“Life is very short.” —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
Vintage Books and Anchor Books are pleased to announce Vintage Shorts, a program that presents timely reading from enduring classics as well as exciting original works from contemporary voices—exclusively available as eBooks.
The exciting initial offering includes a wide range of work that spans form and genre—from short stories to nonfiction pieces. Sample prose from masters such as Lorrie Moore and Margaret Atwood. Experience history in Robert Caro’s brilliant account of the Kennedy assassination, and, in time for the World War I centenary, enhance your understanding of the Great War with John Keegan’s How War Begins. Read never-before-published pieces such as Chimamanda Adichie’s explosive essay on feminism and Alexander McCall Smith’s delightful novella about an American tourist’s comical trip to Ireland.
In a world where different types of media incessantly vie for our attention, Vintage Shorts provide a selection of great reading that you can enjoy anywhere—in any amount of time.
Browse a calendar of the complete offerings from Vintage Shorts’s celebration of Short Story Month: May 2015, including originals by Maeve Binchy, Hari Kunzru, Carrie Brown, Alexander McCall Smith, and Patricio Pron.
Killing O’Reilly by Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman | American Hunger by Eli Saslow | Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith | We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Last Days of the Civil War: The Enormous Silence by Bruce Catton | St. Patrick: The First Missionary by Thomas Cahill | The Slogan by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich | Going Free: American POWs in WWII Philippines by Hampton Sides | Gambling by Harry Belafonte | The Would-be Father by Charles Baxter | Behind the Christmas Tree by Stephen Nissenbaum | A Market Tale by Martin Walker | Progress: A Personal Journey in Feminism by Katharine Graham | Berlin: Wall’s End by Timothy Garton Ash | The Vision by Jonathan Lethem | The Art of Snag by Zack Hample | Alive by Ha Jin | “I’ll Be There for You” by Warren Littlefield | Where Climate Is Heading by Climate Central | The Spelling Bee by Alex Kotlowitz | The Comeback by Geoffrey C. Ward | The Battle of Ap Bac by Neil Sheehan | Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood | The Outing by James Baldwin | Vissi d’Arte by Lorrie Moore | How War Begins by John Keegan | Jack Firebrace’s War by Sebastian Faulks | Waiting for a Goal by Bill Buford | Provence in Ten Easy Lessons by Peter Mayle | Dallas, November 22, 1963 by Robert Caro
A death-defying, more or less historically accurate parody of Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling Killing series, from one of the writers of the Harvard Lampoon’s Nightlight and one other red-blooded American.
Infamous conservative TV personality, newspaper columnist, and Great American Educator Bill O’Reilly has killed off Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus, and Patton in his bestselling history series. But the everyman from Levittown is hardly done: herein, Vintage Shorts presents the next batch of deaths by O’Reilly. Witness the lives and untimely ends of American heroes like Ronald Reagan and Albus Dumbledore, and villains from Hitler and bin Laden to Stewart and Colbert. God bless America and Benghazi conspiracies.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting
In this Pulitzer Prize–winning collection, Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow traveled across the country over the course of a year—from Florida and Texas to Rhode Island and Tennessee—to examine the personal and political implications and repercussions of America’s growing food stamp program.
Saslow shows us the extraordinary impact the arrival of food stamps has each month on a small town’s struggling economy, the difficult choices our representatives face in implementing this $78-billion program affecting millions of Americans, and the challenges American families, senior citizens, and children encounter every day in ensuring they have enough, and sometimes even anything to eat. These unsettling and eye-opening stories make for required reading, providing nuance and understanding to the complex matters of American poverty.
An all-new, never-before-published original short novel by the bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, about a hapless American tourist’s larger-than-life comical trip to Ireland.
Cornelius P. “Fatty” O’Leary and his wife Betty plan a vacation in Ireland for his fortieth birthday, where they will tour his ancestral homeland and relax in the countryside. Almost immediately, things go terribly wrong: the seats in economy class on the plane are too small; the country hotel’s dinner spread and bathroom fixtures leave much to be desired; and the down-to-earth O’Learys find their fellow guests are more than a little snobbish.
In this amusing and touching portrayal of a kindly and misunderstood soul, McCall Smith has created yet another memorable character who will become an instant favorite to his many fans.
What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
From the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning history A Stillness at Appomattox, an electrifying account of the end of the Civil War—Grant and Lee’s final maneuvers as four years of internecine conflict inched to a close.
