Turbulence: David Szalay

Rating: 4 / 5

David Szalay’s Turbulence is a refreshingly approachable collection of short stories on the human desire to connect with others. The stories are centered around the cause and effect of small, happenstance interactions, and each story relates to the previous and the next.

Turbulence, David Szalay

A large chunk of life is spent in small moments of waiting, of transit, of moving along. In those moments, are we not impacted by our rideshare driver or the passanger we sit next to on the plane? David Szalay’s collection of short stories will answer, resoundingly, that – yes – there is significance in the small connections we make every day.

With a focus on the idea that everyone is fighting a battle that is not readily visible to passersby, these twelve stories tell the tales of strangers who impact each others’ lives in those small moments.

Content Warning

Please take caution while reading Turbulence if any of the following topics may trigger you:

  • Death or dying
  • Blood

My Thoughts

Turbulence is a small book with a big message – you do impact those around you, whether you mean to or not. This collection of short stories is one of the most approachable and digestible I’ve come across to date (another is Look How Happy I’m Making You, in case you’re looking to dip your toes in the short story genre for the first time).

What makes this collection particularly special is how closely related the stories are to one another. The first story features a woman and a man chatting on the plane; the next that same man taking a taxi from the airport. While the stories are distinct in that they take place in new locations and with mostly new characters, the entire collection is fantastically cohesive and ultimately paints one picture of human nature.

It would be wrong of me not to touch on the fact that this book is tiny. At 160 pages, you can easily fly through it in a day. May I suggest, however, that you take your time? I find that when I’m reading a short collection of short stories (such as Sing To It), it can be so easy for the entire collection to jumble together rather than letting each small morsel of literature impact me individually. In a way, I treat short stories as a moment of transit – a quick pit stop in between two more substantial novels. I can’t imagine this is how the collections were intended to be written, and I challenge myself – and you! – to slow down and really enjoy the stories in this collection.

As I said, Turbulence is very approachable. So many short story collections can be very abstract, with meanings that must be extracted with a fine tooth comb. These stories are whip smart and thoughtful, but you won’t finish the last page thinking “What was I supposed to take from that?” The message is clear and rich with depth, and the writing accessible.

Turbulence is near the top of my favorite short story collections to date; it’s full of heart, connection, and intelligence. I highly recommend this collection to the short story genre newcomer and veteran, alike.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Turbulence. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the collection in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!

Thank you Scribner Books for sending me a free copy of this book!

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