Are You Here For What I’m Here For?

256 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781942658122


ISBN: 9781942658139

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“Booker’s writing is raw, haunting, and otherworldly in the pursuit of his characters’ emotional lives. . . . I loved the diversity of this collection—there is a hypochondriac, a paranoid academic, a teenager coming into his sexuality, and a boy who finds a mermaid on the beach. I’m here for Booker’s beautiful, brilliant debut.”

Paris Review

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“Delivers seven compelling vignettes that tell different stories but are seamlessly threaded by a common factor: illness. Each individually titled vignette showcases the lyrical and phantasmagorical voice that Booker uses to colorfully display each character and their sometimes real and sometimes imagined affliction.”

Time Out New York

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“Unrelenting in its exploration of what we can know about ourselves, Are You Here For What I’m Here For? is an enchanting journey that lingers with its reader long after the last page.”

One Story

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“[Booker] has a markedly arresting storytelling style in this debut collection.”

Toronto Star

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“Outstanding. . . . Are You Here For What I’m Here For? rings with memorable characters, scenes, and settings. Brian Booker’s magical realism reminds me of “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez—rich with melancholic truths and mystery.”

New Pages

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“Excellent. . . . Booker has a way of catching the nuances of the American psyche. The writing is crisp; the characters are believable.”

Lambda Literary

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“Elegant and inventive. . . . Ambiguity fuels Booker’s work, and it’s what makes his short stories worth reading over and over again. Every time I open this book, I find something new.”


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“The title of the collection perfectly captures the anxiety of constant searching for: understanding, solutions, or a safe space. . . . The inner monologues are relatable and juicy. Our narrators aren’t smoke and dagger types, rather they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, ordinary people just moving through life. . . . None of these personas are superheroes or mad scientists, though their limitations are illuminating.”

EDGE Media Network

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“Recurring phrases and motifs—like “prepare for the worst,” the mysterious sleeping sickness, or the moral implications of certain diseases—turn [Booker’s] collection into an echo chamber where a sense of impending doom ricochets off the walls. Like a strange collection of symptoms that defies all neat diagnostic categories, these motifs suggest meaning but refuse to be placed in a single coherent framework. The reader is thus forced into the role of a literary hypochondriac and left to wonder: what is imagined? What is real?”

MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose: Adventures at the Intersection of Medicine and Literature

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“It’s hard to find [a story] so original, so dead-on in its prose, so engaging, I sped my way through its thirty-something pages, completely entranced by Booker’s writing, imagination, and execution.”


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“With a keen eye for detail, Booker announces himself as a premier storyteller whose work crosses genre boundaries, appealing to fans of mystery, suspense, and literary fiction.”

Publishers Weekly

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“A very highly recommended exceptional collection of seven stories. With an acute eye for detail, intelligent presentations, and an accomplished style, Booker delivers thoughtful selections that will be appreciated by short story aficionados.”

She Treads Softly

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“Beautiful prose about not so beautiful thoughts.”

Reviews by Amos Lassen

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“Brian Booker’s stories contain a phantasmagorical hilarity, along with a headlong momentum that only accelerates as the stories’ events grow more dire. You can open this book to any page and will find there amazing events related in a deeply unsettling style. I don’t know of any writing quite like his. Are You Here For What I’m Here For? is a brilliant debut.”

Charles Baxter, author of The Soul Thief and There’s Something I Want You to Do

“Brian Booker’s stories are contagiously readable. Like many of the maladies they so vividly describe, they seem at once believable and otherworldly, casting the spell of an uncanny fever dream. But while the characters in these tales may languish, their reader—braced by Booker’s delightfully unsettling imagination—emerges always invigorated.”

Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl and The Paternity Test

“Reading Brian Booker’s stories is like lolling on your sofa, or strolling the streets of your town, when you look around and it dawns on you that everything you thought you recognized is suddenly . . . different. The unnerving newspaper headline, those weird jars in the fridge, the off-kilter conversation with that too friendly stranger—the quotidian and the unremarkable are rendered strange and new, and the effect is, to quote the author, ‘a little like nectar and a little like poison.’ These are terrific stories, and Booker is a terrific writer.”

Daniel Orozco, author of Orientation

“An unforgettable collection of people trying to learn how—and whether—to trust their own minds. Booker’s theme, like that of Kafka and W.G. Sebald, is dislocation, as much from the physical world as from the world of others and of thought. The writing brims with intelligent detail, but always in the service of its characters—people striving for ‘new, uncharted places,’ reachable nowhere else but in these singular stories.”

Salvatore Scibona, author of The End

“Brian Booker is a realist the way Kafka or Ishiguro are realists—he works at the seams of our experience, in those anxious moments where we cannot be sure of our senses, our memories, or our selves. In these extraordinary and uncanny stories, anxiety, neurosis, disease, and hallucination overtake his characters and haunt the worlds they inhabit. Are You Here For What I’m Here For? teems with unsettling wisdom about all those things our minds and hearts contain that we wish they did not.”

Casey Walker, author of Last Days in Shanghai

The suspense creeps in and takes hold in seven stories about troubled characters grappling with rare illnesses, menacing chance encounters, sexual awakening, impending natural disasters, and New Age cults.

Within these pages, the everyday meets the uncanny as two high school friends go out for one unforgettable night. A boy, haunted by dreams of a catastrophic flood, becomes swept up in an encephalitis epidemic. A hypochondriac awaits her diagnosis at a Caribbean health resort. A disease researcher meets his nemesis on a train. A father searches for his missing son in a remote mountain lodge where nothing is quite as it seems. An elderly pharmacist protects his adopted nephew, who found a mermaid in a bottle, from a coastal village gripped by hysteria. A teenager is sent to a “therapeutic” boarding school with disturbing methods and is reunited with a staff member years later.

Even at its most surreal, this polished and lyrical debut remains grounded in the emotional lives of people teetering atop widening chasms of confusion and doubt.

Saroyan Prize Shortlist

Excerpt from Are You Here For What I’m Here For?

Brian Booker shares the stories behind his debut collection Are You Here For What I’m Here For? with the Rumpus and One Story.

Brian Booker discusses “taking characters for a ride” at TSP: The official blog of The Story Prize.

Find out what haunts Brian Booker about Dan Chaon’s story “Here’s a Little Something to Remember Me By” at Beatrice.

Read an excerpt from Are You Here For What I’m Here For? in Shelf Unbound magazine.