Other Minds and Other Stories
a collection of stories by
* The Story Prize (2024), Finalist
* Joyce Carol Oates Prize (2024), Longlist
* "A Best Book of 2023" —Commonweal, Public Books
* An ABA "December 2023 Indie Next List" pick.
From the award-winning author of A Questionable Shape and White Dialogues, a brilliant, anxious, and hilarious new collection.
A man lends his phone to a stranger in the mall, setting off an uncanny series of Unknown calls that come to haunt his relationship with jealousy and dread. A well-meaning locavore tries to butcher his backyard chickens humanely, only to find himself absorbed into the absurd violence of the pecking order. A student applying for a philosophy fellowship struggles to project himself into the thoughts of his hypothetical judges, becoming increasingly possessed and overpowered by the problem of other minds. And in “The Postcard,” a private detective is hired to investigate a posthumous message that a widower has seemingly received from his dead wife, leading him into a foggy landscape of lost memories, shifting identities, and strange doublings.
Cerebral and eerie, captivating and profound, these twelve stories expertly guide us through the paranoia and obsession of everyday horrors, not least the horrors of overthinking what other people might be thinking. With all of Sims’s trademark virtuosity, innovation, and wit, Other Minds and Other Stories continues to expand the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
For Necessary Fiction, Other Minds and Other Stories author Bennett Sims contributes to the "Research Notes" series, where authors describe their process for a recent book: Necessary Fiction's "Research Notes" by Bennett Sims | November 17, 2023
For Electric Literature, Other Minds and Other Stories author Bennett Sims recommends "10 Books About Nonhuman Consciousness" | November 14, 2023
Read an excerpt:
BOMB Magazine hosts an excerpt of the short story "Medusa" from Bennett Sims' Other Minds and Other Stories: "MEDUSA” by BENNETT SIMS
Literary Hub hosts an excerpt of the short story "Other Minds" from Bennett Sims' Other Minds and Other Stories: “OTHER MINDS” by BENNETT SIMS
Menagerie Magazine hosts an excerpt of the short story "The New Violence" from Bennett Sims' Other Minds and Other Stories: “THE NEW VIOLENCE” by BENNETT SIMS
Ploughshares hosts an excerpt of the short story "Pecking Order" from Bennett Sims' Other Minds and Other Stories: “PECKING ORDER” by BENNETT SIMS
Scroll to bottom to view Goodreads reviews.
"Bennett Sims’s Other Minds and Other Stories is a volume of a dozen inventive narratives that explore the slippery slopes of self-consciousness."
—The Story Prize announces the three 2024 finalists:
"On March 26, The Story Prize will livestream a private event that will feature readings by and interviews with each of the three finalists, culminating in the announcement of the winner, who will receive $20,000 and an engraved silver bowl. The two runners-up will each receive $5,000. A link to the livestream will be available via The Story Prize website and social media."
Other Minds and Other Stories by Bennett Sims is selected for the 2024 Joyce Carol Oates Prize, longlist:
"The annual $50,000 award honors a mid-career author of fiction in the midst of a burgeoning career, a distinguished writer who has emerged and is still emerging. The Prize celebrates past achievement and supports forthcoming work."
Other Minds and Other Stories by Bennett Sims was selected for The December 2023 Indie Next List, from the American Booksellers Association! Thank you so much ABA booksellers for this nomination!
—> "Recommended by Caitlin Baker, Island Books, Mercer Island, WA"
—> View the full ABA "December 2023 Indie Next List"
"Three superb story collections by three masters of the form. I find it hard to keep stories straight when I’m in the middle of a collection, let alone weeks or months after I’ve finished it. But moments will stick with me from all three of these books. In [Bennett Sims' Other Minds and Other Stories], it will be the David Lynch–level creepiness of “Unknown,” the Sebaldian hauntedness of “Portonaccio Sarcophagus,” and the Thomas Bernhardesque internal convolutions of “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel.” (Those three comps should give a sense for Sims’s stylistic and tonal range.)"
—Anthony Domestico, Commonweal
"The Year in Books: My top choices of 2023"
"Elements of horror, noirish hard-boiled pulp, Sebaldian essayistic travelogue, Borgesian fantasy, and E. T. A. Hoffmann’s uncanny are all present in this remarkable story collection, but Sims’s writing is very much its own world, synthesizing its influences and references into strikingly original parables of the modern interface. The stories often jump off from some mundane wonder of the technological present—GPS systems, e-readers, phone trackers, Zoom squares, GIFs, etc—and then give each interface an idiosyncratic half-turn, revealing their bizarre alterations to our experiences of time, death, and the existence of others... Not that all of the interfaces Sims meditates upon are so new. The most wrenching story here might be 'Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,' about the interface of the book, and the horrors of a life devoted to reading them."
