Once upon a time, I didn't "do" short stories. The only time I read them was for class, and even then, I loathed the assignments. I, like a lot of people who claim they don't like short stories, found them too abrupt. Once I started getting into a story, it ended, and I was too quickly ushered into a new one. I felt robbed, like I was only getting a piece of a whole, and that the author was holding out. That was, of course, until I found a short story collection I liked.
When a friend handed me Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, I rolled my eyes and tried to resist, telling her I really wasn't into short fiction. "Trust me, you'll like this," she said. Her knowing smile should have told me everything I needed to know, because once I read Lahiri's outstanding collection — which I finished in one sitting — I was hooked. Now, I'm a short story junkie.
The truth is, there are so many amazing short story collections out there that are just as good as the novels you're so fond of reading, you just have to give them a chance. Despite their brevity, short stories are rich and powerful, and they have the capacity to fully engage you, no matter what their page count is. But if you're still skeptical — I don't blame you, I was too — then here are 13 collections you should try, even if you think you hate short stories:
Runaway by Alice Munro
A modern master of short stories, Alice Munro weaves captivating tales about relationships, identity, and womanhood in Runaway, a breathtaking and emotional collection from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Each story is rich in detail and bursting with raw emotion, featuring characters who are as relatable as they are unforgettable. If your woes about short stories include the fact they aren't long enough, you'll appreciate the interconnectedness of many of these tales.
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Monsters and witches and beasts, oh my! Enter the fantastical mind of Neil Gaiman through his newest short story collection, Trigger Warning, which features familiar worlds (including that of American Gods) and brand new nightmares. Imaginative, wonderous, and sometimes disturbing, this collection, which is part sci-fi, part mythology, and all original, will change the way you look at short stories.
Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes
In this case, you can tell a lot about a book by its cover. Blunt, humorous, and unapologetic, Barbara the Slut and Other People will have you actually LOLing. A brazen look at love, sex, relationships, and figuring it all out, Lauren Holmes's debut collection of stories is not for the bashful reader, but it is for anyone who claims they hate short stories. Because these are the kind that stay with you and make you want to talk to everyone you know about them when you've finished — yeah, they are that interesting.
Flings: Stories by Justin Taylor
Your 20s and 30s are unsure times, and Justin Taylor's phenomenal collection Flings captures those feelings of uncertainty and doubt with honesty and heart — and a whole lot of humor, too. Chock-full of zany characters, bizarre situations, and pop culture references to boot, there is no way, short story lover or not, that you won't revel in the genius and wit of this laugh-out-loud collection.
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
Lailla Lalami chronicles the Muslim immigrant experience of four Moroccans in her stirring collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits. Not quite short stories and not quite a novel, Lalami presents a series of fictional profiles of characters who are all connected, and who are all fighting for their freedom, their futures, and their lives. Poignant and moving, this hybrid is perfect for those who crave an overarching story in their collections.
Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor
A series of dazzling, surreal, and often thought-provoking interconnected stories make up Kyle Minor's tour de force, Praying Drunk. Although it is not a novel, Minor's collection is meant to be read in order. Reoccurring events, themes, and characters are played out in new and surprising ways throughout, each one commanding your full attention. Wildly entertaining and fully engrossing, Praying Drunk was written for the short story naysayers.
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
Speaking of interconnected stories, Kurt Vonnegut's masterful collection Welcome to the Monkey House is not only interconnected within itself, but has ties to Vonnegut's entire wonderful, mad fictional literary universe. Hilarious, satirical, and outrageous, the 25 stories in this collection take you from the battlefield of the past to the streets of the future, all with Vonnegut's signature biting humor and sharp prose. There is something in here for everyone, even those who think they hate this genre.
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
Magic for Beginners, a brilliant combination of fantasy, surrealism, and emotion, is an unique collection that walks the line between dreams and reality. Like fairytales for adults, Magic for Beginners has a captivating power that grabs readers from the first story, the first sentence, even, and doesn't let go until the last page. If you don't think you like short stories, I dare you to try and find something about this collection that turns you away. It's simply remarkable storytelling, and who doesn't like that?
Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Stories by Terrence Holt
Maybe you don't think you like short stories, but I bet you can't get enough of medical dramas. Like Grey's Anatomy in book form — but with less on call room hook ups — Internal Medicine, based off of Terrence Holt's own experiences as a physician, chronicles a doctor's grueling, emotionally trying years as a resident. Life and death, as well as careers and personal lives, are in a constant battle with one another, and Holt's unsparing prose captures the sadness, the wonder, and the beauty of it all in one gut-wrenching story after another.
Shakespeare's Kitchen: Stories by Lore Segal
Lore Segal's Shakespeare's Kitchen features 13 stories that are all (surprise!) connected in one way or another. From the classroom to Sunday brunch, each story further explores the complexities of forging and maintaining meaningful relationships with one another, romantic or otherwise. While each can stand strongly on its own, thanks to superb writing, together, these mesmerizing stories are worthy of novel-like binge-reading.
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman
Inspired by real women who almost made it into the history books, Megan Mayhew Bergman's Almost Famous Women imagines the fiction lives of ladies like Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter and power boat racer and heiress Joe Carstairs. The robust characters and supreme storytelling make each of these fictional biographies a delight to read, but what's more is their ability to examine women's experiences, both universal and unique, with authenticity and tact. Even if you don't like short stories, you will fall in love with each of these remarkable women.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft
If you love horror but think you hate short stories, then The Call of Cthulhu and Other Stories just may convince you of the form's merits. Each of Lovecraft's 30 stories are gripping and spine-tingling, some even terrifying enough to make you thankful that they're only a few pages, lest your heart couldn't take it anymore.
A Taste of Honey: Stories by Jabari Asim
Through 16 linked stories of the Midwest in the late 1960s, Jabari Asim paints a vivid picture of one of the most tumultuous times in recent history. A Taste of Honey brings to life the interconnected journeys of several African Americans in a tight-knit community overwhelmed with unrest and threatened with violence. Incisive and affecting, Asim's collection is a power work of fiction that will hold your attention story after story, until you find yourself exhausted and heartbroken... and completely in love with short stories.
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