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Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  626 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews

With this first book of fiction, a gifted young writer brings together eight superbly crafted stories that peer deeply into the human heart, exploring lives derailed by the loss of a vital connection to the land and to the natural world of which they are a part.

"Mule Killers" evokes the end of an era and of a grandfather's dreams when he decides to replace animal power on

Kindle Edition, 212 pages
Published (first published July 1st 2009)
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Jul 11, 2011 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I realize I give out a lot of 4 and 5 stars, but it's because I don't have time to read something I'm unsure of. I had read one of Peelle's stories in The Sun and loved it. It appears here, and the rest of her stories didn't disappoint, either. I'm not sure the collection is for everyone. You have to love reading about nature, the land, the environment, and characters that move around within this type of literary frame. I felt that place often dictated the characters' motivations and fates, more ...more
Dec 19, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful collection of stories set primarily in the deep South and in rural areas where people are dependent to varying degrees on the land and what it gives and takes. There is a mark of desperation in many of the characters, young and old, male and female, searching for happiness, money, friendship.... Among my favorites are the titled story, "Mule Killers", and "Shadow of a Weary Land". But I recommend the entire collection as I believe there is something here for many readers and each story ...more
Terri Jacobson
This collection of 8 short stories is outstanding. The writing is rich and lyrical, the characters unique and memorable, the reading experience unexpected and rewarding.

The stories talk about life and choices, aging and its impact on life. This excerpt is from the title story, which was my favorite:

"Most nights, I don't sleep. Instead I lie in bed and page through my list of dread and regret, starting with my childhood and ending with the polar ice caps. Everything in between I file into somethi
Evanston Public  Library
Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, the debut short story collection from Lydia Peele is so clear, concise, direct, and beautiful that it will at times stop you dead in mid- sentence, your breath sucked in, your insides resonating like a bell that has been struck. Ostensibly another entry into the canon of Southern literature (Peelle lives in Nashville and most of the stories are set around the region), the book encapsulates much more than that somewhat weighted label implies. Walking a thi ...more
Aug 13, 2009 Ella rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
brilliant literary genius.
Jan 24, 2010 g rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writers-to-watch
My heart broke eight times while reading this collection of eight stories, each deeply rooted in nature and landscape, often rural, with "civilization" swiftly encroaching ("A bobcat's den will be bulldozed away for a store that sells hair extensions and curling irons. The coyotes will root through Dumpsters for a few years before they are run off to the north, howling as they go."). This is gorgeous writing--blessedly subtle but assured. The indifferent animals in these stories--panthers, cripp ...more
Nicholas Montemarano
Some fine work in this first collection. Sincere, well-crafted stories with just enough attention paid to the music of the sentences (enough to create ear-pleasure, but not so self-consciously to distract from the characters and events). Here's a favorite sentence about goats using hay as bed and meal simultaneously: "The goats slit their yellow eyes blissfully, grabbing mouthfuls of whatever was in reach, while at the other end, their puckered assholes winked turds into it." The word "winked" h ...more
Oct 25, 2009 Sharma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Entirely unique and haunting. Peelle writes most of these stories from a masculine perspective, something I would normally find disingenuous, but she does so masterfully, and the result is a collection that is as sharp and addictive as Richard Ford's Rock Springs. Having never been to the south, I kept interchanging the scenery with that of the Northwest -- so much of the collection is fixated on the outdoors, on the strange flightly disconnect between man and nature, and for one story in partic ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why is it that the books I expect so little from are the ones that deliver the biggest impact? I am not really sure why I picked up this book, probably a favorable review I read online somewhere. Regardless, this was a brilliant collection of stories. In each of the eight stories, there are moments where I thought, "Yes, that is how it is." It is a remarkable feat because the narrators of the stories are so varied: a middle-aged divorced taxidermist, a tomboy reminiscing about a summer on a farm ...more
The title of Lydia Peelle’s collection of short stories, “Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing,” addresses the silver lining rather than the bulk of her tales. “Reasons” is about the lives of people who seem to have sufficient grounds to call it quits.

