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Like You'd Understand, Anyway

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,741 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Following his widely acclaimed Project X and Love and Hydrogen—“Here is the effect of these two books,” wrote the Chicago Tribune: “A reader finishes them buzzing with awe”—Jim Shepard now gives us his first entirely new collection in more than a decade.

Like You’d Understand, Anyway reaches from Chernobyl to Bridgeport, with a host of narrators only Shepard could bring to
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published October 26th 2007 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2007)
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3.88  · 
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 ·  1,741 ratings  ·  261 reviews

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Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it

3 stars? 4 stars? Let's say a high 3.

Now what are these stories like, anyway?

- Ending: One of the things that caught my eye is how Shepard chooses not to provide a denouement for some of his stories, but leaves us with the thoughts of the narrator at a crucial moment. He would leave the narrator in front of the two doors holding the lady or the tiger, leaving it up to the reader to imagine what happened next. This often saves his stories from what could have been a flat and predictable ending.

Steven Walle
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great collection of eleven short stories by Jim Sheppard. They depict two athletes on a Texas highschool football team, an explorer and his crew exploring the vast desert of Austrailia, an astronaught visiting outerspace for the first time to name a few. They are masterfully written and compiled. I would recommend this collection to everyone. Enjoy and Be Blessed. Diamond
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Like You’d Understand Anyway is a collection of all first-person short stories, though the similarities between them end there. The settings and time periods range from the site of Hadrian’s Wall during the late Roman Empire, to present day Alaska, to Chernobyl during the nuclear meltdown, to gothic France, to summer camp in 1960s America.

In these stories, Shepard does something that very, very few contemporary do these days: he uses his imagination and has fun. No, you won’t find stories here a
Oct 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
This book of short stories takes all the trends of contemporary fiction (premises that involve lots of background research, slang, and dudeliness) and gums them together into a smug, unreadable mess. I managed to finish 'Zero Meter Diving Team', the first story, but I assure you that is only because of my reader's guilt. I was able to make less and less headway into each story that followed. Alternate title for this book: Boring in Space.
Sep 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, underrated
If you like short stories, you should not fail to pick up this volume, Shepard's third. Shepard's writing has a breadth pretty much unmatched in modern fiction -- he writes in wildly divergent voices and there's not a clumsy piece of prose, or even a misstep, in a single one of them.

If Jim Shepard doesn't win the National Book Award for this work, they should just abolish the damn award and have done with it. Either that or be honest about it and just give it to random books chosen by lot.

Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was ok
After reading such praised reviews, a National Book award finalist to boot, and heeding a stong recommendation to, 'buy this book now' I am sadly disappointed. I have a love-hate relationship with short stories to begin with so am prone to being less than wooed when it comes to collections. Shepard is not a bad writer and not necessarily a bad story teller, its just that THESE didn't work. For me. Yes, kudos to him for spanning such a variety of settings and time-stamps in history and characters ...more
Feb 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
blah. out of eleven short stories, i really only liked one, a few were ok, and the rest were crap. i couldn't even finish some of them, and not being able to finish a short story is pretty ridiculous. the stories are grossly male-dominated, and the only story written from a female perspective was of course about a woman so lovesick that she could not properly do her job. if there were any other female characters, i do not recall, as they were so unmemorable. vomit.
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I found myself more impressed with this book than in love with it. I've never read a short story collection with such a wide variety of settings: soldiers in ancient Greece, Texan high school football players, an Alaskan bush pilot secretly contemplating a vasectomy, Soviet astronauts, Nazi explorers in Tibet...