“The end of the war was like the beginning, with the army marching down the open road under the spring sky.” Here is the triumphant close of Bruce Catton’s history of the Army of the Potomac, the major Union army that fought and ultimately won the war. In the spring of 1865, the war was in its endgame, as Grant broke through the defenses at Petersburg and chased Lee’s army for the final clash. Meanwhile, Lee had one final option open to him: escape to North Carolina and join up with General Joe Johnston or otherwise accept defeat. Here are the war’s final days and minutes, the race to the finish of America’s bloodiest years.
A selection from How The Irish Saved Civilization, everything you need to know about the historical St. Patrick, the extraordinary Iron Age man who became Ireland’s patron saint.
The real St. Patrick neither dressed in green nor chased the snakes from Ireland; instead, he was a kind and courageous former slave who had been stolen from Britain during childhood and brought to Ireland. Though he escaped from slavery, he later returned in triumph to the island of his captivity. From the first volume of his widely acclaimed “Hinges of History” series, Thomas Cahill brings St. Patrick to life, and sheds light on the chaotic but starkly beautiful ancient Ireland.
A selection from the admired history Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, the story of how one of feminism’s most popular slogans came to life.
In the opening paragraph of an obscure 1976 scholarly article investigating the prim and proper women celebrated in Puritan funeral sermons, Harvard professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich penned the phrase, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Since then, Ulrich’s slogan has been put on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and tote bags, in greeting cards and political speeches, entering the cultural consciousness in all sorts of unexpected ways. In “The Slogan,” Ulrich gives a brief history of her much-quoted words, and sketches out a primer on feminism today and the way it continues to make history.
From Hampton Sides’s Ghost Soldiers, a gripping narrative of World War II POWs on the brink of freedom.
The men of Cabanatuan had been held by the Japanese since the Bataan Death March, in increasingly dire circumstances. With the war turning in the Americans’ favor, the POWs worried that their captors would murder them all in the frenzy of an all-out withdrawal. Then one day in early January, 1945, the prison guards simply left.
For a brief moment the haggard survivors of Cabanatuan were given the keys to their prison, though swift death was promised to anyone who dared leave. The prisoners waited nervously, all while (unbeknownst to them) a daring raid was being planned which would result in their rescue or their end. This is Hampton Sides at his most riveting, a fitting tribute to these soldiers who would be prisoners no more.
A participant’s portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, from Harry Belafonte’s memoir of activism and entertainment, My Song.
Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 was one of the most segregated cities in America. It had segregated lunch counters, restrooms, and water fountains. It had a nickname, “Bombingham,” for the homemade bombs detonated by local Klansmen. And it had Eugene “Bull” Connor, a racist police chief with a hair-trigger temper. It was here that Dr. King and his advisers, Harry Belafonte among them, rolled the dice on an enormous action which would rejuvenate the civil rights movement.
Harry Belafonte is one of America’s greatest entertainers and also one of our most profoundly influential activists. During the 1960s he befriended MLK and began using his celebrity in support of civil rights and other social causes. This is Belafonte’s personal story of fame, performance, and a lasting friendship. From stages in Vegas to political salons in New York, to the streets of Birmingham and letters from Birmingham Jail, Belafonte gives the reader a unique view of Martin Luther King, Jr. at one of his finest moments.
From the collection Gryphon, Charles Baxter’s luminous story of caretaking under any circumstance.
Burrage never thought he’d be the responsible one. When his brother and sister-in-law die in a car accident, he becomes caretaker to his young nephew, a fragile boy who wants to know what the future will be. Burrage begins writing the boy’s horoscope—stars, trains, and hide-and-seek—until his predictions begin to fail, in a rowboat, in the middle of a lake.
Charles Baxter is one of our finest short story writers, a modern master. The Would-be Father is one of his first published short stories.
From the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Battle for Christmas, here is the story of America’s first reported Christmas tree: a tale of antislavery and radical German philosophy, a popular British travel writer and Boston Brahmin elites, the education of nineteenth-century children and candles blowing in the wind.
Now-forgotten chronicler Harriet Martineau immortalized what became known as the first American Christmas tree, set up in the house of her friend Charles Follen. But she neglected to explain what brought the two of them together in the first place: a passion for abolition. Martineau also failed to mention Follen’s convoluted path to America, from banished German radical to Harvard professor and U.S. citizen. Stephen Nissenbaum explains all in this amusing and somewhat astonishing expose of the Christmas tree, taken from his definitive and award-winning history of Christmas in America.
A charming tale from the Périgord heartland, featuring the internationally beloved Bruno, chief of police.
