BJ Novak - One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (4 stars)

BJ Novak - One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories

An impressive debut collection from the writer/producer/star of America's The Office

It's tempting to approach One More Thing as an attempt to cash in on BJ Novak's celebrity status. After all, how many writers get their own photograph on the cover of their debut book – a short story collection, no less. Novak, best known as Ryan from the US version of The Office (he was also a writer/producer on the show), does.

But, as many writers can attest, 'short stories' and 'cashing in' aren't usually bedfellows. And in this fine collection, Novak reveals himself to be a strikingly gifted short story writer, with offerings that are whip-smart, funny and just the right side of sentimental.

If you're an Office fan, it's hard to get Novak's voice out of your head when reading the book's opener, a pitch perfect family reunion in Heaven. But the stories here are so absorbing – and so consistently good – that you quickly forget about his screen persona. 'Closure' manages to be a break-up story that's both sweet and unsettlingly macabre, while 'Angel Echeverria, Comediante Superpopular' pinpoints the on-stage strut of a stand-up comedian performing at his best with visceral accuracy. Sci-fi love story 'Sophia', whose refrain gives the collection its title, is tragic and touching, and 'Diary of the Man who Invented the Calendar' feels rambling until just one line near the end makes it almost unbearably poignant.

There are a few forgettable offerings, and the joke 'discussion questions' that pop up do feel a little exclusively aimed at college students. But it's rare to come across a collection – and a debut one at that – with so many standout stories. With it, Novak has established himself as a truly impressive writer of short fiction, and One More Thing is a book you'll not only want to dip into again and again: you might want to give it the occasional hug too.

Out now from Little, Brown.

Elsewhere on the web