short story compilation books

20 New Must-Read Short Story Collections

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Emily Martin

Emily has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, MS, and she has an MFA in Creative Writing from GCSU in Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O’Connor. She spends her free time reading, watching horror movies and musicals, cuddling cats, Instagramming pictures of cats, and blogging/podcasting about books with the ladies over at #BookSquadGoals ( She can be reached at [email protected].

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short story compilation books

In his first-ever short story collection, which spans forty years of work, Alan Moore presents a series of wildly different and equally unforgettable characters who discover—and in some cases even make and unmake—the various uncharted parts of existence. From ghosts and otherworldly creatures to theoretical Boltzmann brains fashioning the universe at the big bang, Illuminations is exactly that—a series of bright, startling tales from a contemporary legend that reveal the full power of imagination and magic.

A good short story has an incredible amount of power. In just a small amount of pages, authors of short stories are able to create entire worlds, depict characters who feel real, and evoke deep emotions. If you’re a fan of short stories, you’re in luck, because 2022 has been an excellent year for short story collections. In fact, there are so many great short story collections this year, that it was hard to narrow it down to just 20 must-reads. We couldn’t possibly cover them all, so if your fave didn’t make this list, no worries! It’s still amazing.

As for the ones that are on this list, these are the 20 must-read short story collections that you’re going to love, no matter what genres you normally gravitate towards. Literary fiction is heavily represented on this list, but there are short stories in plenty of other genres as well! Love speculative fiction? Of course you do. There’s plenty of that here on this list. Mysteries? Thrillers? Suspense? Yep. Horror? Aww yeah. Sci-fi? Fantasy? Check and check. Basically, these short story collections are doing everything, and you’re going to love them.

So get your TBR lists ready, because you’re going to want to add all of these books to your to-read pile right away.

cover of Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

Jean Chen Ho’s debut is a collection of linked stories following Fiona Lin and Jane Shen, two Taiwanese American women who have been best friends since the 2nd grade. Growing up in Los Angeles, Fiona and Jane have very different but equally tumultuous family lives. As with most friendships, there are moments in time when Fiona and Jane grow closer to one another, and other periods of time where they drift apart. Each short story explores a different moment in their friendship throughout their lives. Together, these stories paint a vivid portrait of friendship, love, loss, and coming of age in contemporary America.

cover for seasonal work

Seasonal Work by Laura Lippman

If you are already a fan of Laura Lippman’s work, then you absolutely have to add her latest short story collection to your TBR list. But even if you’ve never read Lippman before, you’re in for a treat. Seasonal Work is a collection of psychological suspense/thriller stories featuring murder, mystery, love gone wrong, deception, scandals, and so much more. If you only read one crime fiction short story in 2022, make it one from this short story collection.

cover of Seeking Fortune Elsewhere: Stories by Sindya Bhanoo; image of a brown suitcase wrapped in pink flowers

Seeking Fortune Elsewhere by Sindya Bhanoo

Seeking Fortune Elsewhere is the debut short story collection from O. Henry Prize winning author Sindya Bhanoo. From Pittsburgh to Washington to Tamil Nadu, these stories explore the lives of South Indian immigrants and the families they leave behind. Bhanoo’s stories show how the lives of these characters and the decisions they make are complicated, filled with moments of regret, hope, and triumph.

cover of Out There by Kate Folk

Out There by Kate Folk

What strange and eerie secrets lurk beneath the lives of seemingly ordinary people? That’s what Kate Folk examines in her short story collection Out There. These highly imaginative short stories infuse elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction into the literary fiction landscape. Each story looks deep into the reader’s subconscious dreams and nightmares.

cover of Night of the Living Rez: Stories by Morgan Talty, pastel font over illustration of night sky seen from the forest floor

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

This collection consists of 12 short stories that look at life in Maine’s Native Penobscot Nation in the 21st century. These dark but honest stories follow a troubled family dealing with issues of grief, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, and more. But these stories are filled with hope and magic as well. At the center of Night of the Living Rez is David. Each story explores the lives of David, his family, and his friends at different points in their lives.

the cover of Life Ceremony

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

Life Ceremony is Sayaka Murata’s first short story collection to ever be translated into English. In these 12 stories, the award-winning author of Convenience Store Woman mixes her signature blend of the humorous, the awkward, and the terrifying to tell stories of loners and outcasts who buck traditions and societal expectations. Murata’s stories will have you questioning what it means to be human in this world and what is sacrificed when we try too hard to fit in.