Between the seventeenth-century mairie and the stone bridge over the river that winds through town, the village of St. Denis hosts its weekly market, as well-stocked with local gossip as with fresh produce and pâtés. As summer blooms, the newest talk of the town is the rapport between Kati, a Swiss tourist, and Marcel, a popular stall owner whom Kati meets over his choice strawberries. None are happier than police chief Bruno to see Marcel, a young widower, interested in love again, but as his friend’s romance deepens, Bruno senses trouble in the form of Marcel’s meddlesome sister Nadette. Even as Kati begins to put down roots in St. Denis, vending her delicious baking in the market, it seems the overbearing Nadette will stop at nothing to make her feel unwelcome. When her schemes reach the limits of law, Bruno takes it upon himself to set things right.
From Katharine Graham’s Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir Personal History, a stirring narrative of how the legendary publisher of the Washington Post became a feminist.With an introduction from her granddaughter, Katharine Weymouth, publisher of the Post until 2014.
Katharine Graham was the newspaper mogul who piloted the Washington Post through the crises of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate: but first she had to overcome the harsh expectations of a male-dominated industry, and her harshest critic of all—herself. Inheriting ownership of the paper from her father, and assuming its leadership in 1963 after the death of her husband, Philip, Graham found herself the only woman in a man’s world—a world, however, that was beginning to change. From Georgetown suppers to board meetings, from The Second Sex to Gloria Steinem, this is the refreshingly honest account of how the most powerful woman in Washington came into her own.
A selection from The Magic Lantern, Timothy Garton Ash’s classic first-person history of the Revolution of ’89 and the end of the Cold War—an on-the-ground glimpse of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“In the beginning was the Wall itself.” So writes matchless chronicler and observer Timothy Garton Ash on the strange life and stranger death of the Wall that divided two worlds. Garton Ash takes the reader with him as he walks through the Wall and across no-man’s land in early November of 1989, where as recently as that February a man attempting to cross had been shot dead. But November 9 ushers in a new world. Garton Ash introduces us to the East Berliners lining up for the “greeting money” offered at banks; the newfound wanderers looking for the ferry to England; and the chaotic, intoxicating political atmosphere sweeping through the reunited city. This is a vivid and enduring picture of a defining moment in history, when a wall came tumbling down.
From Jonathan Lethem’s classic collection, Men and Cartoons, a haunting, playful story about dress-up, superheroes, Mafia, love and treachery.
“I first met the kid known as the Vision at second base, during a kickball game in the P.S. 29 gymnasium,” the narrator, Joel, explains. Decades later the Vision returns to his old Brooklyn neighborhood, no longer a young boy who dresses up in superhero costumes but a confident adult. But at a party with several mysterious visitors the Vision reveals some secrets still lingering, as the partygoers turn from party games to the uneasy weight of truth. This is an exemplary story from a modern master—poignant, witty, and entirely original.
From Zack Hample’s The Baseball, this is the definitive, always-entertaining, never-fail guide to successfully snagging baseballs at Major League games.
Luck—or hard work and skill? Zack Hample has caught more than 7,600 baseballs from the stands of 51 major league stadiums. His snags include Mike Trout’s first career home run and Barry Bonds’s 724th; the last homer hit by a Met at Shea Stadium; and a regular old Cubs-Reds contest from which Hample walked away with 36 balls. You, too, can do what Zack does, whether you’re at Opening Day batting practice or Game 7 of the World Series. From a baseball expert and skilled raconteur, The Art of Snag tells you what to wear, how to talk, where to go, and what exactly you need to do to become the (Skillful? Just plain prepared? Either way, legal) proud owner of a Major League baseball.
From one of our most celebrated contemporary writers, winner of the National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award: Ha Jin’s staggering story Alive, from the collection The Bridegroom.
Tong Guhan is a regular businessman, husband, and father, trying to find a job for his daughter and an apartment for his son in rural China. He’s next in line to be Vice Director of the cannery where he works. One morning in late July he makes the eleven hour train trip from Muji City to Taifu, to conduct business for his company that he hopes will finally lead to a promotion and the easy life. The events that follow are nothing short of astonishing, as the very earth shifts under Guhan’s feet. This is Ha Jin’s moving, strange, captivating story of an earthquake and a common man, the ties of family and the powers of circumstance: the perfect introduction to an internationally acclaimed modern master.
A behind-the-scenes look at Friends, one of the most popular TV shows of all time—a wide-ranging interview with the cast and creators, excerpted from Top of the Rock, by former NBC President of Entertainment Warren Littlefield.
It was a little show originally called Six of One, whose pilot only tested decently with audiences—but all of that would soon change. “I’ll Be There for You” presents a colorful, funny, and enlightening oral history drawn from the actors and creators of Friends. Outlining the whole history of the show, from first episode to last, including testimonials straight from the studio floor, this selection reveals the personal side of the “Shakespearean soap opera,” including how the actors dealt with fame, helped to create their roles, negotiated and grew together as one family, and (of course) how Joey became Joey.
