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Tenth of December

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  25,893 ratings  ·  4,026 reviews
A new story collection, the first in six years, from one of our greatest living writers, MacArthur "genius grant" recipient and New Yorker contributor George Saunders.

George Saunders, one of our most important writers, is back with a masterful, deeply felt collection that takes his literary powers to a new level. In a recent interview, when asked how he saw the role of the
Hardcover, 251 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Random House (first published 2013)
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Jason Murphy I'd say there are three recurring themes: fear, technology and hope

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Reading short story collections in one sitting is ill-advised, particularly when they can be as emotionally coals-rakey as Saunders can be. However, there's a certain cloudy state my head can fall in from time to time where he is one of the only voices out there that doesn't make me feel condescended, and can make me laugh despite myself. You know how it is when your brain refuses to be pleased, where you for no good reason just pout like a grade-schooler who doesn't like her birthday present, a ...more
the level of genius ain't sufficient to disguise the fact that most of these stories lack heart*. consider DFW and maureen mchugh, both of whom paint with roughly the same palette -- y'know, the pomo'ey, quirky, capitalism & consumerism, blahblahstuff-white-people-like-etcetcetc** -- but whose stories feel not only topical and cultural-critiquey but also weighty and alive. saunders seems in love with an idea and kind of schematically lays it out as if a mere essay in the short, quirky fictio ...more

The first and last stories in this book are, I think, masterpieces, and affected me more than I would have thought possible-- they're just short stories, after all. In the first one, a dreamy teenage girl is in her house, having fantasies about her own kindness and attractiveness. After only reading her narrative for a minute or two, I felt completely involved, which is uncommon in my experience of short stories. Next I was in the head of a neighbor boy, who is just coming home, the many, many
MJ Nicholls
My second foray into Saunders after a lukewarm response to Pastoralia was an unprecedented success. His writing has sharpened its teeth and mellowed its heart and toned down its comedic chutzpah and the results are staggering pieces like ‘Escape From Spiderhead,’ a short moral parable that builds to a slow, devastating climax, ‘The Semplica Girl Diaries,’ a long moral parable that unfurls creepier revelations and a deeper-rooted sadness with each page, and ‘Home,’ a medium-sized moral parable th ...more
You know those disconcerting dreams where nothing you can do will seem right; lose-lose propositions are the only ones on offer? Well George Saunders is the large deluxe pizza you ate before bed. He's the likely culprit.

I started with a comment about Saunders himself because his stories, and collections in general, are hard to review. Plot summaries don’t really work because there are too many of them. Unifying themes aren’t always easy to come by either. Even if there are common threads, they’
It's aggravating when all the critics turn out to be right and us readers just feel like we're trooping along behind them baa-ing and bleating obediently George Saunders go-o-o-o-d, Dan Brown ba-a-a-a-d. The cover of this book is festooned like a Chrismas tree with blurby simperings from Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Jon McGregor and o, yes, Thomas Pynchon. I guess after that lot they couldn't be bothered to call up Philip Roth, Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. I bet those three ...more
I like reading short stories but I hate writing about them. A short story is so fleeting and ephemeral -- it's like trying to describe a cloud.

This collection of 10 short stories by George Saunders is especially difficult and elusive. His writing is rich and visual, but there is always danger lurking for each character. I had to take a pause break after finishing each story because I felt so unsettled.

My favorite stories were "Victory Lap," which involved two high school students and a traumatic
One of the stories in this collection features experimental drugs that can enhance someone’s verbal ability to describe an event. I feel like I could use a few doses of that stuff to help me review this book because I’m struggling to articulate what I found so good about it.

At a basic level, there are ten short stories that reminded me somewhat of Kurt Vonnegut because Saunders uses sci-fi concepts and humor in several of them to depict various aspects of human nature, but this has some nastier
Natalie Tyler
Saunders is not for me; he is cut from a cloth that I cannot comfortably wear. I would categorize him with Pynchon, Eggers, Donald Barthelme, de Lillo, David Foster Wallace, Thom Jones, and Ward Just. I just cannot get along with these authors, just like I cannot get along with certain types of music. I can search for a sentence or two that is remarkable but I just cannot go with their flow.

