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Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  3,272 ratings  ·  339 reviews
Chosen by John Updike as a Today Show Book Club Pick.

Already an award-winning writer, ZZ Packer now shares with us her debut, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident: Packer dazzles with her command of language, surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on...more
Paperback, 265 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Riverhead Trade (first published 2003)
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Nine Stories by J.D. SalingerThe Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeA Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'ConnorDubliners by James JoyceThe Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Collections of Short Stories
106th out of 1,662 books — 1,321 voters
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Badass Short Story Collections (Or So I Hear)
16th out of 242 books — 85 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 08, 2008 Nathan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nathan by: my wife
After finishing up a string of dark and heady reads, I picked this up for some light summer reading, on my wife's recommendation. We had originally picked it to read together before bed. The conversation as best I remember went something like:

Me: Oh man, that Gary Soto book of short stories for children was really funny. that's perfect reading for right before bed.
Wife: (Already scanning the bookshelves in our bedroom) Oh yeah, we should pick out something else like that. Is this David Sedaris...more
It's almost a chore to get past the praise excerpted in the first few pages of this debut story collection from 2003. Much better to simply turn to the stories themselves and make your own judgments. These are certainly accomplished short fictions, literary in the sense that their plots are asymmetical in interesting ways, many ending with codas that introduce ambiguity instead of wrapping up the drama. The subject is the African-American experience, of course, of all varieties: children, teenag...more
Jeffrey Moll
Upon picking up Drinking Coffee Elsewhere I quickly glanced over a few chapters and soon realized the gem in my hands. The dialog was the first thing that made me fall for this book while the realism behind ZZ Packer’s characterization was the second. A compiling of eight short stories this book takes on the African-American experience through the use of compelling protagonists that must keep taking on more challenges. In the title story, Dina the main character copes with her challenges by drin...more
Ugh. I spent the entire last part of this book debating in my head whether I was going to be generous and give it three stars, or be honest and stick it with two. I chose honesty.

This collection is not without its strengths: some careful writing, some witty characters. I downright enjoyed the one about the lesbians at college.

But I can't handle all the stupid main characters! Call me an idealist, but I can't imagine that even a sheltered Pentacostal Georgia girl would run off to Atlanta and, wi...more
Elizabeth Yon
I read this book of stories in one day, it is so engaging. Each story is a perfect jewel, prised from the glittering mayhem of life, held up to the light of unsentimental regard, each facet clearly shown. The characters are absolutely true to life, their situations real and immediate in a way that makes me feel that Packer lived these things and these people - if not personally, then through people she knows well. Dialogue flows believably into the reader's "ear", turns of phrase are peppery and...more
Ooh boy I am terribly behind on writing reviews. Um, what did I think of this? Well, it's a great example of why I hate short stories – when they're bad I wonder why I bothered, and when they're good I can't understand why the author only gave me such a tiny tease. The title story is the best, and "Our Lady of Peace" is great too... so why, ZZ, why? Either of those could have been novels, I'd have kept reading for lots more pages!

A couple of other thoughts:
1. By chance I got an Australian edit...more

This is one of those cases where the first story in the collection is so awesome, so perfect, so natural and funny and wise and honest that it's impossible not to expect some of that in the rest of the stories. "Brownies" is really fantastic, and should be (and will be) anthologized everywhere. There's a twist at the end that was, for me, entirely unforeseeable. This story deserves the rave reviews that the collection received. (Most of which are printed on the first 7 pages of the...more
Mar 11, 2011 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who writes, anyone who reads
Recommended to Emily by: Michael
There are two things that I hate about my writing: the fact that it’s predictable and the fact that nothing happens.

On the other hand, what makes ZZ Packer such a spectacular writer is that her stories do the exact opposite of what mine do: they create original situations and characters that could only exist in her stories, and they move. The action moves, yes, but more importantly it moves you.

So many of the stories in Drinking Coffee Elsewhere feel familiar at first. They contain people and wo...more
Michelle Jones
This collection of short stories had been on my “to read” list for so long that perhaps there was no way for me to not be disappointed by it. I had to force myself to push through and finish this book and when I did I walked away quite unsatisfied.

