A Guide to Being Born: Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

A Guide to Being Born: Stories

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  478 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell—an enthralling new collection that uses the world of the imagination to explore the heart of the human condition.

Major new literary talent Ramona Ausubel combines the otherworldly wisdom of her much-loved debut novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us, with the precision of the short-story form. A Guide toBeing Born is organized...more
Hardcover, 200 pages
Published May 2nd 2013 by Riverhead Hardcover
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,551)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Alise Wascom
The descriptions compares Ramona Ausubel's writing to Karen Russell and Aimee Bender, but I would include a heavy dose of George Saunders as well, as similarity/ possible inspiration. I would also say more Judy Budnitz or Kelly Link than Karen Russell, but I think that's just because Russell is a more familiar name.

Regardless, Ausubel's writing ultimately can only be compared to Ramona Ausubel. The stories here are weighty, original, surprising, and crafted beautifully right down to sentence le...more
Rachel Aloise
At the flick of a page these stories can morph from the weird and wondrous to truths, raw and unflinching. I was moved to near tears more than once. Ausubel's prose is beautifully balanced as drops of magical realism are distilled into emotionally gripping tales. I readily suspended disbelief at the growth of love-arms in the evocative 'Tributaries'or other anatomical oddities in the devastating'Poppyseed'. Only a couple of stories failed to affect me in the same way-hence the four stars- but th...more
Maya Lang
Beautifully written, lush stories that are sobering, heart-breaking, mesmerizing, shocking. Two of my favorite things: 1) I was full of admiration for the author's ability to connect micro and macro. A small detail lingers and becomes a moment, but without being overdone (often, the sentences are perfect). You feel the whole world of the story contained in a moment between two characters or in an observation, but the "big picture," the macro, is never neglected. Each story feels perfectly balanc...more
Hayley DeRoche
Belated review since I had to find this quote from a professor giving a speech to sleeping faculty in a darkened auditorium, except it's really just a sad little speech to his dead wife. Which sounds morbid and contrite when I explain it that way, but the story itself is actually quite quietly luminous.

" 'I have been weeding around the Johnny-jump-ups and watering the apricot tree. Yesterday the poppies were looking droopy, so I gave them extra water and they perked right up. It was amazing how...more
I liked this, but it never tipped over into love. Not quite sure why. It had everything I liked - poetic prose, just enough magic realism to thrill me, beautiful language. It just didn't move me like I wanted it to. (I think this might be because I'm still under the spell of Safe as Houses and for a while nothing will be able to live up.)

The stories were, for the most part, quite lovely, however. The grandmothers crowded on the boat in "Safe Passage." The parents longing for their child to both...more
Aidan Watson-Morris
1001 books you HAVE to read before you're born: a brilliant collection of brilliant stories reminiscent of a more magical amy hempel but really incomparable to any other author. ausubel's writing cuts like a knife without ever making its presence felt.
Copy received through Goodreads’ First Reads program.

It must be difficult to be a writer with any sort of a fabulist/surrealist/magical/fantastical bent these days, as reviews of your work are pretty much just countdowns to a lazy reference to Karen Russell. The back of this book saves reviewers that trouble by describing these stories as “[r]eminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell,” and these stories certainly have a strong fantasy element that should appeal to Russell’s fans. However, fo...more
Timothy O'Donnell
I have given myself several days to digest this collection of short fiction by Ramona Ausubel. I'm not one for reviews but I wanted to say something because this book made me do something I've never done before when reading a story.

There is a moment in one of the stories (I won't name it, you'll have to read for yourself) where I audibly gasped. The air in my lungs vanished. My heart sank. It sounds hyperbolic but I was literally heartbroken for a split second. Then the story resolved in a way w...more
This was a collection of short stories which makes it hard to assign a star rating. Some stories were 4 stars, some were 2, and one I would give a 5. So, three stars seemed the most fair. Warning - these stories are very odd. Few of them were completely grounded in reality, and some were so strange, I felt like I was constantly saying, "What?!" For example, in one story, a man who is a little obsessed with and overwhelmed by his wife's pregnancy wakes up to find he has grown a set of small drawe...more
You CAN judge a book by its cover. Perhaps that's not fair to Ausubel, whose book stands on merits far beyond its colorful, fantastic cover. But that's what first attracted me to this book, and happily, the contents within proved to be every bit as fantastic and engaging.

