Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Bigness of the World” as Want to Read:
The Bigness of the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Bigness of the World

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  213 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
In Lori Ostlund’s debut collection people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind.In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, Ostlund offers characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published October 15th 2009 by University of Georgia Press (first published January 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

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

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Bigness of the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Bigness of the World

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 06, 2016 karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, hey-shorty
it's worth keeping in mind that this book by the author of After the Parade is actually a reissue of her debut short story collection originally published in 2009, whose stories appeared individually in publications as early as 2006. not that this collection is weak compared to a.t.p. - in fact it's damn good. but you can see all the bits and pieces that make After the Parade SO GOOD being germinated here: like a.t.p., its locations include new mexico, minnesota, and san francisco, and the recur ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read, netgalley
SHORT STORIES have become the new.....
"70 is the new 50"
"Clean Eating is in--process foods are out".
"Same Sex marriages and Common-law marriages are on the rise"
"Kale is the super-superfood"

SHORT STORIES *RULE*.....[getting a little tire of the new trend in novels? 450+ pages has become common this past year]
Lori Ostlund's, "The Bigness of the World" *ROCKS*!!!! I'm 'over' my 'short story' phobia.
Too many great ones these days!!!!

11 short stories in this collection:
Lori gets to the heart
"I had started them on Salinger, despite the fact that another English teacher, whose name I shall not disclose, had suggested that Salinger, with all his “New Yorkiness,” had little to “say” to a group of students who had grown up here in New Mexico.

“I believe that Salinger has something to say to all tenth graders,” I had replied, perhaps overearnestly. “I myself was once a tenth grader growing up in Minnesota, and I found that he had plenty to say.” I do not buy into this idea that one learn
For, at each turn, the people we hold close elude us, living their other lives, the lives that we can never know.

The Bigness of the World is a wonderful collection of short-stories who all in some way deal with separation. A sense of being separated from the world or from the ones who are closest, often lying side by side in a bed, not being able to bridge the emotional gap that has silently made its way into a relationship. It is interesting to look at the different locations Ostlund's stories
Larry Hoffer
Sep 28, 2015 Larry Hoffer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for making it available!

About 20 years ago, I adamantly refused to read short stories, saying that I didn't want to invest a great deal of emotion or effort in getting hooked on a story that would end not long after it began. And even though I read some classic short stories in my youth, I didn't necessarily think I was missing much by boycotting this
Dec 25, 2015 Sofia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

My friend Maya said it very very well here. As she said the eleven shorts stories deals with seperation with quiet intensity. The people here try in all ways to keep the seperation away, denial, travel, books, wit, new jobs, new people, anything, but seperation still creeps up and settles in their lives which are our lives, because yes we cannot run away from life.

I would recommend a slow read for these stories.

List of the stories (in order of my favorites not as per book order):

Dr Daneau's Puni

A wonderful collection of short stories.
This book is a perfect choice for a BR.
Because it delivers a SUBSTANCE, it gives you so many topics to discuss and thinking about.
Every single story is a beautiful and sophisticated piece of prose that gives you food for thought and keeps you craving for more.

My favorite stories :

Dr Daneau's Punishment
All Boy

Highly recommended.

**Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Terri Jacobson
Oct 18, 2015 Terri Jacobson rated it really liked it
Lori Ostlund is gay and she's a writer, but she's not a "gay writer" as such. The sexuality of the women portrayed in her stories is simply one aspect of their character. I appreciate this--it's much closer to real world experiences.

Ostlund is a fine writer. Her prose dips and sings, and she has a sense of humor. Her characters are brilliantly developed. An excellent collection of short stories.
Feb 01, 2016 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I feel the eyes of many fictional English teachers upon me. Critiquing my sloppy, half-baked sentence structure, and marking all over my prose with their endless supply of red pens.
I feel with resentment the misplaced time of every corrective slash, and a yearning for the innocence of youth, a yearning for the past.
I feel the irony deep inside my bones. It's uncomfortable, really, but the truth tastes bitter. Or so I have been told.
Dec 25, 2015 Maya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthologies

For, at each turn, the people we hold close elude us, living their other lives, the lives that we can never know.

