Great Short Books: A Year of Reading—Briefly

S. & S. Audio. Jan. 2023. 11:05 hrs. ISBN 9781797148007. $23.99. LIT
Writer and historian Davis (“Don’t Know Much About” series) turned to fiction in the early days of the COVID pandemic, “not as an escape from the constant press of dreadful news, but as an antidote.” Short novels were a perfect fit for Davis’s pandemic-compromised attention span, but he also believes they can be valuable stepping-stones to authors’ longer works. Covering over 250 years, from 1759 (Voltaire’s Candide) to 2019 (Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys), Davis’s 58 selections include expected classics from well-known authors (Orwell’s Animal Farm; Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway) and, refreshingly, many contemporary works and works in translation. Entries for each book include their first lines, a plot summary (no spoilers!), an author biography, reasons to read the title, and what to read next. While this structured format could lead to a less-than-thrilling listening experience, talented narrators Adenrele Ojo and Leon Nixon compellingly deliver the well-crafted entries, drawing in listeners with the often captivating first lines and fully conveying Davis’s passion for each title. Davis’s performance of the introduction and afterword is also engaging.
VERDICT Anyone looking to revisit classics or broaden their reading interests will treasure Ojo’s and Nixon’s brilliant performances and Davis’s curated list of outstanding short fiction.
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