A selection from the much-praised climate change primer Global Weirdness, written by Climate Central, the nonprofit, nonpartisan source for all things climate-related: a straightforward, unbiased, peer-reviewed, roll-up-your-sleeves practical account of what we can expect from climate change in the future.
Over the last several decades, human greenhouse gas emissions have begun to change the global climate. We know this for a fact, as we know other facts like the existence of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas; the rising levels of that C02 in the atmosphere; the rising temperatures and sea levels across the globe. But what concrete facts do we know about the future of climate change? In Where Climate Is Heading, Climate Central provides the best depiction we have of how our planet is likely to be affected by climate change over the coming years. This is a primer for the future, about what to expect in a changed world—the future of hurricanes, the movements of populations, the new normal for food supplies. Nuanced and careful, this is essential reading for every voter and citizen of Planet Earth, an unprecedented chance to peer into the future, accurately.
A selection from Alex Kotlowitz’s masterpiece of immersive reportage There Are No Children Here, the harrowing coming-of-age story of two children in Chicago’s Henry Horner Public Housing Complex. In The Spelling Bee, as Pharoah returns to school, his dreams come up against the realities of his neighborhood.
Pharoah is small of stature, has a stutter, and frequently reads at night until his eyes hurt. He has his mother’s open and generous smile, and his father’s charm and keen intellect. As he enters fourth grade, he sets a solemn goal for himself: to become a spelling bee champion. Award-winning journalist Alex Kotlowitz follows Pharoah for two years, as he tries desperately to succeed at school while navigating the perils of his devastated neighborhood, a place marked by deep need and neglect, along with unrelenting violence. For Pharoah, spelling is just the beginning. This is a dramatic and groundbreaking portrait of poverty, the story of growing up in the other America.
Franklin Roosevelt contracted polio in the summer of 1921, resulting in permanent paralysis from the waist down. One year later, he went back to work. Noted historian Geoffrey C. Ward, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Parkman Prize and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, who is himself a polio survivor, investigates the courage and character of the man who became the greatest president of the twentieth century.
The Comeback, a selection from A First-Class Temperament, the second volume in Ward’s monumental biography that began with Before the Trumpet, is the story of one extraordinary man’s struggle to regain his feet and reenter public life. Before his illness, FDR’s political future had seemed bright. He knew that pity was poison, that if the public understood the extent of his disability his career would be at an end. Roosevelt, therefore, had to teach himself the impossible: how to walk—or seem to walk—again. This is that journey, following the future president from his disastrous attempt to return to his law office to his triumphant march down the aisle at the 1924 Democratic National Convention, where, leaning on his crutches, he delivered the triumphant “Happy Warrior” speech for ill-fated presidential candidate Al Smith and was hailed as a hero. It was FDR’s new beginning.
In the opening years of the Vietnam War, a small group of American military advisors and their South Vietnamese allies were facing down the Viet Cong. The confident Americans were there to do what seemed elementary: help the South Vietnamese army defeat a ragtag guerrilla enemy. They were assured of swift success. But one officer, John Paul Vann, saw darker omens for the future—and in the Battle of Ap Bac, the Viet Cong proved him correct.
Encapsulating the great terrors, mistakes, ironies, and courageous acts of the Vietnam War, The Battle of Ap Bac recounts the clash in which the Viet Cong first won their spurs. It is an exciting, terrifying, fast-paced portrait of close-contact warfare in the rice paddies, the story of John Vann’s attempt to singlehandedly change the terms of battle and avoid the relentless killing grounds of Vietnam that lay ahead. A key selection from Neil Sheehan’s masterpiece, A Bright Shining Lie—which remains the preeminent history of the Vietnam War—it offers a prescient warning for current conflicts between powerful forces and underestimated foes.
The author of such towering novels as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, and Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood creates worlds just as vividly in her short fiction. In the title story from her acclaimed collection of linked stories Moral Disorder, Margaret Atwood takes us to the farm.
Newly arrived city slickers, like Nell and Tig, shouldn’t have animals; a notion corroborated by the true farmers down the road: for them, livestock would mean dead stock. But Tig’s two boys will be at the farm on weekends, and it would be good for them to know where their food comes from. First come the chickens, then the ducks; before Nell knows it the cows have arrived, too. And soon Nell finds herself becoming a different woman than she ever thought she might be.
The New York Times notes that “The tremendous imaginative power of [Atwood’s] fiction allows us to believe that anything is possible”—this applies as much to her fantastically imagined worlds as it does to the life of a family in the countryside.
