standing Westerly Library

I suspect a prejudice against books of short stories – circulation is generally lower in comparison to full length novels. I hold myself guilty, I passed them over too. I suspected they would not be serious enough, not long enough to develop the plot or characters. Surely they would leave me hanging and I didn’t want all those transitions.  Besides, in this age of short attention spans, shouldn’t I work my way through a whole novel, to prove a point?  

One gorgeous Sunday morning, not too long ago, I absent mindedly plucked a book from my bookshelf and took it to my lawn chair, noting that I’d been meaning to read something by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s not until I’d got about thirty pages into her beautiful prose that I thought, “Hang on, this is a short story!” And so it was. UnAccustomed Earth. 

I finished the first story in one sitting, and with a sense of completion, was freed to potter about in the garden. 

Short stories are great writing, distilled. The best are powerful, elegant, concise – a perfect snapshot on a single theme. Short stories are for dipping into: for reading before lunch, or over lunch, on the beach, aloud to someone you quite like. An anthology of short stories is a quick way to find a new favorite author or to dip into literature without the sustained intellectual fight.

Some novels could do with being whittled down to short stories. Some authors are terrible windbags and I sometimes suspect padding. A short story respects your time, and comes right to the point. If you find yourself skipping the pages of a novel, you might find your solution in a short story. 

Having no time is the chief reason people stop reading. Who needs the guilt of a half-finished book? A short story is a short journey to a single place – the mini-break of the book world. It’s a way to dodge the demands of life without too big an investment.  A long novel in a busy life can feel like tyranny. For regular readers, a short story can be a nice break between larger reads, especially if you are having commitment issues. And like great guests, they don’t outstay their welcome, but their clarity can stay with you, like a favorite poem, and you may find yourself inviting them back. 

Top requested books

1. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

2. “Run Away” by Harlan Coben 

3. “The 18th Abduction” by James Patterson

4. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama 

5. “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover

6. “Redemption” by David Baldacci

7. “Someone Knows” by Lisa Scottoline

8. “Neon Prey” by John Sandford

9. “Summer of ‘69” by Elin Hilderbrand

10. “The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

Top requested movies

1. “Green Book”

2. “Mary Poppins Returns”

3. “Vice”

4. “On the Basis of Sex”

5. “The Mule”

6. “Outlander, Season 4”

7. “Aquaman”

8. “Beautiful Boy”

9. “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

10. “The Upside”

This Week

MONDAY — 10 a.m.-12 p.m., Photography in the Park – learn to take better photographs, with Wilcox Park as your backdrop! 10 a.m.-3 p.m., HealthSource RI Special Enrollment; 5:30-7 p.m., Conversation Class – for English Language Learners; 6-7:30 p.m., Adult S.A.G.A. meeting -- a discussion and support group for adults about LGBTQ+ stories and issues in books, movies, TV shows, and more; 6-7:30 p.m., Cookbook Club! – this group meets once a month, picking a different cookbook each time for members to select a recipe to prepare and bring in! Please note: registration is required every month.

TUESDAY — 5:30-7:30 p.m., Knit and Crochet Group! – a friendly knitting, crochet, needlework, and yarn craft club; 6-7:45 p.m., Sewing Social – amateur or experienced sewers are welcome! 

WEDNESDAY — 3:30-4:30 p.m., Teen S.A.G.A. meeting -- a discussion and support group for teens 12-18 about LGBTQ+ stories and issues in books, movies, TV shows, and more; 4-5:30 p.m., Swampabots Practice – ages 9-12, kids practice building and coding with lego robots; 5:30-7 p.m., Conversation Class – for English Language Learners; 6-6:45 p.m., Demystifying Meditation – Join Chris Liguori, a Davidji certified meditation teacher, to practice awareness and discuss mindful living. All are welcome.

THURSDAY — 10-11:30 a.m., Conversation Class – A free class for English Language Learners; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Chess Club – All ages and experience levels are welcome, no sign-up required; 5:30-7:30 p.m., Homework Help/Tutoring (for grades K-8) – homework help in individual subjects, done by teens; 6-7:30 p.m., Dementia Family Caregiver Support Group -- A trained former caregiver will be facilitating all group sessions. The groups will be a safe space to discuss the unique challenges of caregiving.

FRIDAY — 3:30-4:30 p.m., Teen Creative Writing – come join our writing circle for writing prompts, journaling, and snacks; 4-5:45 p.m., Shoreline Robotics Practice – For teens interested in STEM and Robotics.

SATURDAY — 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Make & Take Crafts for children! 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Westerly High School Art Exhibit Closing Reception; 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m., Adult Writers Workshop – A group-led prose writing workshop; 1-2:30 p.m., Dungeons and Dragons (Teen Led Program) – No prior experience with the game is necessary—registration is required; 1-3 p.m., Walk-In Piano Concerto – a short session for kids to learn piano basics plus an improvisational performance by Josiah Kirk, Westerly High School Senior.

Jules Belanger is a reference librarian at the Westerly Library.

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