I like so many authors and there are so many books that I will never read because I will have died first,
when did george saunders become so well known? i don't mean that to sound snarky - i am honestly astonished (and delighted) by the lavish attention tenth of december has been getting. i count george saunders high on my list of favorite living authors, but for the longest time i labored under the apparently woefully misguided assumption that he was unjustly unknown and unfeted (despite his regular appearances in the new yorker et al.). i was all set to write a magnum opus of a goodreads review in ...more
Three stars???

You gave the Adam Levin short story collection five stars, and this three stars?


Someone could probably successfully argue me out of this opinion, but there was a feeling that too many of the stories in this collection were not substantial enough. Maybe it is that it has been so long since his last collection was released that I felt there should be something more here. I did like all of the stories, none of them were groan worthy but none of them really stood out either. Mayb
It is quite something to come across a writer of versatility and skill who doesn’t figure (now that they have your ear—you bought the book, didn’t you?) they will add more than they need just because they can. This is a slim volume of stories that all of us should have--to read, to cherish, and to share. Saunders has a distinct voice that reveals us as we are now. We may say that his stories do not have the language of the old masters, but they have the language we use, with more kindness, gener ...more
I wanted to like this one more than I did. I had never heard of the author until a friend recommended him; I then found his name popping up a lot as I read this collection. Saunders is a current literary darling, specializing in short stories, and has been generally very well-received.

Tenth of December is a collection of ten short stories. Length varies dramatically, from a couple of pages to much longer. Saunders has been praised for his style; initially I took it to be a conceit of one of his
George Saunders is aiming high with this book. I appreciate the ambition. For me, this collection doesn't resonate, though. I could be mean and say something like "Intentionally Ugly Writing + Theme Park Ethos = Six Flags Realism" but that would be off target and stupid. This is a sincere effort by a talented short story writer. But it's just not at the same level as the best. There have been people who have mined this minimalist approach with more intelligence. Raymond Carver and Frederick Bart ...more
When this book was released in January of this year I heard that one reviewer proclaimed it the "best book of the year." I guess there's some wisdom in some circumstances to not have very high expectations, like when anticipating the accomplishments of the latest election winnners, but certainly the contemporary publishing industry in this country and world is still turning out enough remarkable writing, that we can at least be hopeful throughout the year.

Unfortunately this is not one of those
3 and 1/2 stars

Short story collections are generally a mixed grab bag, but this one seems particularly so, especially for someone like me who is not drawn to what I take to be Saunders' usual style (this is my first reading of him). The stories range from the heartfelt to the cold and smug: I loved the former and found the latter off-putting.

A quick look at my updates will reveal that I liked more of the stories than I disliked. There were a couple I loved, but of a couple I felt the emperor was
Kate Sylvan
First Gent--Did you hear the New York Times has a TOTAL CRUSH on Tenth of December?
Second Gent--WHAAAAAT the Times never gets crushes on anyone! It's like an ice creature!
First Gent--Yep. They were practically making out in the hallway the other day. The Times was ALL OVER ToD. I mean it was kind of GROSS.
Second Gent--[faintly] Fan me.


Oh my goodness. George Saunders is one of those writers who are so damn good it's awkward trying to praise them. You need a S
Stephen M
Having just finished these stories & vowing not to be 1 of those reviewers who writes like the writer, wanted to write a few things anyway. Like 1, that he has characters that do the wildest stuff.
Who is George Saunders? Just an academic type or really good. That’s for you to decide. Fell asleep reading many times. That’s how good. Once woke up thinking that two Dwarves were performing coitus outside my window (!) but just cicadas. Always cicadas.
Reminds me. Need to get screen-in por
Jr Bacdayan
There are small cracks in life which go unnoticed or avoided by the general lot of humanity. Little crevices that are perfect mixtures of bliss and sorrow, wunderkinds that jolt one into a sense of appreciation, bewilderment, wonder at this thing called life. George Saunders’ collection of stories delves into these wells to produce emotions from the very depths of being. His stories show the good in places where we fail to find it, stories of compassion to people who we condemn, stories of the u ...more
In late 2004 I was reading an older issue of The Believer and came across Ryan Bartelmay's interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Prior to the interview they agreed to talk about some of their favorite books (PSH at that time was reading Capote's works in preparation for what would be his Oscar winning portrayal of the author); Bartelmay had The Believer send Hoffman a copy of Saunders' Pastoralia as a possible discussion topic. During the interview, the two of them start discussing, and laughin ...more
Short version: It's not so funny anymore.