—Nicholas Dames, Public Books
"Public Books Public Picks, 2023"
"Grade-A collection, by turns weird and funny, cerebral and horrific. Actually, not by turns: Sims somehow layers all of these qualities at the same time. I felt seen by 'An Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,' and I do not like it: probably the best single short piece of writing I read this year."
—Jake Casella Brookins
"2023 Bookish Wrap-Up"
"An eerie sense of the contemporary uncanny permeates Bennett Sims’s collection Other Minds and Other Stories. [Sims's] gaze remains sharp and exacting. This icily penetrating collection exposes something of the human condition that is much more stark, lonely and unnerving."
—Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
(Wall Street Journal review of Other Minds and Other Stories)
"In this collection of a dozen stories, ekphrastic flash fiction is interspersed with longer narratives where the characters find themselves in eerie and unnerving situations... There is a deep current of paranoia in these stories, and it’s often like a rip tide. In Other Minds, things usually start off with reasonable calm, until an unseen—or unforeseen—event pulls a character under. Richly imagined and skillfully executed."
—Wendy J. Fox, Electric Literature
"15 Small Press Books You Should Be Reading This Winter"
"Who is the most talented writer of our generation? ... [Bennett Sims] is, in my view, one of the most successful importers to contemporary American fiction of the narrative techniques of European late modernism—the sensibility of David Lynch crossed with style of W.G. Sebald for the age of digital media."
—Ryan Ruby, Interview Magazine
INTERVIEW: "Bennett Sims on Style, Sebald, and His New Short Story Collection"
"Bennett Sims’ commitment to pushing the boundaries of contemporary fiction is unmistakable in this collection. Other Minds and Other Stories extends an invitation to immerse yourself in a world where the line between reality and the surreal blurs, leaving an enduring impact on those who relish cerebral and haunting storytelling. The unmistakable Lynchian aura of this book resonates with a depth that will indelibly alter your perception of the ordinary, ensuring that you’ll never view the world in quite the same light again."
—Mallory Smart, Maudlin House
(Review of Other Minds and Other Stories)
"The stories in Other Minds are alternatively cerebral and visceral, dreamlike and contemplative, horrifying and humorous, but are always thought-provoking. If you are a fan of David Lynch, Thomas Bernhard, or Brian Evenson—or simply love eerie and philosophical short stories—I’d encourage you to pick up a copy."
—Lincoln Michel, Counter Craft
INTERVIEW: "Processing: How Bennett Sims Wrote Other Minds and Other Stories"
"With the new collection Other Minds and Other Stories, Sims pushes his fiction into fascinating new places—including one of the most surreal private detective stories you’re likely to read. Sims’s use of dream logic and surrealism blend with a cerebral quality; the overall effect is thoroughly compelling."
—Tobias Carroll, Tor.com
"Can’t Miss Indie Press Speculative Fiction for November and December 2023"
"This week, host Jason Jefferies is joined by award-winning author Bennett Sims, who discusses his new book Other Minds and Other Stories. Topics of conversation include the University of Iowa, flash fiction, mummies, zombie novels, David Foster Wallace and Carmen Maria Machado, cell phones, Alfred Hitchcock, and much more. [Copies of Other Minds and Other Stories can be purchased here with FREE SHIPPING for members of Explore More+.]"
—INTERVIEW: Bookin' Podcast with Bennett Sims (11/12/2023)
"[Bennett Sims] draws on academia, art, and technology for a superb collection about identity and memory.... Throughout, Sims boldly plays with form, such as in 'Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,' which consists of one paragraph that extends for nearly 30 pages and chronicles an adjunct professor’s self-sabotage as he attempts to apply for a prestigious fellowship. Here and elsewhere, the prose is shot through with pitch-perfect observations and dark undercurrents... These brilliant stories are hard to shake."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
(Publishers Weekly review of Other Minds and Other Stories)
"Wholly original and totally unsettling, Sims’ new collection is spellbinding and nail-biting with the turn of every story."
—Sam Franzini, Our Culture Magazine
Author Spotlight: Bennett Sims, “Other Minds and Other Stories”
"Bennett Sims’ new book, Other Minds and Other Stories, is wonderful, and is coming out soon. That’s definitely spooky. When I read it, I found it incredibly unsettling. It was very, very, very spooky. I read it in one sitting, at a bar, and it was so creepy."
