I don't read very much short fiction, as I prefer to really sink my teeth into a book and get absorbed by its world. However, if all short stories were as good as Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's collection called The Most Beautiful Book in the World, I would have to change my reading habits. These stories are exquisite, elegant, and enchanting--perfect little gems of literature that explore the nature of happiness across age, gender, and class boundaries. Each story left me with a sigh of satisfaction and contentment.
When I was on the WAMC Rountable for book discussion, I jokingly referred to Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders as "the best book you probably haven't heard of" from 2009. Not only has it been shortlisted for the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Commonwealth Award, and been named winner for the 2009 Story Prize Award, it has appeared on the Top 10 list of publications as varied as The Economist, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and Time. Yet when I handsell it to customers, they inevitably say, "Who?" This brilliant debut is a collection of interrelated stories set mostly in around the town of Lahore, Pakistan. The book takes an unflinching look at the class system, but there is also a real delicacy of detail and a rich sense of place. We get stories about servants and the wealthy, the virtuous and the wicked, young lovers and bickering siblings--and all in a direct language that speaks to both the heart and the mind.