The shit lives Saunders portrays, at the mercy of corporations and technologies, are too familiar, too plausible, too full of unrelieved pain. And the weird, clipped, bureaucratic diction he employs—to demonstrate that even our language itself is trapped in these inhuman boxes—is mostly painful to take in, and when it's funny it's uncomfortable because we're trying to laugh at boxes we're inside too.

Times have changed since CivilWarLand in Bad Decline; Sa
This is the first Saunders book I've read, and given the amount of hype his name has generated in the literary community as of late I was really looking forward to delving into his world. Honestly though, I didn't care for this selection of short stories. 'Victory Lap' was okay...decent enough to re-read, even. But it just went downhill from there. Towards the end of the book I found that I was forcing myself to finish the book just for the sake of finishing the book. I had grown tired of his, w ...more
I fully expected to be disappointed by this book. I mean, all the praise, the endless interviews on NPR, the blurbs in seemingly every magazine and newspaper. And it doesn't help that when you hear Saunders being interviewed, he's so self deprecating, and dang it, sweet sounding. I couldn't help but think - this is just all too much.

But then I read the book. Saunders' fictional world is distinct from the real world. Society's flaws are exaggerated almost to - but not quite reaching - the absurd,
This collection is like reading the tandem effort of Chekhov's compassion and Twain's funnybone in trying to wrap around the lives of Raymond Carver's characters. Laughed out loud several times per story; always something to be grateful for. The compassion and the humor, though, tend to feel somewhat programmatic, as if he were trying too hard, possibly a consequence of the repetition of themes or tropes in the collection. Very good book though, despite the crazy hype.
Me: Okay but I don' stories. Like at all.

Book: Dude that is totally fine but just read like the first one.

Me: fine

Book: I STAB you in the face with my awesome!!

Me: ..!



Book: How about this last story?!

Me: shh I am having feelings
I had the strange feeling that I had already read these stories before. The style and themes are repeated ostenato and crescendo. Theme parks, indignation, unreality, consumerism, corporatism, drugs, the decline of the family and so on.

This is not entirely a bad thing, as Saunders is by no means a bad writer, and these stories are still well-crafted. He still has a talent for the grotesquely real, from the Semplica girls story to the chilling human drug experiments (see the little girls swaying
Emily Simpson
I was honestly torn as to whether or not this new Saunders volume deserved a perfect rating (since there's nothing wholly revolutionary about it), but because it lived up to the quality and scope of CivilWarLand, I threw down the fiver.

In short, this is another lovely collection of Saundersian proportion, albeit one that doesn't flex any great muscle past his existing work, in terms of voice, style, and subject matter. That said, as with his previous works, I found myself laughing or tearing up
Karolyn Sherwood
This book, TENTH OF DECEMBER, by George Saunders, makes me want to reduce every other book I've ever rated down one star. Because to give this book Five Stars, along with the twenty or so other books that I have given Five Stars, just isn't fair.

This book proves that it's possible for ME to LIKE short story collections written by white, middle-aged American men. (See previous reviews for Hemingway, Diaz, Denis Johnson, JD Salinger.) Saunders is able to do in a few pages what most authors will ne
Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else]
AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: I'm loathe to review this book, as I listened to the audio over a period of a few weeks, while cooking. The problem with this for me is that all the stories are read in the same voice. George Saunders reads them all in a very similar way, making it really difficult to get a sense of the individual voices across stories, and even within them. I had a lot of trouble figuring out which story it was on, and who was speaking at any one time. Some of the stories seem as if they could ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I was lucky to score a review copy of the audio of these stories from Random House (you can listen to a 4 minute excerpt on their website). The stories are read by the author, which I really love hearing in his voice. He has a somewhat dry tone that lends well the simultaneous whimsy and morbidity that are found in his stories. I have read several volumes of Saunders' short stories, and this combination of light with dark is his style, but he is able to make it fresh with each new story.

The Semp
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George Saunders was born December 2, 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago. In 1981 he received a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. He worked at Radian International, an environmental engineering firm in Rochester, NY as a technical writer and geophysical engineer from 1989 to 1996. He has also worked in Sumatra on an oil exploration geophysi ...more
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“Why were we put here, so inclined to love, when end of our story = death? That harsh. That cruel. Do not like.” 18 likes
“It was that impossible thing: happiness that does not wilt to reveal the thin shoots of some new desire rising from within it.” 17 likes
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