—Carmen Maria Machado, Little Village Magazine
"Like Paige Clark and Kate Folk, Bennett Sims belongs to a younger cohort of fiction writers who probe our most common psychopathologies to show us that we dwell among phantoms."
—Kelly M.S. Swope, Full Stop
(Review of Other Minds and Other Stories)
"Award-winning author Bennett Sims’ short story collection explores the uncanny, the unsettling, and the horrifying things about our everyday lives. It all kicks off when a man lends his phone to a stranger in the mall. From there, eerie and mysterious unknown calls start coming in, forever changing his world. These 12 short stories will send shivers down your spine."
—Emily Martin, Book Riot
"New Horror Books Out November 2023"
"Halloween may be behind us, but there’s always room on our shelf for books that satisfy and scare. Bennett Sims’s collection Other Minds and Other Stories does just that, bringing together twelve short stories about characters navigating the paranoia and obsession of everyday horrors both internal and external... Sims presents readers with unforgettable characters who are losing their grip on their own identities and the world around them, creating a collection that can be both terrifying and endless in its possibilities. Other Minds and Other Stories takes a refreshing approach to storytelling and achieves heights we rarely see in short fiction."
—Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books
"12 Must-Read Books of November 2023"
"Sims’ collection balances high-concept fiction with visceral thrills... Sims writes obsession well, evoking the ways in which a seemingly quotidian encounter can transform into something bizarre or alienating when seen from the right angle. Readers who enjoy their fiction heady will find a lot to enjoy here. This ambitious collection finds the right balance of familiar and experimental."
(Kirkus Reviews review of Other Minds and Other Stories)
Other Minds and Other Stories was included in Lit Hub's "For the cold and short days ahead, check out these 24 hot new books published today."
"Sims presents an interesting collection of psychologically unnerving stories with unreliable narrators galore. If you’re in the mood for a more heady read, this one will be right up your alley."
—Alyssa Cokinis, Little Village Mag
(Little Village Mag review of Other Minds and Other Stories)
"These stories are full of intellectual, philosophical and linguistic wonders. With a keen eye for the moments when the contemporary world turns to self-cannibalism, with ears attuned to the music of the language, Bennett Sims is one of the finest writers working in America today.”
—Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose
"There is no living writer more unsettling and brilliant than Bennett Sims."
—Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House
"Patiently, placidly, with exquisite technique and implacable logic, the mad master Bennett Sims erects gorgeous edifices of thought and bricks us inside while we admire the craftsmanship. It takes rare talent to make the prison of solipsism seem so inviting."
—Adam Ehrlich Sachs, author of Inherited Disorders and The Organs of Sense
"In Other Minds and Other Stories, Bennett Sims patiently parses the movements of consciousnesses increasingly colonized by media technology and turns the screws on the banalities of contemporary life until the uncanny irrupts from them. Following on White Dialogues, the twelve stories in this collection confirm Sims as a virtuoso of the form, and one of the best writers working in America today."
—Ryan Ruby, author of The Zero and the One
"Bennett Sims belongs to that almost extinct category of fiction writers whose lexical virtuosity, besides being a joy to read, reminds us the English language can thrive outside the tired phraseologies of everyday life. Whether he’s examining glitches of intersubjectivity, or the generative power of blank faces in a sarcophagus, his obsessive inquisitiveness enlivens every page of Other Minds and Other Stories.”
—Mauro Javier Cardenas, author of Aphasia and The Revolutionaries Try Again
"Bennett Sims is a pioneer and peerless master of psychological horror. The characters of Other Minds and Other Stories are haunted by intellect, helplessly coaxing terror from the ordinary by their powers of fine observation: GPS navigators, text messages, a snowy night, even the very act of reading. But what's truly unsettling is that once this book makes you see things in its brilliantly paranoid way, you'll never be able not to. Glory to Bennett Sims!”
—Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens
"These stories are brilliant: at once virtuosic and moving, funny and sad, terrifying and sweet. Each story is an excavation of thought, insistently pursued beyond the stopping point of most fiction, so that, in reading, we are permitted to sink into the deepest wormholes of its characters’ minds. There we find language at its most intricate and precise, perfections of expression that provide a reader that thrilling sense of recognition that comes when the words on the page have caused her to see herself—and maybe others—more clearly than she had before she read them."
