As any student of creative writing knows, you’re not likely
to get though school without reading about a billion short stories before you’re
done. And quite frankly, between reading short stories and writing stories and
thinking about short stories and talking about short stories, by the time my near-decade
of creative writing education was done, I was pretty burnt out on the short
story form. Plus, confession: I’d never really loved the category to begin with. More
often, I prefer to stick with my characters for a few hundred pages or so, not
just 10 or 20. So if you’re not totally sold on the lure of the short
story either, believe me, I understand.
But with that said, you don’t spend years studying short
stories without coming away with some appreciation (dare I say love?) for them.
After all, there’s something to be said for a writer who can take readers on
the full arc of a novel in the span of just a few pages. And there is also something
a bit musical about the art of putting together a collection of short stories —
from the title to the arrangement, to the thematic thread, to the overall
message a collection holds. So if you’re guilty of under-appreciating the short
story (and believe me, all us readers have been there) the collections on this
list might just urge you to give the genre another try.
Here are 10 short story collections for people who don’t like short stories. At least a few of these are bound to convert
you, I promise.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection is sure
to convert even the biggest short story skeptic into a devoted fan. From a
reinterpretation of the classic Cinderella story, to tales of immigrant
experiences, to a complex analysis of the conflict between India and Pakistan,
each of the nine stories in Jhumpa Lahirir’s Interpreter of Maladies
explores the pitfalls and successes of the
coming-of-age experience, in prose that is both gorgeous and thought-provoking.
A collection of the very best work of the late short story
writer Lucia Berlin, A Manual for
reads as a love story to the hidden corners of America — into
places as varied an unnoticed as rural laundromats and the offices of switchboard
operators and halfway houses, and deep into the hearts and minds of the people
who exist there. Each one of Berlin’s characters is wholly themselves — revealed
and imperfect and alive on the page. You’ll find yourself feeling almost as
though you’ve known them in real life.
Fantasy, the supernatural, pop culture, and natural
disasters collide in Kelly Link’s collection of short stories: Get in Trouble
. Told with a voice as witty
as it is whimsical, this collection takes readers from rural North Carolina to
swampy Florida, introducing you to irresistible, one-of-a-kind characters, who
are each discovering their own resilience and hidden strengths. You won’t be
able to get enough of them.
I became slightly obsessed with Richard Bausch after I
discovered him in Poets & Writers magazine, and after reading this
collection you might as well. Something
is Out There
is a collection of stories all bout familial struggles,
betrayal, the fragility of romantic love, and the truths we only keep to
ourselves. Filled with almost frustratingly-relatable characters, it depicts
how easily our lives, that have unfolded in one particular way, could have
easily happened differently—and how the events of just a single day might make
you change everything.
Comprised of a whopping 46 short stories, at first you might
be inclined to shy away from this collection — but don’t, because if Joy
Williams can’t convert you into a short story lover, no one will. Featuring
both new stories and the best pieces from her celebrated collections, The Visiting Privilege
striking prose, as well as a series of artfully rendered characters whose
personalities and struggles are simultaneously unfamiliar and relatable.
This story collection is seriously SO GOOD — yes, even if
you don’t like short stories (that’s the theme we’re running with here, after
all.) Nathan Englander’s What We Talk
About When We Talk About Anne Frank
is a collection all about asking the
tough questions, and no story perhaps more than the title story, which
introduces readers to two couples profoundly different from one another: one an
Orthodox Jewish couple from Israel, and the other an interfaith (really
lapsed-faith) Jewish/Christian couple from the United States, who find themselves
wondering what and who they’d actually risk their lives for.
The 2013 Nobel Prize winning Dear Life
is a collection of stories about people who are, often
unknowingly, approaching moments of transformation in their lives. Short story
master Alice Munro captures each of her characters in moments of decision-making
(or lack thereof) when they find themselves halted at a life-altering crossroad.
explores the power of a
single moment — be it large or small — and how one single act, consciously
taken or not, can change your life forever.
Karen E. Bender’s collection Refund
, explores the function and failings of money in post-9/11
America — how much we value it, how we cheat people out of it (or don’t), who
has it and who doesn’t, what we’re willing to give up for it, and whether or
not we can move beyond issues of money in order to forge deeper human
connections with those around us.
The stories in I Am an
are not for the faint of heart. They explore the grotesque and the
abnormal, things that are simultaneously weak and powerful, and sometimes leave
you wondering what, exactly, Rajesh Parameswaran just allowed you to witness — which
makes them all the more compelling. Each story deals with characters
negotiating their own individual understandings of love and how they express
that love, and act as a bit of a literary slap in the face. These are not your
MFA-required short stories, that’s for sure.
I do really love a collection of short stories that are, however
faintly, linked — and these are especially good for readers approaching the short
story genre with hesitation. At the center resides Yunior, the love-hungry
young man who has great difficulties in both his romantic relationships and his
relationships with family and friends alike. This Is How You Lose Her
begins at the end, and then walks readers
back to the very beginning, through Yunior's journey to and from his lost love,