ghost lover book cover

Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo

From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Taddeo comes a stunning collection of nine short stories you won’t want to miss. This collection includes two Pushcart Prize winners and a finalist for the National Magazine Award as well as previously unpublished work. Ghost Lover tells stories of complicated, fascinating, and flawed women and their experiences of deep love, wild obsession, and uncontrollable grief.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu book cover

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is a collection of 12 speculative fiction short stories where the ordinary is made strange and the strange becomes ordinary. Each story in this collection creates a strange world where readers will get lost. From a group of children who steal a haunted doll to an insomniac seduced by the Sandman, each of these short stories digs deep into human nature and the contradictions that live within us all.

Bliss Montage cover

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Ling Ma stunned readers with her debut novel Severance in 2018, and now she’s back with a short story collection that’s just as mesmerizing. Through eight short stories, Ma introduces readers to characters and stories that examine the realities of motherhood, friendship, love, loneliness, and more. In one story, a woman lives in a house with all of her ex-boyfriends. In another, a toxic friendship is built around a drug that makes you invisible. These situations seems strange, but the emotions and characters are entirely relatable.

natural history book cover

Natural History by Andrea Barrett

The six short stories in Andrea Barrett’s collection Natural History feature characters Barrett has written about in her work since 1996’s Ship Fever . But even if this is your first Andrea Barrett book, you will connect with these characters right away. In these interconnected stories, Barrett allows readers into the intertwined lives of a family of scientists, teachers, and innovators. Following their lives throughout the years, readers see the ways women’s lives and the expectations put upon them have changed over the years.

what we fed to the manticore book cover

What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri

What We Fed to the Manticore is a really fun short story collection because it consists of nine short stories all told from a different animal’s perspectives. Through these animals’ eyes, debut author Talia Lakshmi Kolluri discusses environmentalism, conservation, identity, belonging, loss, and family. Whether the story is told from the perspective of a donkey, a vulture, or a pigeon, readers will become full immersed in these characters and their stories.

Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-lee Chai cover

Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-lee Chai

Tomorrow in Shanghai is May-lee Chai’s beautiful follow-up collection to her award-winning collection Useful Phrases for Immigrants. These stories examine the lives of people in China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and people of Chinese descent living throughout the world. Whether the characters are rich or poor, male or female, living in the city or the country, each story looks at issues of prejudice, power dynamics, and interpersonal struggles in the globalized world.

cover of The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

The Memory Librarian  is like a literary tie-in for Janelle Monáe’s high-concept album  Dirty Computer,  set in a world in which thoughts can be erased or controlled. This collection expands on the totalitarian existence imagined in  Dirty Computer . To fully flesh out this sci-fi world, Monáe also collaboraties with several talented sci-fi/fantasy authors, including Yohanca Delgado, Eve L. Ewing, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, and Sheree Renée Thomas — just to name a few.

Seven Empty Houses cover

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

Seven Empty Houses is a short story collection that just made the  National Book Award longlist  for best book in translation. In this collection, Samanta Schweblin tells seven stories about seven strange houses that are all empty in different ways. Some are devoid of love. Some don’t have any furniture. Or any people. But in every case, something always creeps in: trespassers, a ghost, a list of things to do before you die…you get the idea. Samanta Schweblin has already wowed readers with her collection Mouthful of Birds, and this one is just as good if not better!

a sliver of darkness book cover

A Sliver of Darkness by C. J. Tudor

This debut short story collection from author C. J. Tudor features 10 tales that are creepy, twisty, and mind-bending. For instance, there’s “The Lion at the Gate,” a story about a strange piece of graffiti that leads four school friends into a horrifying encounter. And as the world descends into darkness in “Final Course,” a group of old friends find time for one last dinner party. Then there’s “I’m Not Ted,” in which a case of mistaken identity turns deadly. This one is a must-read for horror fans and anyone who is hungry for stories that will stick with you long after you’ve finished the final page.

heartbroke book cover

Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker

Chelsea Bieker, the acclaimed author of Godshot, is back with a remarkable collection of short stories set in California’s Central Valley. From a woman who steals a baby from a shelter, to a mother and son selling dreamcatchers along the highway, to two teenage girls playing a dangerous online game, all of Bieker’s characters burn with deep and reckless desires. And all are heartbroken in their own ways.

