The best collections for eclectic readers

Who am I?

I’m a Korean American author who believes life is too short to read books that bore you, classics or otherwise. I’ve always had eclectic tastes and like to pick out books the way customers choose bonbons at my chocolate shop (which I’ve co-owned since 1984). And while I do read and often write longer works, I’ve always preferred to fall into a world from the opening line and bow out soon thereafter. By nature, I’m a minimalist – and maybe don’t have the greatest attention span – so I’m in awe of short works that stand on their own. They’re just more dramatic and memorable to me.


I wrote...

That Lonely Spell

By Frances Park,

Book cover of That Lonely Spell

What is my book about?

Frances Park’s parents arrived in the United States decades before the mass migration of Koreans. Her background and memory are rich with unique histories that work their way into That Lonely Spell, a collection of humor and heartache that covers much emotional ground from the innocent Sixties to the wild Seventies to the entrepreneurial Eighties – all the way to today. Kirkus Reviews praised her memoir with “Heart and humanity shine through in essays that speak to a fierce love of family and longing for home.” 

The books I picked & why

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The Kiss, and Other Stories

By Anton Pavlovich Chekhov,

Book cover of The Kiss, and Other Stories

Why this book?

This seven-story collection serves as a great introduction to Chekov, period. I was first introduced to his work in a Russian literature course – and ended up writing my final paper on his “The Kiss”, a work that has always stayed with me. I’ve always taken an interest in a theory known as “the looking-glass self,” coined by sociologist Charles Cooley – which hypothesizes that your behavior is based on how you perceive others see you. So, if you were ridiculed in elementary school, you’ll always revert to how you felt back then when you see former schoolmates. On the other hand, if you were idolized in high school, you’ll still feel like prom queen or king at your 40th class reunion. This behavior was artfully displayed in “The Kiss,” a sad tale about a wallflower of a Russian soldier who develops a sense of confidence if not bravado after he’s accidentally kissed by a young lady in the dark who has mistaken him for someone else.


Cathedral

By Raymond Carver,

Book cover of Cathedral

Why this book?

Every work I’ve read by Carver reminds me of his singular gift; others may write in the same vein by creating stories with characters whose cigarettes and drinks lure them deeper into their desperation. But these writers, however good, lack the gift, the blood, to run so deeply that, well, one line in and you’re haunted. This particular collection contains my two favorite Carver stories: “Cathedral” and “A Small, Good Thing.” Indeed, in everyday conversation, I often use the phrase a small, good thing – as if everyone knows the story.


The Stories of John Cheever

By John Cheever,

Book cover of The Stories of John Cheever

Why this book?

For several years after graduating from college, free to read the books of my choice, I went wild – if one can go wild – at the local library walking distance from my apartment. I always left with a tall stack of books. It was then that I got my first taste of Anais Nin, Doris Lessing, Albert Camus, Isaac Bashevis Singer, the great television plays of the 1950s… I was in heaven. When I began reading John Cheever’s short stories, I was captured like none other, experiencing something his characters often do: an epiphany. I suddenly understood how just a few words can transform a dull moment into pure magic. 


The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time

By David Lowenherz,

Book cover of The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time

Why this book?

Years ago, someone gave this book to me for Valentine’s Day; and I literally drowned in the pages, the naked emotion. The next Valentine’s Day I bought copies for several friends. I would call this collection more beautiful than romantic; with each love letter, you hear love from various perspectives and time periods.


What Are You Going To Write About When I'm Gone? Essays of Hilarity and Heartache About His Mother

By Scott Saalman,

Book cover of What Are You Going To Write About When I'm Gone? Essays of Hilarity and Heartache About His Mother

Why this book?

The author, a columnist, wrote these family stories as an homage to his bigger-than-life mom Patty while she was battling cancer. Told with heart, laugh-out-loud family anecdotes, and love, always love, Saalman brings you into an unforgettable midwestern world of then and now, although even the modern-day Indiana stories echo with “yore” to my more urban ears: his parents’ solid working-class values, their casino date every Saturday night, Patty’s job as the hostess of a diner. Ultimately, she would outlive her death sentence by five years.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in love letters, Manhattan, and Indiana?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about love letters, Manhattan, and Indiana.

Love Letters Explore 8 books about love letters
Manhattan Explore 62 books about Manhattan
Indiana Explore 19 books about Indiana

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Waterlog, The Grand Surprise, and Quartet In Farewell Time if you like this list.