A very good collection of 11 short stories joined together by the common theme of separation, the end of a relationship between partners or between parents and their children.
The stories are quiet on the surface (as are their narrators), the emotional punch comes from all that remains unsaid. While the events were unfolding I could feel how the carefully constructed inner balance o
Aug 12, 2015 Alan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: maybe Ceridwen
review coming...
The opening, title story is just great, funny, literary, intelligent and engaging, about an eccentric and flamboyant babysitter and her impact on a conservative family. She (the babysitter) is afraid of abbreviations, wears a hat indoors, has to brush her teeth after eating colourful foods and refuses a lift because she won’t ride in cars with power windows in case they drive into a lake (even though my father explained to her there were no lakes, no bodies of water of any sort,
Nov 16, 2009 Derek rated it it was amazing
A rather remarkable collection of short stories, Lori Ostlund's The Bigness of the World presents a variety of protagonists, all of whom are flawed and all of whom are terribly interesting. The stories cut deep but are never self-pitying or sentimental, and the characters who populate them tend to feel the world as much as they experience it.

Though she certainly gets some mileage out of it, I think Ostlund is at her best when forgoing the couple-in-a-foreign-country format, namely in the magnifi
Lolly K Dandeneau
Aug 20, 2015 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it
Having loved After the Parade I was more than happy to review this. I saw After the Parade listed as 'Gay Fiction' and yes, it is about a homosexual man but so what- the book was beautiful and whatever you identitfy as, it's about people. I am straight, and much of her writing is relatable because... we are human beings. It's funny how we seperate ourselves. Good writing is good writing, regardless of your sex, or preferences, or skin color, or the country you call home.
In this collection there
I was approved an ARC of this book by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This review in its entirety was originally posted at

The Bigness of the World was an interesting collection of stories capturing those fleeting moments of life. It’s hard to explain, many of these stories may not seem out of the ordinary or may happen to anyone at one point or another within a person’s week, and some of these stories may
Oct 19, 2015 Danielle rated it it was ok
Shelves: story-collection
I received an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.

The first story, from which the collection takes its name, had me hoping that the stage was set for some really solid writing. Sadly, it wasn't. I plodded along, hoping that these were just uneventful stories in which some larger lesson or takeaway looms, but nothing really comes to fruition.

The problem for me was that so many of these stories started out with the same outline of main characters, most often two lesbian teachers. In more than
Jenny (Reading Envy)
When I requested this from Edelweiss, I didn't realize it was a republishing and nothing new. Regardless I appreciate the opportunity to read Ostlund's stories; she was a new author to me.

I feel like most of the stories in this collection are versions of the same story - practically every character is a woman in her 40s, teaching (often abroad in Malaysia or Korea), near the end of a longterm relationship with another woman, not adapting well to whatever quirks of the local culture - so she ends
3.5/5 stars

This book is definitely different with the other short stories I've read recently.
I just think that some of the stories could be the beginning chapter of a novel, such as the story that used as the title of this collection. And I sure have some favorites here, besides the Bigness of The World itself, like Taking Fowl with My Father, Idyllic Little Bali, Dr. Daneau's Punishment and All Boy. The written of Lori Oslund is absolutely stunning.
May 07, 2010 Teresa rated it liked it
You gain a star for having short stories about lesbians which no one ever does but I felt like they lacked a depth that I kept looking for. I hated that she kept referring to the characters as old and then you would find out they were like 44!!!! Have pity, please....
Lori Ostlund’s bestselling collection, The Bigness of the World, presents a series of short stories that observe the intricacies of the human condition through a range of perspectives and topics including loss, love, failure and defeat, and the ever-unfair and mysterious nature of who we are as our pasts always end up catching up with us.

This was my first time reading Lori Ostlund’s writing, so when I selected this collection of short stories, I went in blind, basing my choice only on the premis
Jeff Scott
Mar 21, 2016 Jeff Scott rated it really liked it
Wherever you go, despite the "bigness" of the world, you are still you and bring your own issues and problems. In Lori Ostlund's short story collection, Minnesotans are exposed to different environments around the world and find more similarities than differences.

In the titular story, two young children make a connection with their caretaker Elsa. Their parents try to create order for them and hold heavy disdain for Elsa's unorthodox ways. However, it is Elsa that leaves them the most prepared f
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund is a highly recommended award winning collection of eleven short stories originally published in 2009. This review copy is for the eBook and the paperback release. As a debut collection, The Bigness of the World, received the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award. It was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, was a Lambda finalist, and ...more
Feb 06, 2016 Margaryta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Thank you to Scribner for the egalley copy of the book.

I had pretty high hopes for this anthology, given the praise that it received as well as the relatively high rating. The opening, titular story was also quite interesting, filled both with quirkiness and clarity, with a pleasant cast of characters. I took this as an indicator for what to expect from the collection, but each following story took away from that initial fascination I had with the collection.