Milk Blood Heat book cover

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

The last collection was set entirely in California, and Milk Blood Heat is all about Florida. In the cities and suburbs of Florida, the characters in these stories each find themselves confronted by moments of violent personal reckonings. Dantiel W. Moniz’s debut collection is filled with intimate, emotional moments that shed light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, and how we are all connected to one another.

city of saints and madmen book cover

City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer, who has been called “the weird Thoreau,” is probably most known for his sci-fi/weird fiction Southern Reach trilogy ( Annihilation, Authority , and Acceptance ). In City of Saints and Madmen, VanderMeer introduces readers to the world of Ambergris, a place unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Through this interwoven collection of stories, histories, and “eyewitness” reports, VanderMeer creates a fantasy world that feels incredibly real.

Cover of Gods of Want

Gods of Want by K-Ming Chang

With each story in K-Ming Chang’s Gods of Want , the author mixes myth, memory, and surrealism to tell feminist stories about Asian American women from different walks of life. In “Xífù,” a mother-in-law goes to torturous ends in an attempt to get a wife out of her home. In “Virginia Slims,” a woman from a cigarette ad becomes real. And in “Auntland,” a stream of aunts attempt to adjust to American life in strange ways. These uncanny stories explore questions of power, identity, and memory.

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs cover

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana

All of the stories in Sidik Fofana’s Stories from the Tenants Downstairs are set in a low-income Harlem high rise where gentrification weighs heavy on the tenants’ minds. Each of the eight interconnected stories explores the hopes, struggles, and strengths of the tenants in the Banneker Homes. Every tenant there has a unique, touching, and thought-provoking story to tell.

Looking for more must-read short story collections? Here are 10 speculative story collections to enjoy in 2022 . And here are the sci-fi/fantasy short story collections you won’t want to miss .

short story compilation books

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Best Book Lists, Award Aggregation, & Book Data

The Best Short Story Collections Of All-Time

The Best Short Story Collections Of All Time

“What are the best Short Story Collections Of All-Time??” We looked at 382 of the top books, aggregating and ranking them so we could answer that very question!

The top 25 titles, all appearing on 3 or more “Best Short Story” book lists, are ranked below by how many times they appear. The remaining 350+ books, as well as the lists we used, are in alphabetical order on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!

Top 25 Short Story Collections

25 .) 20th century ghosts by joe hill.

short story compilation books

Lists It Appears On:

  • Long Beach Public Library
“Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . . Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . . John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . . Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . . The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. . . .”

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24 .) A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

short story compilation books

  • Paste Magazine
“A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they’d ever overlooked her in the first place.”

23 .) Can’t And Won’t by Lydia Davis

short story compilation books

  • Scottic Book Trust
“Her stories may be literal one-liners: the entirety of “”Bloomington”” reads, “”Now that I have been here for a little while, I can say with confidence that I have never been here before.”” Or they may be lengthier investigations of the havoc wreaked by the most mundane disruptions to routine: in “”A Small Story About a Small Box of Chocolates,”” a professor receives a gift of thirty-two small chocolates and is paralyzed by the multitude of options she imagines for their consumption. The stories may appear in the form of letters of complaint; they may be extracted from Flaubert’s correspondence; or they may be inspired by the author’s own dreams, or the dreams of friends. What does not vary throughout Can’t and Won’t, Lydia Davis’s fifth collection of stories, is the power of her finely honed prose. Davis is sharply observant; she is wry or witty or poignant. Above all, she is refreshing. Davis writes with bracing candor and sly humor about the quotidian, revealing the mysterious, the foreign, the alienating, and the pleasurable within the predictable patterns of daily life.”

22 .) Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King

short story compilation books

“A collection of fourteen dark tales, Everything’s Eventual includes one O. Henry Prize winner, two other award winners, four stories published by The New Yorker, and “Riding the Bullet,” King’s original ebook, which attracted over half a million online readers and became the most famous short story of the decade. Two of the stories, “The Little Sisters of Eluria” and “Everything’s Eventual” are closely related to the Dark Tower series. “Riding the Bullet,” is the story of Alan Parker, who’s hitchhiking to see his dying mother but takes the wrong ride, farther than he ever intended. In “Lunch at the Gotham Café,” a sparring couple’s contentious lunch turns very, very bloody when the maître d’ gets out of sorts. “1408,” the audio story in print for the first time, is about a successful writer whose specialty is “Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards” or “Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses,” and though Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel doesn’t kill him, he won’t be writing about ghosts anymore.”

