Recommendations: Short Story Collections

I love short stories. I only started properly reading them a few years ago but I have developed such an appreciation for the format. When a short story is done right, it can pack an unbelievable punch.

16158505I am currently reading A Guide To Being Born by Ramona Asubel, a rather brilliant collection, with twisty, dark, wonderful, magical stories (I understand why Jen Campbell names this as one of her favourites) and the reading experience got me thinking about what I like in the collections I adore. I gravitate towards short stories with a bit of a magical twist – I find these stories to be super mesmerizing. I also appreciate more realistic stories but here I often find that these collections are overall rather bleak which can get too much for me.

Here are some of my favourite short story collections, in case you are (like me) always looking for more collections to read.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

28818921Nobody is surprised to see this collection of this list: I adored every second of it. I am in general a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s writing and these stories are a perfect example for her prose and her characterization, which I am just in awe of. The stories are well-plotted and purposefully structured. You can find my review here.


The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311One of my all-time favourite books, everything about this spoke to me. Marra tells an overarching story in wonderfully structured short stories. His command of language is impressive, his way of characterising people with a sentence and a half something that I find fascinating, and his sense for pacing and plotting is absolutely on display here. Be warned though, the book and its subject matter is bleak (it is after all set in Chechnya and unblinking in its depiction of war and atrocities), but Marra infuses it with just enough hope to be a stunning ode human connection. I cannot wait for his next book.

The Brink by Austin Bunn

22693283I loved this (and its perfect cover!). The stories all deal with some sort of Brink – often the end of the world as we know it. I adored the vagueness of the stories and the punch they had. Bunn is a another of those authors whose next work I am eagerly awaiting. You can find my review here.


Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

32874103Another set of interconnected short stories where I found the whole even greater than the sum of its parts. Strout shows great tenderness for her characters while being unflinching in her portrayal of their short comings. Her stories are wonderfully structured and impeccably paced. She excels especially in depicting families in all their dysfunctional glory. I adored this. My review is here.

Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory

33570520These stories are peculiar. They feature anthropomorphic animals (amongst other things) and revel in their weirdness. But for me, these stories worked exceedingly well and I had a blast with this collection. There is just something poetic and lyrical in the way Loory’s language flows and his imagination is glorious. My review can be found here.


The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks

25622828These stories just combine everything I adore in short fiction: they are magical and weird, wonderfully written, and often feature sibling relationships (I adore that). Her language flows wonderfully and every story in this collection is strong on its own. My review can be found here. (Sparks is apparently working on a new collection, an angry, feminist collection, which I cannot wait for.)

Do you read short stories at all? What are your favourite collections?

23 thoughts on “Recommendations: Short Story Collections

    1. I have to agree with your lukewarm reaction to Jen Campbell’s collection. I read three stories or so thus far and I am not super impressed.
      A Guide to Being Born is absolutely brilliant so far – but also super weird and in parts a bit disturbing, which I really appreciate but want people to know beforehand.

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  1. I really don’t read enough short story collections! When I do read them, they tend to be from authors I’m already familiar with as somehow it seems too much of a gamble. I don’t know why 🙂

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  2. I’m trying to get more into short stories so I love this post. Have you read Jen Campbell’s collection? I’d like to read it, but I’m also scared because magical realism… Also, Penguin sent me a finished copy of their book of Japanese Short Stories so I think that’s one of the first things I’ll pick up when I’m done my Booker reading. I read Revenge by Yoko Ogawa recently and absolutely loved it.

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    1. I read the first few stories in the collection. It’s not as great as I hoped it would be, but I do plan on finishing it sometime soon. I do like my short stories to be on the more magical side, though.
      I am looking forward to your thoughts on the book of Japanese short stories because that sounds intriguing.

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  3. Great suggestions! I always *want* to read short stories (I own like…seven different unread short story collections) but for some reason I never seem to get around to them! I don’t know what it is about short story collections that make them seem so intimidating!

    Do you prefer short story collections all by one person or by different people and centered around one theme?

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    1. I tried to read a lot of short stories. I usually read them over several days when I need a break from the longer books I read.

      I prefer collections by one person to anthologies; hands down. If I gel with somebody’s writing style, I usually like many of the stories. With anthologies there are always some stories that don’t work for me at all. (Behind the Mask by Meerkat Press and The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories published by Solaris are really great anthologies though that I think you might enjoy, especially the latter)

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  4. I’ve only read the Roxane Gay one – thanks for the other recommendations! I recently read What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, and it was a bit mixed. There were a couple of great ones but overall it was a bit disappointing. :/

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  5. Eclectic list of recs: these all sound super interesting! I also love lit that focuses on sibling relationships, in spite of how rarely I come across books like that, so I’ll have to find a copy of The Unfinished World soon. I never really read short stories before this year, but I definitely want to explore more of the genre.

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    1. Short stories can be SO wonderful. But for me the really great collections are rather rare. But when they are great I just adore them. The Unfinished World is just fantastic.

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