I was enchanted by the opening tale of a ship carrying a cargo of puzzled grandmothers. Where were they? How had they gotten there? Where were they going? The dream haze of the story slowly clears as one of the grandmothers reco...more
Ausubel has birthed a thing of rare beauty with this one.

Whether by making anthropomorphic idioms literal à la magical realism or contrasting ordinary folks with the extraordinary-but-possible, each of these stories embody what it means to be human in the here and now and hear the sound of the universe affirming one's every breath.

Definitely worth your time. Minus one star due to some of the stories being less stellar than the rest, but the good ones make this book worth picking up.
Full Stop
Jun 10, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: spring-2013

Review by Emily Oppenheimer

All personal and social histories are informed by differing understandings of time and life cycle. In secular western communities, for example, we tend to speak about our lives as beginning on one specific date (our birthday) and ending on another: the day our bodies finally “give up the ghost.” But in other cultures, an individual’s story may begin with a creation myth or the birth of their grandparents. It may begin the moment...more
Andrew Pagano
I want to drop this off at your house. I'll leave it in the mailbox if you're not home. Haven't been so excited about a new author in years.

I bought this book after reading Ausubel's story "You Can Find Love Now," which was about a cyclops creating an honest online dating profile. Many of the stories in this collection similarly blend the fantastic with the every day. Also, they are insanely bizarre.

In "Poppyseed," the father of a developmentally and physically disabled girl gets a job writing...more
My brother picked this book out for me based on my liking of short stories (particularly Jhumpa Lahiri). I give it an overall 4, but I thought the collection was somewhat inconsistent. I really enjoyed "Safe Passage", because though it was a little bit fantastical - the fact that it was unclear if the woman was dead/dying/dreaming made the fantasy make sense in the context of the story, and I just really loved it. I also really enjoyed "Poppyseed". I felt like it really exposed the love the pare...more
i seriously only read this because the author is named ramona & my daughter is named ramona, & the title of the book is "a guide to being born," & my daughter was...you know. born. dumb, i know. i'm just trying to walk you through my thought process here. plus i think i read a good review of her most recent novel in "the new yorker", maybe?

this was a collection of short stories. kind of aimee bender-ish, in terms of fantastical things happening, like a man growing a chest of drawers...more
Sage Passage: 5/5
Poppyseed: 5/5
Atria: 5/5
Chest of Drawers: 5/5
Welcome to Your Life and Congratulations: 5/5
Catch and Release: 5/5
Saver: 4/5
Snow Remote: 4/5
The Ages: 4.5/5
Magniloquence: 4/5
Tributaries: 4.5/5
I wavered between giving 4 and 5 stars. I love short stories and these really grabbed my attention. But I had to go with 5 stars simply for the first story alone - it was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes.
Kivrin Engle
Well-crafted stories, both heartfelt & humanistic, surreal & surprising. Ramona Ausubel sits at the same fabulist fiction table with my other favorites of this genre: Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, and Karen Russell.
Laura Mcgee
Absolutely fantastic collection of short stories, in which I experienced a myriad of emotions! Great read, loved it!
I won this through the Goodreads First read program. Thanks!!
A Guide to Being Born: Stories is a surprisingly refreshing collection of smart, dreamy stories. I was three stories in when I ordered Ausubel's novel. I haven't read writing like this in a long time. The closest I can think to compare her style to is that of Judy Budnitz (although Budnitz tends to be harsher, using hard images). Very, very enjoyable. I know I will remember some of these stories for a long time. I'm still kind of enthralled with the first one, Safe Passage, and that wasn't even...more
This was an interesting collection of short stories and like most collections a mixed bag. There were some that I loved that were full of whimsy and so unbelievable but yet an amazingly creative idea that would be awesome if it were true- growing arms for each love you experience for example or the girl who was pregnant and completely convinced that what she was growing was not human at all. Then there were some that left me wondering what was the point. I would recommend this to anyone even tho...more
Apr 12, 2014 Abby added it
I am looking down the page of Goodreads reviews at female name after female name. Which is somewhat confusing. The title doesn't rule out any reader I can think of.

