Jane Ciabattari

Jane Ciabattari is the author of the short-story collections Stealing The Fire and California Tales. Her reviews, interviews, and cultural reporting have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Daily Beast, the Paris Review, the Boston Globe, The Guardian, Bookforum, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and BBC.com among others. She is a current vice president/online and former president of the National Book Critics Circle.

Colum McCann's first story collection since his novel Let the Great World Spin won the National Book Award makes it clear that his work is growing ever more textured and timely — and he has few contemporary parallels as a storyteller.

The collection's title comes from a Wallace Stevens poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." "The first is hidden high in a mahogany bookcase," McCann writes in the first sentence of the title novella. It's not a bird he's describing, but a camera, eyeing the full expanse of the bedroom where Eliot Mendelssohn lies sleeping.

Bonnie Jo Campbell burst upon the literary landscape in 2009 with a collection called American Salvage that was raw and resonant, telling stories of the Rust Belt with frankness and an infinite patience for the voices of those whose stories are often left untold. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle award. And now she's back, after a novel (Once Upon a River, an updated female Huck Finn tale) with an even stronger collection.

Like The News from Paraguay, Lily Tuck's National Book Award-winning 2004 novel, The Double Life of Liliane is a fragmented narrative, a mosaic of storytelling that is both poetic and absorbing.

The Bone Season, the first in Samantha Shannon's intoxicating urban-fantasy series set in 2059 in Scion (a dystopian version of England), ended with young Paige Mahoney escaping from a penal colony in the secret city of Oxford. Her Rephaim masters — immortals who feed upon the auras and blood of human clairvoyants like her — were in hot pursuit.

The citation for Alice Munro's 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature calls her "the master of the contemporary short story" and praises her ability to "say more in thirty words than an ordinary novel is capable of in three hundred."

Munro distills into one story the sweep of a lifetime, with all its sorrows, disappointments and glories. Her work spans the 20th century, but her focus is on ordinary people (mostly in Canada) whose responses to love, lust, seeking community and facing tragedy range from magisterial to frail to vindictive.