9 of the Best Short Story Collections Written by Women

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The short story is like the overlooked, younger sister. She does not get the pomp or publicity of her older, bigger, family member the novel. But short stories, unlike novels, demand our undivided attention. They are intimate, forcing us to finish in one sitting and giving us a rush with plot twists, narrative risks, and enigmatic characteristics that a novel cannot sustain. Chinelo Okparanta’s beautiful, new collection of short stories, Happiness, Like Water, encapsulated all that's great about the short as an art unto itself — and these collections, all by female authors, all do the same.

The short story is like the overlooked, younger sister. She does not get the pomp or publicity of her older, bigger, family member the novel. But short stories, unlike novels, demand our undivided attention. They are intimate, forcing us to finish in one sitting and giving us a rush with plot twists, narrative risks, and enigmatic characteristics that a novel cannot sustain. Chinelo Okparanta’s beautiful, new collection of short stories, Happiness, Like Water, encapsulated all that's great about the short as an art unto itself — and these collections, all by female authors, all do the same.

'Self-Help' by Lorrie Moore

Self-Help is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary short story telling. Her debut collection is filled with her signature wry humor, insightful characterizations and beautiful moments of desperation, awkwardness and banality of modern life. After finishing Self-Help one does not wish they could write like Moore, they wish they could think like her. 

'Unaccustomed Earth' by Jhumpa Lahiri

Known for her Pulitzer Prize winning short story collection, The Interpreter of the Maladies, Lahiri’s second collection of short stories is richer and more complex. Lahiri shows off her gift of creating characters that readers are compelled to watch grow and to identify with. Unaccustomed Earth deals with the theme of America as a land of reinvention, where people either flourish or wilt at the hands of foreign, sometimes, unrelenting soil.  

'No One Belongs Here More Than You' by Miranda July

Written by the filmmaker, artist, nostalgia enthusiast, and wunderkind that is Miranda July, the stories in No One Belongs Here More Than You have an immediacy and rawness that read like confessions. July is generous with her characters, giving them believable vulnerability, tenderness and a certain element of grittiness. In her debut short story collection, July turns the mundane into beautifully, intimate moments of longing. 

'Magic For Beginners' by Kelly Link

In Magic for Beginners, Link takes everyday tragedies and imbues them with an element of the fantastical, transforming the typical suburb into a setting that is rife with weird, unexpected emotional complexities. 

'Runaway' by Alice Munro

The champion of the short story genre, Munro has been called the “Chekhov of our generation” and has a plate full of literary awards and more than 10 beautiful short story collections to back up the claim. You really can’t go wrong with any of Munro’s short story collections, but our personal favorite is Runaway. The collection alone proves that Munro is one of the best authors out there writing about women.

'Shakespeare’s Kitchen' by Lore Segal

Segal’s work is the best of both worlds: a short story collection that reads like a novel. Though all of Segal’s short stories can stand on their own, the stories and characters are all interconnected to each other. Set in a college town in Connecticut, Segal transforms the dinner parties and everyday conversation of an upper-crust social circle into a constantly moving and working puzzle of minor human tragedies.  

'Vampires in the Lemon Grove' by Karen Russell

The author of the critically-acclaimed novel Swamplandia, Russell does not disappoint with her follow-up. Many of her stories plop the reader into fantastical worlds that once amazed us as children. But these worlds are now layered with a grim and humorous prose that gives us insight into the non-fantastical real world life.

'Twilight Of The Superheroes' by Deborah Eisenberg

Eisenberg is one of the most under-hyped contemporary writers working today. Twilight of the Superheroes is filled with characters that are ignorant of what they are doing and why they are doing it. A minimalist or perhaps an abstractionist in her writing, Eisenberg plunges us into stories, sometimes without a sense of setting or situation. Yet no matter how much or how little detail she gives us, we are always left with the impression that there is no superhero to save us from the secrets that paralyze us. 

'Bobcat and Other Stories' by Rebecca Lee

Upon its release, Lee's collection was heralded as one of 2013's best books. It doesn't take much to see why: the seven long stories in Bobcat are incredibly layered, even in dealing with subjects that we may deem unremarkable. Readers walk away with a renewed view on insecurity, fear, and humanity — and do so having read some of the most graceful prose out there.