In James Baldwin’s classic short story, The Outing, from Going to Meet the Man, a Harlem church group escapes the city for a summer day-trip of prayer and, more importantly, romance.
Every summer, the Harlem Mount of Olives Pentecostal Assembly gives an outing, around the Fourth of July. There is boating, testifying, and illicit steps towards young love. Delving deeply into the church community he would depict in Go Tell It On The Mountain, this is Baldwin at his most compassionate, investigating the sexual ambivalence and towering religion of a group of young children on their way up the Hudson. The Outing is the perfect introduction to an American master.
A classic Lorrie Moore story from her beloved collection Like Life, Vissi d’Arte is funny, bright, a little sad, biting: a brokenhearted love song to art and New York City.
Harry is a playwright who lives in Times Square. His bathroom floods; his surgeon girlfriend has left for the Upper West Side; and trucks have started idling outside his window at nighttime, where the hookers had always been. He is the type of man who lives for art, and someday his majestic, monumental, unfinished play will come rushing out of his head. Here is the perfect introduction to a much imitated, but never eclipsed, true American voice. In the words of The Plain Dealer, “There’s no other writer quite like Lorrie Moore.”
From the dean of modern military historians, John Keegan: a key selection from his masterpiece, The First World War. The road to World War I, from the death of the archduke to the first salvos of battle, an incredibly thorough and straightforward account of how a supposedly rational liberal Europe became engulfed by war.
Everyone remembers the powder keg, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife by Serbian national Gavrilo Princip; but what about the fact that a full month elapsed between Princip’s deed and the actual beginning of war? Or that the German Kaiser spent much of that time on his imperial yacht Hohenzollern, on his annual cruise in the Norwegian fjords? John Keegan explains in careful and fascinating detail how exactly the war began, taking the reader through this fateful and exciting month of diplomatic back and forth, last-minute near-saves, and ultimate failure.
A dispatch from the underground world of Birdsong, a story of love and World War I.
In a stagnant war of trenches and barbed wire, there is one final desperate front: underground. Jack Firebrace is part of an elite group of British tunnellers, miners by profession, without the military training of infantry but facing unfathomable dangers just the same, forty-five feet underground with several hundred thousand tons of France above their heads.
Birdsong, published to international critical and popular acclaim, has become the canonical novel of romance and devastating violence in World War I. In this selection, we are introduced to Jack Firebrace, one of the novel’s central characters, and are given an unforgettable portrait of the lives of soldiers in an unimaginable position.
A selection from the beloved bestseller Among the Thugs, Waiting for a Goal pinpoints the actual soccer amid the rampant hooliganism.
They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin’ Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs, and themselves. Their dislikes encompass the rest of the known universe, and England’s soccer thugs express their feelings in ways that range from petty vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities. And for nearly a decade, from World Cups to beer halls, Bill Buford was one of them.
Among the Thugs is the terrifying, definitive account of football hooliganism, a hall of fame sports book but also a paragon of immersive journalism. In Waiting for a Goal, Buford shepherds the reader into the stands, directly over the pitch, bringing the social imagination of a George Orwell and the raw personal engagement of a Hunter S. Thompson to bear on the most beautiful game there is.
No one knows Provence like beloved author Peter Mayle, and in this delightful collection—adapted from Provence A-Z: A Francophile’s Essential Handbook—he distills his decades of living in France into ten essential lessons for visitors. Abandoning the well-trodden “best of” routes that can be found in any tourist guide, Mayle highlights local features vital to an authentic Provençal experience. From ruminations on the unique charms of each season to the art of the siesta, Mayle brings the warmth and beauty of the province vividly to life. And, of course, food and wine also get their due, as Mayle expounds the merits of pastis and a good rosé, explores the mystery of traditional market shopping, and more.
Evocative and intimate, Provence in Ten Easy Lessons is charming yet practical reading for ticketed passengers and armchair travelers, alike.
This account of the Kennedy assassination (“the most riveting ever,” says The New York Times) is taken from Robert A. Caro’s brilliant and best-selling The Passage of Power.
Here is that tragic day in Dallas alive with startling details reported for the first time by the two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning author. Just as scandals that might end his career are about to break over Lyndon Johnson’s head, the motorcade containing the presidential party is making its slow and triumphant way along the streets of Dallas. In Caro’s breathtakingly vivid narrative, we witness the shots, the procession speeding to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the moment when Kennedy aide Lawrence O’Donnell tells Johnson “He’s gone,” and Johnson’s iconic swearing in on Air Force One. Compelling.