George Saunders's Bookshelf
By Anton Chekhov
Chekhov—shall I be blunt?—is the greatest short story writer who ever lived. In "Gooseberries" he offers the perfect distillation of the writer's aspiration: "Every happy man should have someone with a little hammer at his door to knock and remind him that there are unhappy people, and that, however happy he may be, life will sooner or later show its claws." In story after story, Chekhov, in the role of that man with the hammer, urges us to be gentle with one another, and honest with ourselves.