Past Tense

Getting Through Reading Slumps with Short Stories

Where oh where did January go? I feel like 2023 just started yesterday. Nonetheless, we’re moving into February now, and it’s time to recalibrate for a whole new month of reading. Personally, I’m happy for that since January was not a particularly good reading month for me.

And with only a few weeks left until Valentine’s Day, be sure to check out Book Riot’s Tailored Book Recommendations for your bookish sweetheart. Our host of professional book nerds will take a look at what your sweetheart loves to read and what they don’t, what their reading goals are, and what they need more of in their bookish life. Then, our Bibliologists go to work selecting books just for them. TBR has plans for every budget. Surprise your favorite book nerd with Tailored Book Recommendations this Valentine’s and visit

Bookish Goods

Librarians "Saving Your Ass since 300 BCE" Black and Gold Enamel Pin

Librarians Enamel Pin by LibraryCatDesigns

Show your support for librarians with this cheeky enamel pin from Library Cat Designs on Etsy. $12

New Releases

Night Angels Book Cover

Night Angels by Weina Dai Randel (February 1, 2023)

The American wife of the consul general of China is beginning to feel uneasy with the growing wave of Nazi sentiment at their posting in Vienna. And when Grace forms a friendship with a Jewish tutor, Dr. Ho initially tells her to keep her distance. But when Lola and her family are subjected to a brutal pogrom, he begins issuing Shanghai visas to the Jewish population of Shanghai, helping them escape when violence explodes after Kristallnacht. Night Angels is based on the true story of the diplomat and his wife who helped Viennese Jews escape the Nazis.

Skull Water Book Cover

Skull Water by Heinz Insu Fenkl (February 7, 2023)

The son of a Korean mother and GI father growing up near an army base in the aftermath of the Vietnam War searches for an elusive cure for his uncle’s gangrenous foot. But as Insu dives deeper into Korean folklore and Buddhist teachings, South Korea is changing and modernizing in ways he struggles to keep up with. And Big Uncle attempts to teach him that there is more to life than just what we see and know.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

January was not particularly good for my reading. I’m not going to give you a number because I know a bad reading month for a professional reader for me might still be a really good reading month for somebody else. Nonetheless it’s not a good feeling. Reading slumps are a double whammy when you read for work because being in a slump is bad both for both work and leisure.

But the one thing that’s become a shining light in the last few weeks is short story collections. For whatever reason — maybe because I’m able to read them in short, independent chunks — the only two books I’ve managed to finish in the last couple of weeks are short story collections. So for anyone else struggling to get into their reading groove this year, here are a few historical short story collections and anthologies to try out.

Stories from Suffragette City Book Cover

Stories from Suffragette City, edited by M.J. Rose and Fiona Davis

This collection of short stories from celebrated writers all take place on the same day: October 23, 1915. Over a million women marched on that day for the right to vote in New York City, and these stories take a peek into their lives and experiences, portraying a vast and varied array of women.

Astray Book Cover

Astray by Emma Donoghue

I talked about Emma Donoghue’s fiction last week and here we are again, because she has a collection of historical short fiction perfect for anyone looking for bite sized stories of the past. From gold miners to counterfeiters and attorneys, the characters in Astray explore centuries of wanderers and wandering across North America and beyond.

That’s it for now, folx! Stay subscribed for more stories of yesteryear.

If you want to talk books (historical or otherwise), you can find me @rachelsbrittain on Instagram, Goodreads, Litsy, and occasionally Twitter.

Right now I’m reading Tower by Bae Myung-hoon. What about you?