The best part about being in a book club is getting to spend an afternoon drinking coffee and talking for hours about your new favorite book. The worst part about a book club (if there is such a thing) is having to pick out and agree on the next book to read. Fantastic books continue to come out, which is a wonderful thing, but it also means your book decision always remains difficult. This is where the short story collection comes in to save the day — with a cape and everything.
The beautiful thing about a short story collection is that it's filled with different characters, story lines, plots, and settings. If you didn't like one short story within it, chances are that you're going find at least one to fall in love with. Specifically within a book club, these collections are easy to discuss as the stories are already separated and small enough to jump in and out of within a group setting.
As much as I adore traditional novels, short story collections can serve as a palate cleanser. It breaks the mould, shakes things up a bit, and gets you to focus in on the bigger details within smaller stories. Amazing short stories are not easy to write, so to write a collection, in my mind, is to create a masterpiece. These 11 collections are sure to become some of your book club's best additions yet:
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
If you or your book club is new to short story collections, try starting out with one of the most masterful short storytellers: Kelly Link. This highly anticipated collection has lived up to its hype with stories following astronauts, bootleggers, and even Ouija boards. Your book club won't be able to stop talking about the connecting themes of humanity and humor throughout.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Going with a classic is also a great way to introduce short story collections to your group. Carver is not known for his grand epiphanies or dramatic plots, but for his simplicity and beautiful prose, capturing humanity at its core. While some of his stories may take a few read-throughs, that makes his collection perfect for a book club. Where one person may have read a different theme or meaning from a certain story, another probably took something else from it, which always makes for interesting discussions.
Runaway by Alice Munro
There are so many wonderful things to say about Alice Munro, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and her beautiful writing. Runaway captures everything she does well in eight short stories, all while covering the themes of womanhood, identity, and the human heart. Even if your book club doesn't read this book together, this is a collection that must be on every woman's book bucket list.
The Temple of Air by Patricia Ann McNair
Taking place in New Hope, a small midwestern town struck with tragedy, these intertwined short stories will take you through a unique journey unlike any other. Spanning over three generations, there's something everyone can take away from these redemption and consequence filled stories. From the very first page, McNair will astound you and your entire book club with her detailed and gorgeous writing style.
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
Stone Mattress is one of my all-time favorite short stories in this collection, and Margaret Atwood will never fail to bring you into a wicked and fascinating world with her words. Three of the first stories are interconnected while the rest stand on their own, mirroring the themes of aging and the horrors that come with it. Vivid and humorous at times, dark at others, you'll spend more time than usual discussing these stories in your book club.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
If you and your book club are craving stories on love — and I mean all different perspectives of love: obsessive, fading, cruel, powerful, intoxicating — then this is your book. Junot Díaz writes the stories of the people you see passing by in the busy city streets, and at the heart of it all is Yunior, a reckless young boy in search of love. Along with Díaz's other collection, Drown, you'll be falling in love with his writing and storytelling prose.
On the Way by Cyn Vargas
One of the more recent short story collections to have made a major impact on me, On the Way is Vargas' big debut and I was seriously impressed. Her characters are the stories, and nearly all of the stories follow some version of a loss or gain in life. Touching on those moments in life when you wish to act out but choose to stay in the shadows, this short collection of short stories is a perfect fit for any book club.
Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman
This collection of short stories follows women throughout history born close to the spotlight but not given the recognition they craved. From James Joyce's daughter Lucia to Oscar Wilde's crazy niece Dolly, Bergman reimagines the lives of these daring women and pulls you in by their reckless choices and compelling lives.
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Maybe you already read American Gods with your book club and are craving another masterpiece by Gaiman. Trigger Warning is the collection of stories that sets out to reveal the masks everyone hides behind through haunting and ingenious tales only Gaiman could create. Including a very special Doctor Who special story written for the 50th anniversary, a tale inspired by Gaiman's active social media presence, and many more creative and spellbinding stories await.
Portraits of the Few People I've Made Cry by Christine Sneed
If the title alone doesn't get you, Sneed's complex and artistic writing definitely will. Her stories embody the complicated and twisted relationships that bloom between men and women of all ages. Each story takes on the point of view of a woman at a different stage in life and hooks you into a compelling journey of morals and complications we all face in life. You'll love discussing it with your book group — and, really, anyone that needs a book recommendation.