—Louisa Hall, author of Reproduction, Trinity, and Speak
"Impeccably observed, exquisitely written, and rightly suspicious, Other Minds and Other Stories is a thrilling free-fall into the limitless spaces of relentless human obsessions—from voicemail to chickens to postcards to snow—brilliantly exposing, in the absolute everyday, the deepest and truest, and perhaps most familiar, of horrors."
—Susan Steinberg, author of The End of Free Love, Hydroplane, Spectacle, and Machine: A Novel
"Dreamy and visceral at once. I really liked it but it did end any ideas I had of ever owning chickens."
—Matthew Burris, Magic City Books (Tulsa, OK)
"Other Minds and Other Stories by Bennett Sims is a perfectly unsettling collection about memory, perception, self-doubt, Hegel, Hegel, Hegel, and amateur chicken butchering that goes horrifically wrong. From the purchase of a new cell phone to writing a personal statement that nearly drives a philosophy graduate student to madness, Sims is the master at exploring the horror in everyday mundane situations. Highly recommended!"
—Caitlin Baker, Island Books (Mercer Island, WA)
"This exquisite spiderweb of words is suspended in an eerily unique literary space between Borges' narrative mazes, Shirley Jackson's psychological gothic, George Saunders' noir satire, and Carmen Machado's social horror. Getting lost in a Sims tale may bruise your mind a bit, but it's worth it for the uncanny vistas."
—Jonathan Hawpe, Carmichael's Bookstore (Louisville, KY)
"This collection of cerebral stories left me on edge and wondering what I just read because my brain couldn't quite perform the gymnastics required to wrap my mind around it. Fascinated, you'll read, then reread these stories, then not be able to get them out of your head! 'Unknown' and 'The Postcard' were standouts."
—Alana Haley, Schuler Books (Grand Rapids, MI)
"what a fucking fantastic year for short stories. i absolutely love the restless interiority of Sims's narrators, how they obsess over details and grow increasingly troubled (and on rare occasions, enter a zen-like space of peace) as they pore over possible coincidences. there's also a startling breadth of kinds of stories, from the very short to the ones that spill and froth and just keep going seemingly unable or unwilling to stop. "Introduction to Reading Hegel" has a pitch perfect blend of humor and academic paranoia. One of the best collections I've read in years. 12 stars out of 10."
—Douglas Riggs, Bank Square Books (Mystic, CT)
"I loved this collection. Fits very well for those who like the short-form vibes of Samanta Schweblin and Brian Evenson. A spooky, David Foster Wallace-y attention to detail, like taking a microscope and roller-ruler to a Build-A-Nightmare."
—Ian McCord, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)
"This latest story collection from Bennett Sims is equal parts playful and unsettling, and a consistently engaging exploration into interior minds that feel just a bit askew."
—Bryan Seitz, Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, MI)
"Cerebral, eerie, and bleak. These short stories are candid and stylistically complex. My favorite stories were the ones with the unknown caller, the one with the chicken slaughter, and he one where a photograph seemed to have captured the presence of a grim reaper."
—Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library (Azusa, CA)
Praise for Bennett Sims's award-winning story collection, White Dialogues:
* Winner of the Rome Prize for Literature 2018-19
* One of the Best Books of 2017 —Bookforum
"A brilliant... story collection by possibly the smartest and most inventive writer of his... generation.
—Tony Tulathimutte, Bookforum, "Best Books of the Year"
Praise for Bennett Sims's award-winning debut novel, A Questionable Shape:
* Bard Fiction Prize 2014
* The Believer Book Award Finalist
* One of the Best Books of 2013 —Complex Magazine, Book Riot, Slate, The L Magazine, NPR's 'On Point', Salon
"A Questionable Shape is a rewriting of the genre in rather literal sense... Sims’s zombie novel perhaps contains the highest proportion of great descriptions of light per page since Proust... The zombie installs at the heart of the novel a perspective from which the polymorphous dynamics of the human experience of light disappear."
—Michael W. Clune, Los Angeles Review of Books
BOOK CLUB & READER GUIDE: Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. In her review for the American Booksellers' Association, bookseller Caitlin Baker wrote that author Bennett Sims is “the master at exploring the horror in everyday mundane situations”: How do the varied stories in this collection fit that description? As a group, discuss specific examples in the book that stood out the most to you in this regard.
2. With “La ‘mummia di Grottarosa’” and “Medusa,” the collection is bookended by single-page stories accompanied by photographs: How did the length of these two stories affect your reading of them? Discuss your preconceived notions of how long or short a “short story” ought to be and then talk about whether these two stories altered your opinion. What might a single-page story be able to uniquely achieve?
