The first category we’re exploring in The Field Library 2019 Reading Challenge is to “Read a Collection of Short Stories,” and the reason we’re starting with that is because the category is so vast and so varied that you practically have to find something that’s going to ring your bells.

You might be able to make the argument that short stories are the best way for people to experience reading these days.  Everybody’s busy, and it’s increasingly hard to carve out enough time to devote to a full novel (though, of course, if you’re a real novel lover, you’ll find or make time to read one), but you can read a short story in an interval of otherwise wasted time (waiting for a doctor’s appointment, for instance, or standing on line at the airport or the like), and it requires much less of a commitment.  You’re not risking much on any story, either; if one story doesn’t work for you, you can just move on to the next one, or skip around to find one that appeals to you (note: if you’re doing this challenge, you are supposed to read all the stories in the collection you select). A short story doesn’t give you the depth and multiple characters and plotlines and subplots you can dive into when you’re reading a novel, but by the same token, a short story can be much more shocking, much more powerful, because of its concentration (think about it: how many novels are as vivid and memorable as, say, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”?).

A collection of short stories by different authors is a great way to increase your exposure to different authors: in one volume, you can read stories by a number of different writers, and you know they were already vetted by whoever the editor of the volume is. If you’re looking for an introduction to a genre, say mystery or speculative fiction, checking out a “best of the year” anthology gives you a snapshot of what people in the field believe are the best works in the genre.

When you’re considering a collection of stories by a single author, you’re taking more of a risk, especially if you don’t know the author that well. A good short story writer, though, will showcase different themes and styles and give you a well-rounded introduction to his or her work (for instance, Carmen Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties has quite a varied group of stories, including one very long and strange one based — sort of — on Law and Order, Special Victims Unit, and several other stories that make you stop and think when you finish them). If the author is someone whose work you know (like Neil Gaiman, one of my personal favorites), reading his or her short stories can be a treat, like a special dessert.

This is probably going to be the category with the most possibilities, so check out the list here, and find yourself something new and interesting.



As anyone who knows me or has read my work knows, I am a major fan of the library, The Field Library in particular (it’s my home library, as well as my employer!).  I have loved libraries since I was a kid in New Jersey, and I can’t imagine living anywhere without a library. I love working here: I love buying the new fiction, I love seeing all the new books as soon as they come out, I love giving people library cards, I love recommending books to people (especially when people come back and tell me they enjoyed the recommendations), I love giving people the items they’ve put on hold. In many ways, this is my dream job.

But even I, after working at the library for 11 years, am not familiar with all the good stuff on the shelves here. When I look for something to read, I, like many other patrons and readers in general, tend to stick to the same books, the same genres, the same type of books.  I wouldn’t say I’m in a rut, exactly, but I would say that I, like many other readers, sometimes need a little push to get me out of my reading comfort zone.

Which is why I’m setting up the 2019 Field Library Reading Challenge.  Those of you who have done the challenges in the last couple of years know what to expect, and for those who haven’t done this before, the rules are simple enough.  I’m posting a list of categories, and your goal is to read at least one book in each category. I will be regularly posting lists of books that fulfill the different categories here on the blog, and, if you sign up with your email address (send to me at and I’ll add you to the list), I’ll send the list to your email on a regular basis as well.  There will be displays of books in each category at the library, but of course you’re welcome to put any of the books on hold to receive wherever and whenever you want.

Give it a try: stretch your mind, try different books, different authors, different kinds of books.  Let’s make 2019 a year in which we all find new books to love!

Here’s the list (you can pick up a copy at the Circulation Desk, too):

Read a Book about Mental Health

Read a Book about Astronomy

Read a Book about Games

Read a Book about Photography

Read a collection of short stories

Read an epistolary novel OR collection of letters

Read a book involving Math

Read a book about philosophy

Read a book about history other than US History

Read a book about money

Read a book about espionage

Read a book about law

Read a book about movies

From time to time over the year, I’ll also be highlighting different categories here in the blog, so keep watching this space, and keep reading.

Happy New Year!