Looking back at it now, I can only sa
Jun 18, 2016 Dawnie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-books
2.5 stars

I think the biggest problem was me and not the book with this.

I just can not, CAN NOT!!, find a short story collection that I even like two of the stories in. I don't know why that is. But I think it's me.

The writing is very beautiful, even if I felt that all the stories were a bit overly similar and in a way the same ov and over again, the characters where pretty dull as well in my option. But the actual writing, the style and flow, was nicely done so that alone was a bit confusing to
Sep 07, 2009 Nancy rated it it was amazing
The 2009 winner of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction just received a STARRED review from Publisher's Weekly. Here's the review (link:

The Bigness of the World: Stories Lori Ostlund. Univ. of Georgia, $24.95 (220p) ISBN 978-0-8203-3409-7

Ostlund’s remarkable debut collection deftly navigates the treacherous shoals of decaying relationships in which the protagonists often escape to faraway lands in order to find themselves, or, at the very least,
Katia Diamond-sagias
this collection of short stories is artfully written, which is the major reason why i continued reading to the end. the book claims to be about people who find themselves increasingly ill-adjusted to the world, realizing their lives have changed into ones they do not recognize, and Ostlund succeeds in imposing this feeling on the reader, for after i finished with the book i felt a distinct heaviness, a distance from my life and the lives of those around me, bordering on apathy. it was ...more
Barb Johnson
Aug 22, 2010 Barb Johnson rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Whether exotic or ordinary, the settings are specific and satisfying to read about. The characters' quirks often made me laugh aloud. One woman doesn't like to wear T-shirts because they "encroach" on her neck.

Delicious, wry quotes that telegraph the enduring truths of human existence:

"Of course, this quickly became an argument not about the wounded man but me, or, more specifically, about what Julia termed my stubborn disbelief in the world's inability to maintain a position
This review first appeared on Gaga Over Books..

This was soo good. Each and every story was told beautifully and with a zeal that captivated my heart.

With every new story, I had come to expect a certain revelation and a way of communication that made me curious to get to the end of each story and start a new one..

Certainly a first of its kind for me, I loved venturing out in this category and by Ms. Ostlund as the writer.

For everyone who likes short stories, this one book will cater to your t
Feb 17, 2016 Lissa rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
Lori Ostlund writes short stories about people from the Midwest dealing with relationships, especially the end of relationships. These stories were beautifully written and I enjoyed reading them, however, they really didn't stick with me afterwards and I am not sure I would be able to distinguish them now since they are so similar. I still struggle with short story collections and I think this quiet, everyday life type of short story may not be my favorite. That said, these are incredibly well ...more
Mary Johnson
Jun 10, 2010 Mary Johnson rated it really liked it
Ostlund writes beautifully, with a fresh voice. I enjoyed most of these stories, in particular the stories in which Ostlund uses a child's point of view--these were perceptive, and beautifully drawn. Perhaps this book just came to me at the wrong time, but I found the way in which the theme of death recurred rather disturbing, and not in a good way. The death stories seemed far less fresh than those that dealt with the challenges of life (one of which is the fact that it will end--yeah, I know, ...more
Dec 04, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it
Some of the stories in this book captured my attention. Ms. Ostlund writes beautifully and presents interesting details that make her characters unique and sometimes puzzling. Eventually I simply felt alienated as I read further, as though I weren't intelligent enough or worldly enough to appreciate them. Rather than encouraging me to delight in exposure to new experiences and places, these stories left me feeling insecure and inadequate; I just wanted to go home and hide.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
BR with Maya and Lena 21 Dec 2015 147 6 Dec 25, 2015 03:50AM  
  • Baby and Other Stories
  • There's Something I Want You to Do
  • More of This World or Maybe Another
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
  • Once the Shore
  • You Think That's Bad
  • Funny Once
  • Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry
  • Vanishing and Other Stories
  • Why They Run the Way They Do
  • Break Any Woman Down
  • We Don't Know What We're Doing
  • Death Is Not an Option
  • Cries for Help, Various: Stories
  • Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives
  • The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories
  • We've Already Gone This Far: Stories
  • Among the Missing
Lori Ostlund's novel, After the Parade, was published by Scribner in September 2015. Her first book, a story collection entitled The Bigness of the World (University of Georgia Press, 2009), which Scribner will reissue in February 2016, received the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award. Stories from it appe ...more
More about Lori Ostlund...

Share This Book