3. The puzzle of “other minds”—what another might be thinking and why—is a core theme that runs throughout the stories in this collection: In the title story “Other Minds,” what causes the reader anxiety and paranoia? Talk about how technology is examined in this story.
4. In the sectioned story “Minds of Winter,” what revelations does the narrator have while watching snow fall? How is language like a virus? How does the blizzard relate to ideas of memory and mourning?
5. In the story “Pecking Order,” what happens to the man’s plan to compassionately slaughter their flock of chickens? How do they each feel about Simone? In what ways does the situation ultimately affect the relationship between the couple? Would you say there is a “pecking order” between them as well?
6. “Death is just the stable framework, the cutout structure, within whose void a million mortal faces blur.” (p. 78) — In the story “Portonaccio Sarcophagus,” what does our narrator notice about the ancient sarcophagus? What various thoughts does this detail lead to? How is the narrator’s mother and her declining memory intertwined in the story?
7. Discuss the effect of seeing images within the story “Portonaccio Sarcophagus,” and whether you believe it changed your experience of it.
8. Many of the stories prominently feature historical objects through which ideas of living and death are explored. Discuss the effect of this using the examples of The Great Crack in “Afterlives”; the mummified Roman girl in “La ‘mummia di Grottarossa’”; the mosaic Medusa protecting ancient manuscripts, books which “extend mortal forms across immortal time” (p. 203); in the story “The New Violence,” how is the imagery depicted on the ancient Etruscan jug different from that depicted in the giallo genre Italian horror film?
9. Consider how the idea of being haunted is depicted in various ways throughout the collection. First discuss the story “The Postcard,” where the investigator asserts: “A ghost is the ongoingness of a memory, it stays behind on behalf of what it recalls, what it cannot forget, unfinished business...” (p. 189) Who is haunted in this story? How does “The Postcard” investigate ideas of identity and memory? How do you interpret its ending? Which other stories stood out to you on this theme?
10. “He had become possessed by someone else’s possessiveness, paranoia, obsession.” (p. 21) The story “Unknown” starts with the seemingly harmless act of momentarily lending a cell phone to a stranger. How does the man’s perception of what happened during this brief moment in the mall affect his later thoughts and actions? What does he become obsessed with? Talk about how our complicated relationship with technology is investigated in this story as well.
11. Consider the story “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel”: If you are a person who is in the academic world, discuss how you felt about the graduate student’s experience while applying for a prestigious fellowship. Did it ring true to your own experiences in any way? If you are not in academia, what stood out to you the most about the applicant’s thought process while pursuing the opportunity. As a group, discuss whether you think this is unique to the academic world, or universal.
12. Thinking back over all of the stories in this book, which ended up being your favorite? What other connective themes did you notice in the collection? As a group, take turns sharing and explaining the reasons why.
Bennett Sims was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the author of the story collection Other Minds and Other Stories (2023), the novel A Questionable Shape (2013), which received the Bard Fiction Prize and was a finalist for The Believer Book Award, and the story collection White Dialogues (2017), winner of the Rome Prize for Literature 2018–19 and named a best book of 2017 by Bookforum. He is a recipient of a Michener-Copernicus Society Fellowship. His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Conjunctions, Electric Literature, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All-Story, as well as in the Pushcart Prize Anthology. He has taught at Bard College, Grinnell College, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Enjoy a sneak peek of select pages from Other Minds and Other Stories!
View Other Minds and Other Stories sneak peek here
Cover design: Eric Obenauf;
Author photograph: Carmen Maria Machado;
Interior images: page 4: Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong: 1887, 1981: Palazzo Massimo, Roma (2019) (by permission of the Ministry of culture – National Roman Museum, Palazzo Massimo); pages 71, 73: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT: Sarcophage de Portonaccio—Palazzo Museo Massimo (Wikimedia, Creative Commons, 2011); pages 79, 81: Courtesy of the author; page 202: Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong: 1650: Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medioevo, Oratorio dei Filippini, Roma (2019).
LIST PRICE: $18.95
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387356
DIGITAL ISBN: 978-1-953387-36-3
RELEASE DATE: 11/14/2023
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"
Printed in Canada by Marquis, with the following environmental statement:
*Inside printed on Enviro 100% post-consumer EcoLogo certified paper, processed chlorine free and manufactured using biogas energy.
*FSC certified paper (inside and cover).