Recommendations: Realistic Short Story Collections

I have recommended short story collections before but as I have finally started reading them again, I figured it was time I wrote another post. I don’t think we talk about short stories often enough – a format that can be difficult to get right but when they are good they are often brilliant. Clicking on the covers leads to the books’ Goodreads pages.

Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

I am in awe of Lauren Groff’s command of language – every single sentence ist perfectly done while not making the writing sound clinical but rather organic and captivating. I also really like the way she structures her stories – they never felt like they were working towards a punchline but rather their endings were perfectly done. Some stories I would have loved to spend more time with but I mean that as a compliment.

Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

I knew I would enjoy this pretty much from the first page on. Nafissa Thompson-Spires has a wonderful tone and an even better command of her stories. I found the stories uncomfortable and biting and so very very clever. Her characters feel real if often difficult and the situations they find themselves in are frustrating and perfectly rendered.

Some stories feature the same people again, which is something I always enjoy. I do like how this gave the stories more depth without them being incomplete without the added context – this is something that I assume is difficult to achieve but oh so satisfying when it works.

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

This collection has possibly my all-time favourite cover. I just adore it. And the stories within are as beautiful. Focussing on women and their complicated relationships to each other and to men, this collection blew me away. I never managed to actually write a review (I was newly pregnant when I read this) and I am sad about it because I should have shouted from the rooftops how brilliant I thought this was. I wish more people read this!

I Hold A Wolf By Its Ears by Laura van den Berg

I adored this! These stories were often sad, sometimes creepy, always impeccably structured. Van den Berg tells her stories unchronologically, often circularly, but always in a way that feels very deliberate and I appreciated this. The stories are told with a conscious darkness but never feel hopeless. Van den Berg focusses on characters that seem unmoored but are still anchored by something, often a sibling (I adore this!). Even when the subject matter is dark (and it is!) it never felt gratuitous or unnecessary to me.

Home Remedies by Juliana Xuan Wang

Really really good! These mostly realistic stories worked exceedingly well for me – especially those that were told unchronologically in a way that I have not encountered in short stories before. This way of telling a story is something I particularly enjoy, so I was very pleased when I realized what Wang was doing. Not every story did work for me but enough did that I will be reading whatever she writes next. I also cannot get over the absolutely stunning cover.

How To Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

I enjoyed these stories a lot with their thoughtful explorations on families, focussing on the lives of Laos immigrants and their children. I particularly enjoyed that the parents depicted really do try to do the best for their children even if they sometimes miss the mark or sometimes cannot be the parent they would love to be if they had more time/ money/ knowledge.

Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh

A short story collection blurbed by and compared to Sally Rooney and Colin Barrett. McHugh’s prose is incredible (a stunning blend of more colloquial Irish English and super interesting descriptions and metaphors) and the way in which he structures his stories impeccable – this is a very, very bleak collection, featuring many sad and unlikable characters, that I could nonetheless see working for the right reader perfectly.

6 thoughts on “Recommendations: Realistic Short Story Collections

  1. I loved Heads of the Colored People and How To Pronounce Knife! Home Remedies was a bit forgettable for me unfortunately. I should read Groff’s earlier collection as I loved her recent collection Florida.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was about to defend Home Remedies – when I realized I remember very little about the individual stories except that I really liked the ones that were told unchronologically best. So you are absolutely correct.
      I prefered Groff’s earlier collection to Florida – so I do think you would also enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

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