We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Sudden Traveller by Sarah Hall along with us here at NCW. There is still time to look back over the conversation via our Discord community, and you can explore our writing prompt and questions for readers to help you get the most out of reading our chosen book.
If you’ve finished the book and would love something similarly brilliant to add to your ‘To Be Read’ pile, why not try one of these recommended reads? For this list, the NCW team have shared some of their favourite short story collections from recent years. Got a good recommendation? We’d love to hear your thoughts over on Discord!
Our Book Club choice for October and November 2021 will shortly be announced. Keep an eye on the main Book Club page for all the latest updates.
More by Sarah Hall
Not only is Sarah Hall a prize-winning writer of short stories, she’s also a celebrated novelist. Her latest novel, Burntcoat, is newly published and not to be missed. Already being called “extraordinary” and “a masterpiece”, this burning story follows a sculptor who, In the final days of her life, looks back to the first lockdown and her relationship with her lover, Halit, that consumed those isolated days.
Madame Zero (Faber)
Sarah Hall remains the only author to be shortlisted four times for the BBC National Short Story Award, and has also won it twice – most recently with ‘The Grotesques’ from Sudden Traveller, and previously with ‘Mrs Fox’, the first story in Madame Zero. It’s not hard to see why ‘Mrs Fox’ won the judges’ favour: in this tale, Sarah Hall’s language sears the moment of transformation into unforgettable prose. And the other eight stories in the collection are similarly powerful, from ‘Later, His Ghost’ in which the world is reformed by extreme weather, to the disturbing eroticism of ‘Evie’.
Short stories to savour
A Natural History of Transition by Callum Angus (Metonymy Press)
In these stories Callum Angus shows us characters during the many different transformations of their lives and relationships. A family try their best to get on as their son, a swarm of insects, eats his breakfast. Nathan’s estranged mother comes to stay and help him care for the cocoon he gave birth to. Programme Manager Flo says, ‘these stories are written with a fresh sensitivity, imagination, and such compassion for characters at different stages of life, I found it a hugely moving book to read and reread.’
‘You just marvel at the absolute mastery of the universes he creates in such a tiny number of words.’
There Are Little Kingdoms (The Stinging Fly/Canongate) and Dark Lies the Island (Vintage) by Kevin Barry
Acclaimed novelist Kevin Barry is also a writer of short stories that take in all the darkness and absurdity of contemporary life. Programme Director Peggy heartily recommends both There Are Little Kingdoms and Dark Lies the Island, and says, ‘you just marvel at the absolute mastery of the universes he creates in such a tiny number of words. “The kiss did not take” in ‘Across the Rooftops’ – tragedy! Hideous embarrassment! A life-defining moment in only 5 words! All his big swaggery characters and their brittle broken hearts.’
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell (Granta)
Set in Buenos Aires, Mariana Enriquez’s stories hover on the edge of the fantastical, and explore the unseen depths of the city, and are expertly rendered in English by award-winning translator Megan McDowell. Ranging across tales of revenge, witchcraft, and uncanny returns, the book comes recommended by Róisín, Communications Assistant, who says, ‘If you’re into modern gothic fiction and a bit of magical realism you’ll like it!’
Fish Soup by Margarita García Robayo, translated by Charlotte Coombe (Charco Press)
Set on the Caribbean coast of Columbia, the two novellas and collection of short stories included in Fish Soup interweave humour, anger, and religious guilt, in García Robayo’s signature ‘blunt and poetic’ style. ‘One of the best books I’ve read this year… If you’re addicted to horrible/loveable characters, you’ve gotta read this book,’ says Róisín.
Things You Should Know by AM Homes (Granta)
Multi-award-winning writer AM Homes’ stories are stylish, surprising and allow us into the lives of characters as varied as wellness gurus and presidents. ‘The strange and remarkable are always hovering on the edges of mundane reality and she does ‘normal’ people in their extraordinariness like no one else,’ says Chris, Chief Executive.
The Earth, Thy Great Exchequer, Ready Lies by Jo Lloyd (Swift Press)
Announcing a major new talent, Jo Lloyd’s debut short story collection roams from butterfly hunting and biodiversity loss before the First World War, to the life a Scottish family through decades of familial and societal change. Noted for its originality and intensity by the critics, Chris recommends it for its ‘brilliant control, piercing insight, quietly and deeply moving’ writing.
Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie (Dialogue)
Winner of the AKO Cain Prize, Irenosen Okojie’s second short story collection blends a surreal imagination with evocative, sharply-observed writing. In these stories, an order of monks travels through dimensions, a Grace Jones lookalike attends a party, and the inhabitants of a mysterious island aren’t ready for the sea goddess who arrives onshore. Flo recommends Nudibranch ‘for its fearlessness, its variousness and the pure excitement of these stories. You never know where Okojie is going to take you next, but have no doubts that it will be something you’ve never read before.’
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine (publisher)
Programme Officer Vicki recommends this collection of graphic short stories by New Yorker cartoonist and illustrator Adrian Tomine. The six interconnected tales are beautifully illustrated and take us through mistaken identities, the art world, and the highs and lows of parenthood. If you’ve never tried reading graphic novels or short stories before, you can be sure you’re in good hands – Tomine’s colour illustrations are stunning and capture all those tiniest moments that can change a life.