The History of Sound: Stories (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Shattuck's first work of fiction is every bit as good as Six Walks, his Thoreau-inspired armchair travel/nature literature journal. All of these stories are set in the Northeast, from Nantucket to a logging camp in New Hampshire. Shattuck spans centuries in these unsettling, moving stories that are deeply researched and deeply felt.

Stan Hynds


“Polyphonic fiction. . . . A reminder of the short story’s power. . . . The History of Sound marks Shattuck as one of the form’s brightest lights. . . . A terrific writer. . . . Deeply resonant.” —The Boston Globe

“Exquisitely crafted, deeply imagined, exhilaratingly diverse, The History of Sound places Ben Shattuck firmly among the very finest of our storytellers.”
—Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of Horse

“Magnificent. . . . Poignant. . . . Exquisite.” —Publishers Weekly

A stunning collection of interconnected stories set in New England, exploring how the past is often misunderstood and how history, family, heartache, and desire can echo over centuries

In twelve luminous stories set across three centuries, The History of Sound examines the unexpected ways the past returns to us and how love and loss are entwined and transformed over generations. In Ben Shattuck's ingenious collection, each story has a companion story, which contains a revelation about the previous, paired story. Mysteries and murders are revealed, history is refracted, and deep emotional connections are woven through characters and families.

The haunting title story recalls the journey of two men who meet around a piano in a smoky, dim bar, only to spend a summer walking the Maine woods collecting folk songs in the shadow of the First World War, forever marked by the odyssey. Decades later, in another story, a woman discovers the wax cylinders recorded that fateful summer while cleaning out her new house in Maine. Shattuck’s inventive, exquisite stories transport readers from 1700s Nantucket to the contemporary woods of New Hampshire and beyond—into landscapes both enduring and unmistakably modern. Memories, artifacts, paintings, and journals resurface in surprising and poignant ways among evocative beaches, forests, and orchards, revealing the secrets, misunderstandings, and love that linger across centuries.

Written with breathtaking humanity and humor, The History of Sound is a love letter to New England, a radiant conversation between past and present, and a moving meditation on the abiding search for home.

About the Author

Ben Shattuck is the author of Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau, which was a New Yorker Best Book of 2022, a Wall Street Journal Best Book of Spring, a New York Times Best Book of Summer, a New England Indie Bestseller, and was nominated for the Massachusetts Book Award. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and winner of the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and a Pushcart Prize. He lives with his wife and daughter on the coast of Massachusetts, where he owns and runs the oldest general store in America, built in 1793. He is also the director and founder of the Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency.

Praise For…

Praise for The History of Sound

The History of Sound is polyphonic fiction. . . . It’s also a reminder of the short story’s power. . . . The History of Sound marks Shattuck as one of the form’s brightest lights. . . . A terrific writer. . . . Deeply resonant.”
Chris Vognar, The Boston Globe

“Intricately structured, powerfully emotional, beautifully written: This is as good as short fiction gets.”
—Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)

“In each arresting, surprising, gorgeously realized tale, Shattuck considers how art and stories are passed down, misconstrued, and lost; how love can be tragic and insufficient; how chance meetings and buried secrets resonate. Shattuck’s numinous stories shimmer with longing and loss, fate and beauty.”
—Booklist (STARRED review)

“A magnificent collection about love, longing, and New England history. . . . Shattuck shines especially in his depiction of nature. . . . Deeply felt and impeccably researched, these exquisite stories capture the spirit of the Northeast.” 
Publishers Weekly

“Exquisitely crafted, deeply imagined, exhilaratingly diverse, The History of Sound places Ben Shattuck firmly among the very finest of our storytellers.”
—Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of Horse

“Shattuck has recovered what was thought lost—in American history, natural history, and unspoken human longing—and returned it to us on the page. This is what great art does. Lovingly detailed, beautifully told, with interconnections that make the reader gasp aloud, these stories are unlike anything on your bookshelf. I love The History of Sound and you will too. Get it now.”
—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less and Less Is Lost

The History of Sound is much more than a stunning short story collection—the best I’ve read in more than a decade—it’s a seductive cluster of interweaving narratives that will keep you turning the pages even as you savor each story’s specificity, heart, and wit. Ben Shattuck writes about music, painting, history, and the natural world with such authority and grace, but it’s his characters that stay with you in their desperate attempts to make sense of this inexplicable world. I can’t wait to read whatever Ben Shattuck has coming next.”
—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower, and Travels with George

“Ben Shattuck’s stories are stunning: enthralling, suspenseful, and haunting; often witty and always deeply moving. Like Alice Munro and Andrea Barrett, he has a keen eye for the mysterious intersections of human nature with nature itself—and a knack for capturing the span of an entire life in a single tale, each resonating with others to create a book about history, destiny, and the way we live now. At the end, I longed for more.” 
—Julia Glass, author of Vigil Harbor and Three Junes

“In braiding themselves together, The History of Sound’s stories generate the most ingenious and pleasing and moving evocation of New England, in all its seasonal and geographic variety. Over time—from 1696 to Radiolab—mysteries posed in one story are off-handedly addressed years later in another, protagonists become someone else’s minor character, and fates are meted out as each new narrative throws a crucial contextualizing light upon the other. Ben Shattuck is a devoted magpie: these stories celebrate the earth’s music and bounty, and remind us how diminished we are when severed from who and what we loved.” 
—Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron and Like You'd Understand, Anyway

“Beautifully constructed, emotionally resonant, and richly rooted in the natural world, these stories chime memorably through time and space.”
—Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Natural History

“The stories in this beautifully written book toggle between the past and the present, and their subjects include the natural world in and around New England, and, within that natural world, a cultural landscape that includes music, faith, love, and murder. Ben Shattuck is a gifted writer who is wonderfully generous and wide-ranging in his concerns. He cares deeply about those in peril, those in need of help and aid, and his imagination goes out to them. Like the novelists of the 19th century, he looks upon the world with wonder, as if no one had ever really seen it or its secrets or made an account of it before. In every sense, this is a wonderful book.”
—Charles Baxter, author of Feast of Love and There's Something I Want You to Do

“A magical collection of interlinked stories. Shattuck writes with the artful skill and intellectual edge of a novelist and, as essentially, with the grace and transcendent depth of a poet. The History of Sound is an exhilarating work of fiction. I loved it.”
—Dawn Tripp, author of Georgia and Jackie

“The author of Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau delivers a collection of interconnected New England stories, spanning multiple centuries and matters of love, death, and history, both personal and national. It’s a sweeping but intimate feat of scope and imagination.”
—The Boston Globe

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593490389
ISBN-10: 059349038X
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: July 9th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English