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October Book Club: "Thirteen Ways of Looking"

Looking for a great book to fall into? Living Book Club recommends Colum McCann's "Thirteen Ways of Looking." We can't put it down!

Assistant Editor
Photography by: Bryan Gardner

Winter is coming, and soon we'll be cuddling up indoors with a plush throw and a good book. But while the leaves are still clinging to the trees, our book clubbers are soaking up our last weeks of outdoor reading. This month, we've been hanging out in the city enjoying Colum McCann's "Thirteen Ways of Looking" (Random House). This collection of short stories -- his first in more than a decade -- delivers finely drawn looks at how brief moments can have lasting effects.


You probably know McCann from his books "Let the Great World Spin" and "TransAtlantic." His ability to deep-dive into a character's point of view is what makes his stories so engrossing, and we certainly felt immersed in each character with this collection. There is a lot to take in and process, so we suggest coffee breaks in between to let it all sink in. Then tell us what you think!





In such acclaimed novels as "Let the Great World Spin" and "TransAtlantic," National Book Award–winning author Colum McCann has transfixed readers with his precision, tenderness, and authority. Now, in his first collection of short fiction in more than a decade, McCann charts the territory of chance, and the profound and intimate consequences of even our smallest moments.
“As it was, it was like being set down in the best of poems, carried into a cold landscape, blindfolded, turned around, unblindfolded, forced, then, to invent new ways of seeing.”
In the exuberant title novella, a retired judge reflects on his life’s work, unaware as he goes about his daily routines that this particular morning will be his last. In “Sh’khol,” a mother spending Christmas alone with her son confronts the unthinkable when he disappears while swimming off the coast near their home in Ireland. In “Treaty,” an elderly nun catches a snippet of a news report in which it is revealed that the man who once kidnapped and brutalized her is alive, masquerading as an agent of peace. And in “What Time Is It Now, Where You Are?” a writer constructs a story about a Marine in Afghanistan calling home on New Year’s Eve.
Deeply personal, subtly subversive, at times harrowing, and indeed funny, yet also full of comfort, "Thirteen Ways of Looking" is a striking achievement. With unsurpassed empathy for his characters and their inner lives, Colum McCann forges from their stories a profound tribute to our search for meaning and grace. The collection is a rumination on the power of storytelling in a world where language and memory can sometimes falter, but in the end do not fail us, and a contemplation of the healing power of literature.


Let us know which story gave you the most "feels." And check back for next month's pick and all book club updates!