Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Short Story Collection Oprah Winfrey Can't Put Down

Oprah's Book Club has chosen a summer reading list: "25 Books You Can't Put Down." As I've previously observed, Oprah Winfrey has never chosen a short story collection for her book club. So it's great to see that one of the 25 books on the summer list is a book of short stories. (You go, girl!) At number 19 (I'm not sure what the order signifies) is Robert Boswell's The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards, published by Graywolf Press. We haven't received this collection as an entry for The Story Prize yet (ahem)*, but it's definitely on our radar and looks like an excellent choice.

Boswell is not exactly an unknown, but there are other new short story collections I would have been a little less surprised to see on Oprah's list. One, would be Nothing Right by Antonya Nelson, who is Boswell's wife. Another would be Jean Thompson's Do Not Deny Me (we're still waiting for an entry for this, too), which I've seen on other summer reading lists. I also think The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (ditto) would appeal to Oprah's audience. But perhaps my view of Oprah's, her staff's, and her audience's tastes are too narrow.

In any event, Oprah sells books like no one else. And having a short story on the list is all good. How about several next year?

* I feel duty bound to note that The Story Prize deadline for books published from Jan. through June is July 15.

Addendum: O.: The Oprah Magazine also has a list of 20 beach reads, which includes Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and Phillip Lopate's Two Marriages. Given the lists, I'm not sure what the distinction between a book you can't put down and a beach read is, but at least Oprah is pushing reading.