A Book of Short Stories or Essays: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020

August 28, 2020 | Jennifer B

Comments (3)


I love a good novel, but increasingly I've been choosing reads where I can get my comedy, insight or drama all in one sitting. If you've started and stopped a whole lot of books this year, try dipping into a collection of short stories or essays. Here's a list of excellent, relevant reads to get you started.


Intimations: Six Essays by Zadie Smith

There will be many great and awful books written about 2020. I'm glad that Zadie Smith has led the pack with this slim, deeply thoughtful and compassionate collection of lived experience.

Music lessons

Music Lessons by Bob Wiseman

Filled with clever reflections on music, improvisation, kids and just about everything else. This recently published compilation will expand both your mind and your heart. 


Staff Recommendations

These books were picked by our staff for a book of short stories or essays.

Disibility Visibility

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century. Edited by Alice Wong

This anthology is edited by Alice Wong, a disability activist and host of the Disability Visibility Project podcast. The book is made up of different kinds of first-person writing including essays, speeches, manifestos and interviews. The writers have a range of perspectives on disability with narratives that are diverse, raw, poignant, galvanizing and joyful. 

– Winona, Senior Services Specialist

Falling in love with hominids

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

I haven't read it yet, but I'm planning to read this collection of short stories by Nalo Hopkinson. Like most of Hopkinson's writing, it straddles classic science fiction (the title is a nod to SF author Cordwainer Smith), fantasy and magical realism. I expect it to be delightful.

– Wendy, Digital Content Lead

I can't date Jesus

I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

I really enjoyed this collection of personal essays that focus on Arceneaux's life, growing up as a Black Gay man in America. It is both hilarious and emotional. It's great if you're looking for a more fun leisurely read. I also highly recommend it for any Beyoncé fans out there!

– Des'Ree, Public Service Assistant

Dress your family

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

This is a hilarious collection of stories about the author's family. I read the print version, but I hear the audiobook version is even better.

– Nalini, Senior Branch Head

Why not me

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me? and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling are both great! Relatable, funny, humorous essays and personal stories.

– Katherine, Library Assistant

We are displaced

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

These stories really paint a clear picture of what it means to be displaced and how these incredibly resilient girls try to overcome their obstacles.

– Elsa, Senior Services Specialist

Out now queer we go again

Out Now: Queer We Go Again! edited by Saundra Mitchell

This collection of short stories by queer teens heavily feature romance, several are sci-fi, and some might make you tear up more than a little. My favourite story was "Seditious Teapots" by Kete Hart which is not about tea (darn!), but it is about teapots, and also about labels and the evolution of language.

– Amy, Communications Officer

Morality by design

Morality By Design: Technology's Challenge to Human Values by Wade Rowland

This incredibly accessible series of essays discusses moral philosophy in the context of modern technology. Structured as a single work, each chapter is a self-contained essay.

– Michael, Librarian

Wow no thanks

Wow, No Thank You: Essays by Samantha Irby

Any of Samantha Irby's books! I've only read Wow, No Thank You, but laughed so hard. I'm sure her other two are the same.

– Maddie, Senior Library Assistant


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the fantastic recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2020 discussion group. Thank you for sharing!


What did you read for a book of short stories or essays? Do you have other recommendations? Share in the comments below!