Nam Le's The Boat is a collection of short stories published in 2008. The book has received widespread critical acclaim and attracted a large readership, in addition to winning The Dylan Thomas Prize, the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction, and numerous other accolades. Such success would be very rare for a first novel, but is almost unheard of for a collection of short stories, a notoriously difficult genre in which to achieve popular or critical success. The book's success has been instrumental in inspiring other young Australian writers to experiment with the short story as a form.
Clearly, readers will form their own judgments about the value of the book and what makes it valuable. However, one aspect which has been singled out is the diversity of settings and viewpoints. Australia is a country of immigrants and travelers. The stories in The Boat are set in Iran, Japan, Colombia, the United States, and Australia, in settings ranging from New York City to small towns.
The author has also been praised for his ability to describe the thoughts and feelings of a wide range of different characters, and he is particularly adept in understanding the viewpoints of children. Critics have noted many literary qualities in Nam Le's stories, from the vivid physical descriptions to the psychological accuracy with which he depicts human relations. Nam Le's writing is also important in giving readers the perspective of an Asian immigrant in Australia, a very common one in real life, but one which is underrepresented in literature.