21 .) In the Country by Mia Alvar

short story compilation books

  • Knopf Doubleday
In these nine globe-trotting tales, Mia Alvar gives voice to the women and men of the Philippines and its diaspora. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s stories explore the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home—and marks the arrival of a formidable new voice in literature.

20 .) Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

short story compilation books

  • Cool Material
  • Publishers Weekly
Jesus’ Son is a visionary chronicle of dreamers, addicts, and lost souls. These stories tell of spiraling grief and transcendence, of rock bottom and redemption, of getting lost and found and lost again. The raw beauty and careening energy of Denis Johnson’s prose has earned this book a place among the classics of twentieth-century American literature.

19 .) Night Shift by Stephen King

short story compilation books

Night Shift—Stephen King’s first collection of stories—is an early showcase of the depths that King’s wicked imagination could plumb. In these 20 tales, we see mutated rats gone bad (“Graveyard Shift”); a cataclysmic virus that threatens humanity (“Night Surf,” the basis for The Stand); a smoker who will try anything to stop (“Quitters, Inc.”); a reclusive alcoholic who begins a gruesome transformation (“Gray Matter”); and many more. This is Stephen King at his horrifying best.

18 .) Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

short story compilation books

  • Huffington Post
The Stories: A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, Just Before the War with the Eskimos, The Laughing Man, Down at the Dinghy, For Esme — With Love and Squalor, Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes, De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period, and Teddy.

17 .) No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

short story compilation books

Award-winning filmmaker and performing artist Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection. In these stories, July gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanding, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world. Her characters engage awkwardly—they are sometimes too remote, sometimes too intimate. With great compassion and generosity, July reveals their idiosyncrasies and the odd logic and longing that govern their lives. No One Belongs Here More Than You is a stunning debut, the work of a writer with a spectacularly original and compelling voice.

16 .) Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

short story compilation books

Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, often presenting characters who must confront sudden change—the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens—with some sense of normalcy. With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by beauty and wonder. An award-winning collection from one of today’s most lauded writers, Stories of Your Life and Others is a contemporary classic.

15 .) The Best American Short Stories (annual)

short story compilation books

  • Acton Memorial Library
The Best American Short Stories 2017 casts a vote for and celebrates all that is our country. Here you’ll find a man with a boyfriend and a girlfriend, naval officers trapped on a submarine, a contestant on America’s Funniest Home Videos, and a gay man desperate to be a father—unforgettable characters waiting for an outcome, burning with stories to tell.

14 .) The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

short story compilation books

“One of the most terrifying stories of the twentieth century, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948. “”Power and haunting,”” and “”nights of unrest”” were typical reader responses. Today it is considered a classic work of short fiction, a story remarkable for its combination of subtle suspense and pitch-perfect descriptions of both the chilling and the mundane. The Lottery and Other Stories, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson’s lifetime, unites “”The Lottery”” with twenty-four equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson’s remarkable range — from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous — and her power as a storyteller.”

13 .) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

short story compilation books

  • The Guardian
In these twelve dazzlng stories, the bestselling, award-winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.

12 .) Welcome to the Monkey House: A Collection of Short Works by Kurt Vonnegut

short story compilation books

Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s shorter works. Originally printed in publications as diverse as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and The Atlantic Monthly, these superb stories share Vonnegut’s audacious sense of humor and extraordinary range of creative vision.

11 .) Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

short story compilation books

Already an award-winning writer, ZZ Packer now shares with us her debut, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Her impressive range and talent are abundantly evident: Packer dazzles with her command of language, surprising and delighting us with unexpected turns and indelible images, as she takes us into the lives of characters on the periphery, unsure of where they belong. We meet a Brownie troop of black girls who are confronted with a troop of white girls; a young man who goes with his father to the Million Man March and must decides where his allegiance lies; an international group of drifters in Japan, who are starving, unable to find work; a girl in a Baltimore ghetto who has dreams of the larger world she has seen only on the screens in the television store nearby, where the Lithuanian shopkeeper holds out hope for attaining his own American Dream.

