy, paralleling Argentina's own unspeakable history. An eerie, disquieting, and addicting novel that will refuse to leave you.