The more I thought about my disappointment though the more I realized it wasn’t disappointment at all. It was instead discomfort. The book didn’t offer any element of escapism at all. Even though I had next to nothing in common with the actual characte...more
Erinina Marie
May 31, 2007 Erinina Marie rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teens
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by Z.Z. Packer

This novel at first had me seriously questioning the validity of ever reading another today show recommended novel again. However, the second half of this book by amateur, yet elitist rich and well-educated Z.Z. Packer does in fact have some merit. While I question her actual ability to tell the harsh life stories that she would like to embody and while her childishness does at times shine through, she manages to tell an interesting and seductive tale in t...more
Nicholas Armstrong
I'm not sure where to start with this, as I'm not sure which bothered me more or what takes precedent with a short story. Is the telling of the story more important than the voice? Is there something more important than both? What if both aren't quite up-to-snuff? That is kind of the case here and I'm a little put-off by it.

I'll start with the voice, because it was the first thing that bothered me and it consistently bothered me. Don't get me wrong, there are good stories within, or, at least de...more
Feb 22, 2010 Malbadeen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: short story lovers
I have to admit I bought this book based on a shallow premise. I saw the cover at a thrift store and I adored it, I read the first lines of most of the stories (which are awesome!) and decided to spend the whopping 2.00 on it.
But then it sat on my shelf for waaaay too long. Once I started it, I was in love! I thought about quoting some/all of the first lines for you here but I'd rather you get the book and have that experiences with the tangible turn of the pages (mmmmm, can you feel it?).
The t...more
Atena Oyadi
I started this about 3 years ago - it's quite good, but sad - dark. A little depressing. It was hard to be in the right mood to pick it up again, even though I wanted to.

This author has a talent for articulating disappointment, awkwardness and a whole range of outsider feelings. Her voice is distinctive somehow, and her main characters are distinct from one another. She has a knack for discomfort, describing embarrassing situations with such emotional precision that you wince and cringe and loo...more
Jen Knox
I've heard a lot of criticism about this book, so I put off reading it. This just goes to show I rarely agree with my friends when it comes to literature ... I loved it. "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" was my favorite story in the collection, but I felt attached to all of them. Each one! I never say that about a collection.
"Brownies" was intriguing, an updated cross between Bambara's "The Lesson" and Morrison's "Recitatif," maybe. I was a little disappointed with the rest of the collection, especially "Every Tongue Shall Confess."
In 2003, Z.Z. Packer published “Driving Coffee Elsewhere”, engendering a level of acclaim that is difficult to live up to. I am always partial to fiction with a distinctive, engaging voice; one test of a collection of short stories is whether the author can vary the voice well enough to sustain both credibility and interest. On that score, Packer is an unqualified success—she shifts between first and third person and various registers with an agreeable facility. To create original and believable...more
Feb 10, 2012 Diane rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: book groups
Recommended to Diane by: Today Show Book Club
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a collection of short stories by ZZ Packer. I've had this book on my shelves for years and just now got around to reading it. All the stories on the surface appear to be focused on the African-American experience and many touch on religious issues. However, "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" is clearly a work of literary fiction with storylines that do not play out in neat arcs but jut back and forth at sharp angles. Likewise the surface reading of the stories is not where...more
When I began reading Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer, I was taken aback by the power of a good story; the kind of story that gives me a peek into a life I don’t know anything about, the kind of story that surprises me or that makes me stop a moment to contemplate what I’ve just read. Those are the kinds of stories that Packer has written for her first and only short story collection. She was first published in Seventeen magazine at the very young age of 19. She grew up in Atlanta, GA and...more
Oct 04, 2011 Leah added it
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
ZZ Packer
The Berkley Publishing Group, Copyright 2003

If you think you want to read this book because you like coffee and travel, you probably shouldn’t read Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. If you aren’t quite sure about who you are, where you’re going, or what you’re doing with your life, then this may be the book for you. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a collection of short stories that focus on protagonists that feel uncomfortable or unfulfilled leading the lives they have.

