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.” 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Kiss, and Other Stories

Frances Park Why did I love 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.

By Anton Pavlovich Chekhov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Kiss, and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A selection of ten stories written when Chekhov had reached his maturity as a short storywriter, between 1887 and 1902. They show him as a master of compression and a probing analyst, unmasking the mediocrity, lack of ideals, and spiritual and physical inertia of his generation. In these grim pictures of peasant life, and telling portraits of men and women enmeshed in trivialities, in the finely observed, suffocating atmosphere of provincial towns with their pompous officials, frustrated, self-seeking wives, spineless husbands, Chekhov does not expound any system of morality, but leaves the reader to draw what conclusion he will.


Book cover of Cathedral

Frances Park Why did I love 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.

By Raymond Carver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cathedral as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A collection of short stories which includes 'Vitamins' and 'A Small Good Thing', which were used in Robert Altman's film, 'Short Cuts'. First published in the US and now available in paperback in the UK.


Book cover of The Stories of John Cheever

Frances Park Why did I love 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. 

By John Cheever,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Stories of John Cheever as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John Cheever's Collected Stories explores the delicate psychological frameworks of 20th century suburbia.

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY HANIF KUREISHI

This outstanding collection by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Cheever shows the power and range of one of the finest short story writers of the last century. Stories of love and of squalor, they include masterpieces such as 'The Swimmer' and 'Goodbye, My Brother' and date from the time of his honourable discharge from the Army at the end of the Second World War.


Book cover of The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time

Frances Park Why did I love 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.

By David Lowenherz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If a picture speaks a thousand words, a love letter speaks a thousand more . . .

Even in this age of e-mail, faxes, and instant messaging, nothing has ever replaced the power of a love letter. Much the way light displays every color when passed through a prism, love letters express the spectrum of our emotions, offering a colorful glimpse into the soul of the writer, and of the writer’s beloved. For passionate readers and lovers of words, a letter is irresistible.

Internationally renowned collector David Lowenherz sifted through hundreds and hundreds of historical and contemporary epistles and selected…


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

Frances Park Why did I love 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.

By Scott Saalman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Are You Going To Write About When I'm Gone? Essays of Hilarity and Heartache About His Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Scott's personal, poignant essays are a tribute to family and to the enduring nature of love. Read them in one delicious gulp or sit back on the couch and imagine yourself on Brushy Fork Road and savor then slowly." - Angela Himsel, A River Could Be A Tree


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An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,

Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

Clifford's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

By Clifford A. Wright,


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