Carrying themes were how people often know they could've behaved better and don't/didn't; how sometimes circumstances shape us more than we shape them; and men whose problems tie back to
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems Jim Shepard's always flown under the radar, even though his latest book was nominated for a National Book Award and much of his work has received critical praise. It's a shame he doesn't get more attention, because books like this put him near the top of the list for contemporary writers. As a collection, LIKE YOU'D UNDERSTAND, ANYWAY, moves deftly across space and time, giving us a great range of voices in rich settings: A female cosmonaut fighting feelings of self-loathing and lonelin ...more
Nate D
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Most anyone, including people who would hate a lot of my other favorites
Recommended to Nate D by: McSweeney's
Jim Shepard may be the finest living practitioner of the traditional short story form. His writing is direct, entertaining, insightful, gimmickless. Inventive and brilliant and perfectly formed, but in subtle ways that don't draw attention to themselves, or dissolve their readability. Their readability ism of a sort of breathless, action-heavy minimalism I associate mainly with Real-Life Adventure accounts in magazines. At worst, they can come off as exactly that: adventure stories, however artf ...more
Oct 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
This excellent, engaging collection of stories takes a remarkably broad look at masculine experiences throughout the ages, with emotional depth and a great deal of wit. The stories concern everyone from Chernobyl engineers to 19th century explorers in Australia to soldiers on Hadrian's wall to German anthropologist on the hunt for the Yeti in the 1930s to an executioner in the French Revolution to a miserable Connecticut teenager at summer camp in the 70s. One story has at its center a woman, th ...more
Owen Kendall
Oct 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Currently a finalist for The National Book Award, an award he should definitely win with the strength of these stories. Unfortunately he didn't win. Instead, Denis Johnson won the award for... actually he won it for JESUS'S SON, but I guess you could say he won it for TREE OF SMOKE.

May 16, 2008 rated it liked it
This book was so overwhelmingly male that I thought the title was actually mocking me. Whether it was a tale of Yeti hunters or Chernobyl engineers or Hadrian's soldiers or a high school football star, the stories were irrevocably masculine. I do thank Shepherd, though, for lending credence to my long-held theory that The Who is a band for boys.
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008-reads
Let me first just clarify my rating system. If I give it four stars, that means I recommend it to you, Dear Reader, whoever you are. So don't take the lack of the fifth as a lack of enthusiasm! The fifth just signifies a) something I will reread and/or b) something that I was happy as a pig in shit while reading. SO, this puppy may get four stars, but I've been recommending it to everyone like John the Baptist recommended Jesus (please alert me if this is a crappy simile, because my Bible-readin ...more
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Take these eleven stories, deep dives into an enormously wide range of landscape and time, slowly. Let them curl around a bit on your brain before you set off for the next one and on the chance you're not connecting with one, give it time, you will get hooked and you will learn something about a time or place you didn't know before, I guarantee, and you will learn about these things through an empathy you perhaps didn't know you had…but Jim Shepard had a hunch you did. Spend time with a scribe o ...more
Mar 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
One of the most underrated writers today, Shepard can stand toe-to-toe with any living American author. It is sad that he is not mentioned more in discussions about the top living writers in America. He seems to be to young to fit with Roth and Co. and to old (read traditional) to be grouped with David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Franzen. Yet he writes short stories better than almost all of them (the sole exception being Roth's early stories which are as good as anything in American Literature). ...more
Patrick McCoy
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Jim Shepherd’s 2007 short story collection, Like You’d Understand Anyway, was a finalist for the National Book Award and it’s easy to see why. It is a masterly collection of stories that range from heartfelt and painful tales of adolescence (“Proto-Scorpions of the Silurian,” ”Trample the Dead, Hurdle the Weak,” and “Courtesy For Beginners”) to exhaustively realistically researched historical tales of the past (Roman soldiers-“Hadarian’s Wall,” Nazi naturalists chasing Yetis-“Ancestral Legacies, ...more
Kevin Fanning
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
I read about half of it but didn't finish it. It's good, they're short stories, they're extremely well written, etc. There was just on real magic happening for me. Probably good for people who like Alice Munro, Grace Paley, things in the New Yorker.

I still think this is the best title for a book ever. I just wish the book had been about high school.
Linda Robinson
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Took two days to contemplate the cover art and the title. Humans have issues. Issues with fathers, brothers, inattentive loved ones, the enemy sailing to your harbor with ten thousand swords, duty, rotten jobs featuring sharp blades, and reentry shortcomings. And humans write. Not many of them write as well as Shepard.
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Really solid, engaging, and enjoyable. These stories take place in various lands and time periods, and a number of them must have required a pretty impressive level of research (one takes place at Chernobyl, another in the early days of the Russian space program, another among the executioners of revolutionary France).
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
While it didn't have as strong a selection as "Love and Hydrogen", I love the way in which Shepard takes obscure, and not-so-obscure, historical characters and imbues them with a "modern" psychology that they had all along. And the stories set in the present day are equally striking.
Lyndsay West
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here's an excerpt from my review of this book on my blog. You can check out the rest of the review here:

Like You’d Understand, Anyway is a petty title and, in a petty mood, I gladly picked it off the shelf. I recognized Jim Shepard’s name from his standout short story in The Best American Short Stories 2013. I still wish it was Shepherd, but I’ll allow it.

