Ask a bookseller recommends very short stories — all about ghosts

"The Ghost Variations,” by Kevin Brockmeier.
"The Ghost Variations,” by Kevin Brockmeier.
Courtesy of Pantheon

Lia Lent of WordsWorth Books in Little Rock, Ark., recommended “The Ghost Variations,” a flash fiction collection by Kevin Brockmeier.

All the stories involve ghosts in some way, but they range from scary to funny, charming to thought-provoking. And they’re short: Many of the stories unfold in 500 words, which Lent says makes this book easy to pick up for a quick story — and hard to put down. It’s full of fascinating first-lines and clever wording that kept her reading just one more, over and over.

Here’s one opening she shared from story No. 35 "New Life, New Civilizations:"

By the 24th Century, the question had been answered definitively: transporters did not in fact convey a person, bodily, from one place to another. They killed him and replaced him with an exact duplicate. The new question was whether the copy, like the original, was endowed with a soul.

Lent said she couldn’t resist continuing after an opening paragraph like that, particularly when the story resolves in a page and a half. 

Lent also recommends a previous novel by Brockmeier, “The Brief History of the Dead,” which also has ghosts. Published in 2006, it’s about the aftermath of a pandemic. 

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