By David Canfield
November 03, 2020 at 11:00 AM EST
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Credit: Harper; Riverhead Books

To Be a Man, by Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss was a literary star before she was 30; her third novel scored a National Book Award nomination, and her marriage to (and divorce from) fellow celebrity novelist Jonathan Safran Foer only added to her fame. Her latest short-story collection reads like a catalog of her maturation, covering years of work that delves into the mysteries of relationships and sexuality.

"Future Emergencies," first published in 2002, is set after 9/11 and depicts a New York haunted by vague warnings and mask-wearing; its resonance is chilling. The more recent "I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake" is a devastating tale of grief. In every story, tiny details and emotional acuity provide a vivid look at how life goes on.

The Office of Historical Corrections, by Danielle Evans

What makes a good short story? Danielle Evans' dynamite new collection proves a study in the form. Slices of life, each piece in Corrections captures its own mood, hums to distinct rhythms, and locates unique spaces for empathy and pain and catharsis. They're also delectably readable, propulsive accounts of loss and fear and redemption that twist with O. Henry-level glee.

Standouts include "Boys Go to Jupiter," about a white college student's ignorant spiral after a photo of her flaunting a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral; "Alcatraz," a clear-eyed foray into our incarceration crisis; and, especially, the titular novella to finish the book, a masterpiece of tension and mystery rooted in one woman's swirling investigation of a racist tragedy from the past. Though, of course, as every story here reminds, the past is never too far away.

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