Charity (CJ)
I enjoy Packer's writing, especially the details of heat and scent that put me firmly in her world.

I loved the first story in the book, the one about the Brownie Girl Scout campout. It was refreshing to read a story with authentic details about Girl Scouting. For example, Tom Perrotta mentioned Girl Scouts briefly in The Leftovers, but they were doing fundraising for another organization, which Girl Scouts aren't allowed to do. Yes, yes, this is a horribly nitpicky detail to cite, but as a life...more
This story collection really surprised me. "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self," which I read recently, also featured talented young people of color trying to find their way in the world. What I found so interesting about "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere" was that the stories did not end triumphantly. They explore what happens when a person does not immediately transcend his or her difficult background. The title story in particular takes a hard look at the social isolation of arriving in a privi...more
I absolutely loved every single story in this book. Z.Z. Packer definitely knows how to draw the reader in quickly and make you not want to put the book down until the story is complete. What I liked best about her stories: they didnt leave me wanting for more. Yes, I wanted more of her writing, but when the stories came to an end, I was satisfied with its conclusion and eager to move to the next one.

As someone who grew up in the church, I was also pleased at how many of her stories were rooted...more
Darcy Posselli
After reading "Brownies" for a fiction writing class, I decided to read this collection. Sadly, Brownies was the only story that I really enjoyed. (But Brownies is very profound in my opinion, maybe redeems several of the other stories shortcomings) I appreciate ZZ Packer's writing, but there are just too many open endings (which is just a matter of my opinion) and unresolved conflicts for me. Packer does have a very unique use of language though, which I really enjoyed! Overall, I hope that not...more
She is a master of the short story. Each one is so vivid you feel you're witnessing it, not reading about it. All are about African American protagonists and most take place in the '60s and '70s. People are good, bad, funny, and tragic. She was at Stanford as a lecturer but I understand has moved on.

I was disappointed in this book; I'd read other author's recommendations and expected a greater impact. The stories are rather simple, and (in my sad excuse for a short-story-collection rating system) not memorable. I think Toni Cade Bambara's short story collections, as an example, are better.
Here's an SAT word to set you on your heels: frugiverous. As in, "I've been to Lupita's place twice, but that's more than enough. It's full of birds. Huge blue-and-gold macaws. Yellow-naped Amazons. Rainbow lorikeets who squirt their putrid frugiverous shit on you."
Edwina Hall Callan
I bought this book because of the title, which turned out to be the only thing I liked about this book.
This jumbled up mess of stories was a huge waste of my time.
I'm not sure what point the Author was trying to make but obviously I didn't get it.
Laura Roberts
140-character capsule review: Religious run-ins, wayward youth, people saved for all the wrong reasons, dark humor & unconventional heroines w/snappy comebacks=excellent

Also inspired an interesting conversation on the bus, so that's another +.
I enjoy short stories and I enjoyed these. However, They all left something to be desired. I think of all the stories I enjoyed Drinking Coffee Elsewhere and Browines but neither of them took my rating to a 4.
Despite the superlatives peppered in the multiple reviews on the book jacket, I found these stories to not be that exciting. The insights were not original, the plots rather dull, and the narrative tepid.
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Is Brownies one of your favorite short stories? 4 18 Sep 14, 2013 06:37PM  
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ZZ Packer (born January 12, 1973) is an African-American author, notable for her works of short fiction. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky. Her given name is Zuwena (Swahili for "good"), but "After a while of teachers mispronouncing my name and everyone else in the world, I began introducing myself as ZZ, and it just kind of stuck" Recognized as a...more
More about Z.Z. Packer...
New Stories from the South 2008  The Best American Short Stories 2000 The New Granta Book of the American Short Story The Eloquent Short Story Granta em português #1: Os melhores jovens escritores norte-americanos

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“She did not want to say it, because it made no practical sense, but in the end she went to Japan for the delicate sake cups, resting in her hand like a blossom; she went to Japan for loveliness.” 8 likes
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