Ausubel titles her sections "birth," "gestation," "conception," "love," in that order. These are body stories, because the birth process is about the most physical thing that can possibly happen to a person, but also because Ausubel takes all the feelings and turns them into physicalities. In some ways this book is exactly what you wo...more
*Really 3.5 stars.
"The bench looks out at the horizon, that line drawn by the eye to make an ending where there is not one" (3).
"The sea was a flat sheet going on until it couldn't anymore, until the sky pinned it down" (9).
“I read the newspaper and found out about more of the continued misery” (29).
“In her mind, was she riding on the back of a zebra over a stretch of land so vast it would be days before she encountered someone who corrected her story, made her put her seat belt on, bribed her t...more
Jaclyn Michelle

I received my copy of A Guide to Being Born back in April, and I am KICKING myself it took me so long to crack it open. Ramona Ausubel’s collection of thematically linked short stories is delightfully bizarre and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Each piece was distinct and struck its own unique chord, yet cohesive with the rest of the collection. Hauntingly, achingly beautiful, these stories stayed with me long after I finished the final page. A few of my f...more
Jenny Shank
A world of hunger and desire: A Review of Ramona Ausubel's "A Guide to Being Born"
REVIEW - From the September 02, 2013 High Country News issue

Ramona Ausubel writes experimental literary fiction that isn't chilly. Often when innovations in form and plot are a writer's main aim, emotion and humanity are neglected. But each of the stories in Ausubel's collection A Guide to Being Born has heart and characters worth rooting for, no matter how improbable their s...more
Mar 30, 2013 Jen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013, arc
This book of short stories is interesting, well-written, and is very imaginative.
In the first story we find grandmothers who have found themselves suddenly on a ship in the middle of the ocean. With no one else on the ship. This story focuses on one grandmother over the others and how she views the rest of them and they all deal with what has happened.
There is another story about a professor who recently lost his wife. Now he is trying to find his place in the world without her there to help h...more
Jade McDonough
This is a beautiful and strange collection of stories that revolve around the premise of "being born". Stories are broken up into the sections: Birth, Gestation, Conception, Love. Which (in case you don't realize it at a glance) is pregnancy backward. This collection runs the entire emotional rainbow, but tends to be at it's best when love and loss are the topics. (This view, by the by, is completely unsurprising from me. Love and loss are the basis for most of the amazing stories and books I've...more
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2013-reads
I never wrote my thoughts on reading this book, but in coming across this quote from an interview Ausubel gave, I was reminded of how I responded to the first 3 stories in this collection:
There are lots of conversations in the world about writing which focus on the benefit of the reader and what works for him or her, and of course all writers should care about that, but at the same time, the magic act of making something out of nothing is happening in the writer’s head, and it’s that brain that
A Guide to Being Born: Stories are a group of short stories that are divided into four parts: Birth, Gestation, Conception, and Love. They are the trippiest and metaphorical bunch of short stories I've ever read. However, they were really good. I loved Ramona Ausubel's prose. She had a psychedelic way of writing.

My favorites were Atria and Saver. Atria is about a young girl who, after being raped, believes she's going to give birth to a cacophony of animals. I believe it was an extreme reaction...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 85 86 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • We Others: New and Selected Stories
  • I Want to Show You More
  • The Color Master: Stories
  • The Isle of Youth: Stories
  • The Fun Parts
  • Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
  • Battleborn
  • The Miniature Wife and Other Stories
  • Damage Control: Stories
  • The Beautiful Indifference: Stories
  • Monstress
  • Spectacle: Stories
  • Bobcat and Other Stories
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories
  • Children are Diamonds
  • Nothing Gold Can Stay
  • Museum of the Weird
  • The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories
Ramona Ausubel grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, forthcoming from Riverhead Books in 2012, with the collection of short stories A Guide to Being Born to follow. She holds an MFA from the University of California, Irvine where she won the Glenn Schaeffer Award in Fiction and served as editor of Faultline Journal of Art & Literature....more
More about Ramona Ausubel...
No One is Here Except All of Us Tributaries (Electric Literature's Recommended Reading) You Can Find Love Now The New Yorker: Summer Fiction 2014

Share This Book

“You must have come from very far down," Alice says to the fish, "to have your own lantern.” 1 likes
More quotes…