Short story collections, personal essays, memoirs and historical fiction often move at a pace that allows for quiet contemplation.
1. Honeydew by Edith Pearlman
Pearlman writes quiet stories about the blips of tumult . She's been writing short stories -- and only short stories -- for decades, chronicling the lives of earnest blue collar workers and whimsical academics. Most of the stories are set in her native Massachusetts; all of them reveal something tender and universal about everyday life.
2. Fools by Joan Silber
Each story in Fools confronts the question: What makes an action foolish, as opposed to brave? And when is it better to be foolish, as opposed to steadfast in our established beliefs?
3. Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny
Katherine Heiny writes stories that quietly highlight the dramas of dating life, from teenagehood through adulthood. Heiny writes about both lovers growing estranged through social media, and young girls learning about the power of their own sexualities, with wry humor.
4. When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne In When I Was a Child I Read Books, Robinson fluidly contemplates significance of community and the power of the individual. You don't have to be a religious thinker to find beauty in Robinson's poetic musings.
5. The Double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck
Lily Tuck's latest novel isn't exactly a memoir, but it sits somewhere between novel and autobiography, blurring the lines between related memory and imagined possible scenarios. Like Tuck, heroine Liliane's parents divorced when she was young, wreaking personal havoc that mirrored the tragedies unfolding in Europe at the same time.
6. Neverhome by Laird Hunt
Hunt tells his story about a woman disguised as a male solider through letters. The story is loosely based on a bundle of letters Hunt stumbled upon written by a real undercover female soldier and is a smart work of historical fiction that encourages contemplation.
7. Infinite Home by Kathleen Alcott
Protagonist Edith has built a happy family of her own among her tenants -- until she gets slammed with potential eviction as her mind begins to worsen. The unsteady state of their home and their landlady forges an even closer bond between the housemates in this lyrical meditation on what really makes up a family.
8. Here by Richard McGuire
This book is a heartwarming time capsule, and fluid look at the way our interior lives have evolved, and how they've remained the same.
9. The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits
The Folded Clock is a Diary, a collection of musings written offhandedly each day by its author. It's been scrubbed of identifying details, but otherwise remains a deeply personal collection of thoughts about motherhood, language, and what success really means.
10. Can't and Won't by Lydia Davis
Davis' stories are quick, dreamy snapshots of a mood or a sentiment, and they take the shape of the idle thoughts that make up most of our days. Davis's spare language is comforting and digestible, but leaves ample room for contemplation and imagination, too.