10 .) Dubliners by James Joyce

short story compilation books

James Joyce’s Dubliners is a vivid and unflinching portrait of “dear dirty Dublin” at the turn of the twentieth century. These fifteen stories, including such unforgettable ones as “Araby,” “Grace,” and “The Dead,” delve into the heart of the city of Joyce’s birth, capturing the cadences of Dubliners’ speech and portraying with an almost brute realism their outer and inner lives. Dubliners is Joyce at his most accessible and most profound, and this edition is the definitive text, authorized by the Joyce estate and collated from all known proofs, manuscripts, and impressions to reflect the author’s original wishes.

9 .) Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

short story compilation books

“Throughout these six stories, Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal, giving voice to the perspectives we don’t often hear. In “Nirvana,” a programmer whose wife has a rare disease finds solace in a digital simulacrum of the president of the United States. In “Hurricanes Anonymous,” a young man searches for the mother of his son in a Louisiana devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine” follows a former warden of a Stasi prison in East Germany who vehemently denies his past, even as pieces of it are delivered in packages to his door. And in the unforgettable title story, Johnson returns to his signature subject, North Korea, depicting two defectors from Pyongyang who are trying to adapt to their new lives in Seoul, while one cannot forget the woman he left behind.”

8 .) Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

short story compilation books

“She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction” and by Neil Gaiman as “a national treasure.” Now Kelly Link’s eagerly awaited new collection—her first for adult readers in a decade—proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have. Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll. Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty—and the hidden strengths—of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.”

7 .) Pastoralia by George Saunders

short story compilation books

Hailed by Thomas Pynchon as “graceful, dark, authentic, and funny,” George Saunders gives us, in his inventive and beloved voice, this bestselling collection of stories set against a warped, hilarious, and terrifyingly recognizable American landscape.

6 .) Runaway by Alice Munro

short story compilation books

This acclaimed, bestselling collection also contains the celebrated stories that inspired the Pedro Almodóvar film Julieta. Runaway is a book of extraordinary stories about love and its infinite betrayals and surprises, from the title story about a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband, to three stories about a woman named Juliet and the emotions that complicate the luster of her intimate relationships. In Munro’s hands, the people she writes about–women of all ages and circumstances, and their friends, lovers, parents, and children–become as vivid as our own neighbors. It is her miraculous gift to make these stories as real and unforgettable as our own.

5 .) Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

short story compilation books

Fragile Things is a sterling collection of exceptional tales from Neil Gaiman, multiple award-winning (the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Newberry, and Eisner Awards, to name just a few), #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Graveyard Book, Anansi Boys, Coraline, and the groundbreaking Sandman graphic novel series. A uniquely imaginative creator of wonders whose unique storytelling genius has been acclaimed by a host of literary luminaries from Norman Mailer to Stephen King, Gaiman’s astonishing powers are on glorious displays in Fragile Things. Enter and be amazed!

4 .) Tenth of December by George Saunders

short story compilation books

“One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet. In the taut opener, “Victory Lap,” a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In “Home,” a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill—the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders’s signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation. Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.”

3 .) Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

short story compilation books

Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant. She is an important and powerful new voice.

2 .) What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

short story compilation books

In his second collection, including the iconic and much-referenced title story featured in the Academy Award-winning film Birdman, Carver establishes his reputation as one of the most celebrated short-story writers in American literature—a haunting meditation on love, loss, and companionship, and finding one’s way through the dark.

1 .) This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

short story compilation books

“From the award-winning author, a stunning collection that celebrates the haunting, impossible power of love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In a New Jersey laundry room, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses.”

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The Best Short Story Collections for Great Literature in Small Portions

Works by revered writers like Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan, as well as breakthrough names like Emma Cline and Carmen Maria Machado

short story collections

Short stories are more than just a quick fix of fiction for the time-strapped. When crafted well, short stories are like grenades which quickly explode in front of us. They let us dip our toe into strange minds and foreign worlds, or conceal something which lurks behind the pages before sliding into view. Here we round up the best classic and modern short story collections that should be on everyone's radar, whether you're looking to get more into the form or discover some hidden gems.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

wells tower everything ravaged everything burned book jacket

When it was first published in 2009, this debut short story collection by the American writer Wells Tower was something of a sensation. Here was a practitioner who seemed to have sprung fresh out of the traps already in possession of an innate mastery of his form: a gift for shaping intriguing, funny and occasionally devastating tales – about disaffected American schoolboys and disaffected marauding Vikings alike – which contained laser-sighted observations about human behaviour. Over a decade later, Towers’ book has lost none of its power or its poise.

Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

complete stories by flannery oconnor book jacket

It is hard to underplay the legacy of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, of which she wrote 32 in her relatively brief life (she died of lupus at 39, in 1964). Winning the National Book Award for Fiction for this collection (posthumously) in 1972 might be one of them, though in 2009 it was named the best book ever to have won the award (commiserations to John Cheever and Eudora Welty). A devout Catholic with an ear for the sardonic who came to epitomise the Southern Gothic, Flannery’s world view, once deemed progressive, has come under closer scrutiny of late – particularly around race – but for understanding the development of the short story in mid-century America this collection is essential.

Pastoralia by George Saunders

pastoralia by george saunders jacket

If there’s one thing that George Saunders nails in his short stories (and there’s not one, there are many) it’s his imaginative eye for the absurd. Thus the title story of Pastoralia , his second short story collection, published in 2000, is an account of the inner neuroses of a failing father with difficult co-workers, who just so happens not to work for an accountancy firm, but for a nightmarish evolution-of-mankind-themed visitor attraction at which he earns his living by grunting like a caveman and pretending to eat bugs. It’s typical of the pathos and humour that Saunders is so good at eliciting, so that even the bleakest, most ridiculous scenarios are still infused with delight.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So


The Central Valley of California is the backdrop of this psychedelic debut from Anthony Veasna So, a Cambodian-American writer who tragically died before the book was published. In it, So tells tales that ricochet between being tenderly moving and darkly amusing, drawing on his own race and sexuality to create characters with many different, and sometimes clashing, identities.

[An earlier version of this entry included incorrect information about the circumstances of the author's death.]

Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery

show them a good time

The buzzy debut from Irish writer Nicole Flattery inspired a bidding war ahead of its publication in 2019, and reading the collection it feels as though she has inhaled the absurdity this strange collective moment and let it out in one steady plumes. One story finds a woman maniacally dating during an apocalypse, while another watches a plucky teenage girl trying to seduce her parent's builder by watching The Exorcist together.

Objects of Desire by Clare Sestanovich

objects of desire

In eleven distinct but spiritually interwoven stories, New Yorker editor Clare Sestanovich finds women at different crossroads in their lives. In the title story, a woman finds herself unable to move on from her ex and questioning the life she has built since leaving him, while another focuses on a woman who finds herself on the outskirts of a polyamorous relationship, berating herself for not being in the middle of the action.

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

filthy animals

Brandon Taylor's electric novel Real Life, which offered a Black perspective on the pernicious yet subtle racism entrenched in American college life, earned him a Booker Prize nomination in 2020. His next work is a collection of linked short stories set in the Midwest, including an outbreak of violence amongst a group of teenagers, a girl who pushes her babysitter to the edge, and a man in a precarious open relationship with two dancers.

You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South

you will never be forgotten

As the dismembered body which features on the cover might suggest, Mary South's pitch-black collection of stories is not exactly a jolly read. Here you'll find Black Mirror- esque tales about a moderator for grim online videos of suicide and beheadings, a rehabilitation camp for internet trolls where one guest goes astray, and the tale of an architect who finds her work inspired by her daughter's birth defect. An alluring collection of stories about the ways our pain manifests and the polarised world we live in.

Daddy by Emma Cline


The author of the best-selling The Girls, inspired by the Manson family and killing of Sharon Tate, finds equally dark territory in this collection of stories about who holds power between men and women, adults and children. In one story we visit a family at Christmas time who are trying to move past the abuse of the father figure, while in another a violent incident brings a father and son together. Cline's understanding of the darkness inside human beings bringing each story to life.

Your Duck is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg

deborah eisenberg

This acclaimed collection of six stories, the first release from Eisenberg in 12 years, is brilliantly droll and crackling with life. Whether dismantling our relationship with money or the lasting wounds which grief leaves us on, Your Duck is My Duck is both moving and amusing.