The people Peelle examines are grasping at the bottom rung. There is the obese taxidermist who has recently lost his leg, the unenthused carnie, and the girls whose summer fearlessness astride a duo of ponies is soon swallowed by the perilous da
Diane Barnes
Dec 14, 2013 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The eight stories in this book are like little jewels that start out glittery and gleaming, but inside each one is a sharp edge that will break your heart. They are southern and rural in setting, each one pitting its character against progress and time unsuccessfully. They do what good stories should do, they make you think. The last story in the collection is "Shadow On a Weary Land", and will be one that stays with me for a while. Definitely recommended.
Lindsay Shane
This book was so depressing that I wish it was bad so I could say not to read it. But you should read it. It's exquisite. And there are (a few) moments of hope. They feel like that moment when your head breaks water and you take the first gulp of breath after a deep dive

Then somebody pushes your head back under water.

I kid. But not really. These stories hurt. Oh they hurt so good.
Gregory Frost
Jul 29, 2013 Gregory Frost rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For her story, "Mule Killers", alone Lydia Peelle's collection of stories is worth the price of admission. But the rest of this collection will stun you with the superbly captured interiority of its characters. A powerful, close-to-the-bone writer who deserves far more attention than she's received.
Nov 17, 2009 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. A collection of short stories, each one packed full of emotion and character development. This is Peele's first book, which you would never believe considering the maturity of her writing. I can't wait to see what this author does next!
Jun 24, 2014 Shanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There is no doubt that Lydia Peelle is an excellent writer. Her prose flows beautifully, and her attention to detail is remarkable. However, her storytelling fell a bit flat for me. While the rural setting of most of her stories wouldn't be my preference, I can excuse it for a good story, and I got a few, "Kidding Season" being my favorite. However, I often felt like the stories left something to be desired. I thought that "Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing" and "This Is Not a Love Story" ...more
Great short story collection about the South and humanity in general. Fell in love with the author's voice in 1 page and was continually mesmerized throughout the rest. I recommend taking 1 story at a time.
I think I was just not into Peelle's aesthetic. Some of the stories were good, but overwhelmingly I felt like they were about characters who never felt like real people to me, which makes it impossible to feel anything except the bleakness of their landscape and lives, which of course is part of the point of it all, but I was not super interested, unfortunately. If you would read a collection of stories to feel the landscape, then this is probably perfect, but I got a bit bored by it, unfortunat ...more
Oct 13, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, superb craft, and absolutely devastating.
Shaniqua Lizardo
Jan 10, 2015 Shaniqua Lizardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More book and movie reviews at Barely Sane Reviews on Tumblr!

3.5 stars.

I think I would have appreciated the stories if I read them individually rather than in a collection. Peelle's characters sound more or less the same regardless of age and gender, which makes the collection go monotone after a couple of stories. The characters themselves also get a little repetitive after a while. Literally all the stories feature May-December pseudo-romances. All of the stories are set somewhere in the deep
Lydia Peelle has a talent for making one's heart ache. While it is true that short fiction in its brevity has a particular power to instill longing, not many other writers I've read have quite such stunning ability to infuse that form with such powerful nostalgia. These stories are riveting and haunting and while in many instances are not plot driven so much as snapshots of a time, a place, an emotion, Peelle's superb talent leaves you feeling absorbed by the anonymous and the fleeting as if it ...more
Jul 09, 2010 Adeena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lydia Peelle's debut story collection: rural towns, animals, recklessness, old worlds disappearing, more animals, beautiful meditative prose, tornados, prosthetic limbs, growing up, growing old, carnivals, the end of the world.

Stories I Love: Mule Killings, Phantom Pain, Sweathearts of the Rodeo, Shadow on a Weary Land
Good Stories: The Still Point, Kidding Season (second half), Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (but science references are wonderful)
Eh: This Is Not a Love Story

I love this
May 08, 2010 Liza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010

When I was a child my family moved to Tennessee, and I had never before seen the South. I felt the South embrace me, my family, our lives, and even now that I have moved away, a part of me still belongs there.