Like You’d Understand, Anyway is a collection of 11 short stories that each draw from a deep well o
Margaret Carmel
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read a lot of short story collections in the last two years or so, and this is one of the most unique.

Like You'd Understand, Anyway is a departure from most contemporary collections because of the settings. Shepard sets his stories during WW2 in Tibet, a 1960s summer camp, the ancient world, and places in between. He also tells his stories in first person, which draw the reader into these strange worlds in a way that feels like traveling around the world in just a few pages.

One of the mos
Scott Pierce
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Superb collection of short stories. Amazing range of topic and tone that makes the reader think this could be a "best of" collection by different authors.

Some favorites:

The Zero Meter Diving Team - set around Chernobyl, the father "quoted to us Strugatsky's dictum that reason was the ability to use the powers of the surrounding world without ruining that world" - and graffiti around Chernobyl, "the negligence and incompetence of some should not be concealed by the patriotism of others."

More historical short fiction from Jim Shepard.

"The Zero Meter Diving Team" is a first person, present tense account (but a present tense account that moves to past tense for most of the story) of Boris Yakovlevich Prushinsky, chief engineer of the Dept. of Nuclear Energy. HIs younger brother, Mikhail, was a turbine engineer working at the Chernobyl reactor on 26 April 1986, when its core melted down. Prushinsky indicts Soviet bureaucracy as well as his own aloofness regarding his family, espec
Michael Brown
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
This is one of the most visceral, macho collection of stories I've ever read. Even the women are tough in the way of adventuresome characters. There are tales of survivors of Chernobyl, Pacific island tidal waves and the French Revolution. There are stories of Roman legionnaires, early cosmonauts and modern dysfunctional families. There must have been a ton of research in putting these together and getting all the details to sound authentic, and it is exhausting to read, but strangely, as much a ...more
Kristopher Powell
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinatingly well researched and considered, this was a really enjoyable read. I enjoy short stories when on vacation, and this didn't disappoint, bringing in vastly different settings, and a level of detail that was as satisfying as well-done non-fiction. Shepard has a knack of painting scenes with one or two well-done sentences that just shine. That being said, the way Shepard finishes his stories, while avoiding any sort of predictable or disappointing conclusion, is somewhat unsatisfying to ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Remember, from when you were a kid, reading books about subject the authors knew nothing about? How could someone know about being a gunslinger or a child raised by wolves? Jim Shepard's short stories are like that. A Chernobyl worker, a Roman soldier at Hadrian's wall, an explorer of Australia and others. To me, that takes a lot of guts and precision. It seems like everyone writes so much inside their own head now that these kinds of stories almost shock. But they were thoroughly enjoyable and ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of short stories that reads like a random-article jump around Wikipedia. Indeed, these stories are incredibly well-written and crafted but often left me more interested in Googling their settings and historical touchstones than in the stories themselves ("Ancestral Legacies," "The First South Central Australian Expedition"). Highlights: A brother reflects on his family in the wake of the Chernobyl meltdown in "The Zero Meter Diving Team"; a teenager tries to come to grips with his f ...more
Richard Rebel
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection won't be for everyone, but these are powerful, well-crafted short stories about human foibles in an extraordinarily diverse range of settings and contexts - the terror and wonder experienced by the first female Russian cosmonaut, British explorers in an 1800's Australia that seems an alien landscape, Romans at Hadrian's Wall, vulnerable and sadistic kids at summer camp .... As with Shepard's other collections, the writing in these stories is sharp and well-observed. Although his ...more
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Jim Shepard is the author of seven novels, including most recently The Book of Aron, which won the Sophie Brody Medal for Achievement in Jewish Literature from the American Library Association and the PEN/New England Award for fiction, and five story collections, including his new collection, The World To Come. Five of his short stories have been chosen for the Best American Short Stories, two for ...more
“I channel the rote and the new and unseen. My head has always been the busiest of crossroads, a festival of happy and unhappy arrivals. In the hours before daybreak when I was a boy, god sent me words as visitors.” 4 likes
“But what I did was the kind of thing you'd do and the kind of thing you've done: I felt bad for him and for myself and I went on with my week and then my summer and I started telling my story to whoever would listen. And my story was this: I survived camp. I survived my brother. I survived my own bad feelings. Love me for being so sad about it. Love me for knowing what I did. Love me for being in the lifeboat after everyone else went under. And my story made me feel better and it made me feel worse. And it worked.” 4 likes
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