In this collection of stories, Lydia Peelle subtly expresses this idea of the South, of belonging to the South and living southern life. It is almost as though the South possesses people. It has its own gravity, its own pull, and it can be tough to break from that orbit, to shake off the we

Apr 13, 2014 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
Reading as a writer: This short story collection is another that left me saying, "How does she do that?" Several of Lydia's stories have two (or more) stories running a parallel, not always in time or place, but in subtle theme. A reader must read carefully to catch the subtext analogies. I adore the title of this collection! Each story follows that theme of life. Lydia writes beautiful prose that will leave you wanting more.
May 13, 2013 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to study the craft of writing a collection of short works, and I did, read this. It's simply an artful collection of kick-ass writing that will haunt you. Yes, haunt, and not necessarily in a good way. You may not love it (and I did not) because your heart will be stomped on and every story has a hapless, wondrous animal that is subject to some sort of critical neglect or abuse (which I don't enjoy), and that element is often metaphorical and symbolic and even necessary, but maybe it ...more
Apr 21, 2010 Steph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
Eight short stories, seven of which take place in aging, rough rural settings. The author seems to like things harsh, including the challenges her characters face. The scenarios that bind up the characters are haunting questions that we all have to ask ourselves some time or another: will I ever find love? Do I possess courage? Where are my roots? Is life worth living past a certain point? Is the pain we endure worth something? How does one survive the end of one era and the beginning of another ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Colby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good collection of short stories. Lydia Peelle was an impressive writer, and I'm happy to have noticed this one out in perfect among the tornado of used books that is my local bookstore. The stories were realistic, fun, and had a great common theme among them - a feeling of something that is lost, or something that once was. My god, some of these stories were just beautiful.
The only thing that slowed the book for me is that it isn't exactly fun to read. That's usually what writing that
Katherine Collins
These stories are beautiful and heartbreaking, yet somehow hopeful. You will rush through them in an effort to get to the next beautiful phrase, like a literary bag of chips – but unlike the chips, when you finish, you will want to start all over again
Thing Two
Jan 02, 2012 Thing Two rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thing Two by: Rollins Winter with the Writers
Lydia Peelle will be one of the writers in residence at Rollins College's Winter with the Writer's series in 2011, so I took the opportunity to familiarize myself with her writing, before I have the opportunity to meet her.

These eight stories remind me of Maile Meloy's writing - bleak but powerful - of characters who take an ever-decreasing resonsibility for their world, and the ever-increasing challenges these positions create.

"The Mule Killers" a story about an aging farmer who slowly goes cr
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Well written stories, very southern and rural in setting and characterization.

"The rest of your life, Tanya, is a hell of a lot longer than you think it will be. And you'll grow tired of everything."

"When people talk about the South being haunted, it's true. But it's not the places that are haunted, it's the people. They are trapped by all the stories of the past, wandering a long hallway lined with locked doors, knocking and knocking, with no one ever answering. No one ever will. That's the thi
Jul 17, 2012 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drawing from a simple landscape, Lydia Peelle explores the complicated emotions that accompany being human. She is able to avoid the pitfall I tend to see of an overly complicated story-line, and her use of rural backdrops allows the emotional aspect of her stories to really shine through. Her two standout stories are, without a doubt, Phantom Pain and Shadow on a Weary Land. Her other stories are beautiful as well, but some left me searching for more than what was given, not necessarily in a go ...more
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Lydia Peelle's first published short story, “Mule Killers,” won an O. Henry Award in 2006. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications and have also been awarded two Pushcart Prizes and have been twice featured in Best New American Voices. Her debut story collection, Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice book, a finalist for the Orion Book Award, and ...more
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“At night, when he is sure his father is sleeping, he sticks the phonograph needle in a rubber eraser and holds the eraser in his front teeth. Carefully, with his nose inches from the record, he sets the needle down. With a hiss and crackle, the music reverberates through the hollows of his mouth and throat without making a sound in the room. Ignoring the cramp in his neck, this is how he listens to his favorite records night after night.” 2 likes
“Trust the body, not the mind, he says, smiling. The body loves itself.” 0 likes
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