Sam The Cat by Matthew Klam

sam the cat

The Office Of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

office of historical corrections

This celebrated 2020 collection is an exploration of race which takes you on a journey alongside the conflicted characters which Evans presents. From the story of a white university student who finds that a photograph in which she's wearing a Confederate flag bikini has gone viral, to the tale of how a wedding takes an unexpected twist, Evans tiptoes through uncomfortable topics with enjoyable and impressive results.

To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss

nicole krauss

Krauss, author of acclaimed novels such as Man Walks Into a Room and The History of Love, here takes the long view of life. These stories connect a moment in a girl's adolescence to the feeling of youth felt by a woman in later life, linking up the sons, husbands and friends in a woman's life to question the differences between the sexes.

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld


In an age rife with hustles and scams, Sittenfeld's You Think It I'll Say It looks not at those trying to con us, but at the acts of self-deception we engage in. Whether that means the ways which we misread other people or our tendencies to unknowingly dupe ourselves, these ten stories feel timeless yet knowing of the current zeitgeist.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Shoulder, Text, Joint, Font, Poster, Neck, Chest, Back,

The debut book from Machado explores the various violences inflicted in women's bodies, her writing walking a tightrope between the erotic and horrific, the amusing and the macabre. In 'The Husband Stitch' she explores the body-wrenching pain of labour and the joke of men asking the surgeon for an extra stitch when putting their wife back together, while 'Eight Bites' digs into the fairytale promises of weight-loss transformation.

Grand Union by Zadie Smith

Font, Text, Poster, Logo, Graphics, Brand, Graphic design,

Having mastered the novel and essay formats, British literary stalwart Zadie Smith turned her pen to short stories in 2019. The 19 different tales in Grand Union are sprawling in their reach, touching on everything from single motherhood to the free speech debate in universities, objectifying men to the urban myth of Michael Jackson leaving New York with friends on the morning of 9/11, all told in Smith's commanding prose.

Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill

Text, Font, Poster, Adaptation, Stock photography, Photography, Black-and-white, Album cover, Illustration, Art,

Long, long before Phoebe Waller-Bridge caused a stir with Fleabag , Mary Gaitskill was dissecting the power dynamics of sex and relationships between men and women with her intense tone of voice. Bad Behaviour burns with longing and passion, from stories about ex partners haunting a city to a woman waiting for a date to show up while he watches her from across the street. These stories are uncomfortable, prescient and fascinating.

Florida by Lauren Groff

Best short stories

Snakes, crocodiles and lizards stalk the pages of this 2018 collection from one of America's most celebrated novelists, in which the muggy, murky state of Florida is always a principle character. Groff's mastery of language, plot and dialogue are on full display in a set of stories that linger long after you've closed the last page.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

junot diaz

In his unmistakably brash style, Díaz pulls you into the life of his recurring protagonist Yunior at the point of his break-up with his long-term girlfriend, then when a woman that comes into his life fleetingly then dumps him and an older woman he has an affair with who becomes his teacher. Despite the message of how flawed our relationships are, Díaz reminds us that “ love, real love, is not so easily shed.”

The Love Object by Edna O'Brien

Best short stories

One of great modern Irish writers, this 2014 collection spans five decades of brilliance from O'Brien whose prose style is among the most revered of any living author. Her characters range from lonely nuns to single mothers to modern millionaires and are consistently brilliantly.

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Penguin Random House

20 Must-Read Collections for Short Story Month

Explore some of the most exciting voices in short fiction. the collections below include established authors and newcomers – celebrate short story month with the collections below., the thing around your neck, by chimamanda ngozi adichie.

The Thing Around Your Neck Book Cover Picture

Paperback $16.00

Buy from other retailers:, the safety of objects, by a.m. homes.

The Safety of Objects Book Cover Picture

American Housewife

By helen ellis.

American Housewife Book Cover Picture

Paperback $17.00

By ramona ausubel.

Awayland Book Cover Picture

by Jenny Zhang

Sour Heart Book Cover Picture

The King Is Always Above the People

By daniel alarcón.

The King Is Always Above the People Book Cover Picture

After the Quake

By haruki murakami.

After the Quake Book Cover Picture

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden

By denis johnson.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden Book Cover Picture

Stories of Your Life and Others

By ted chiang.

Stories of Your Life and Others Book Cover Picture

Paperback $18.00

The Boat Book Cover Picture

Paperback $15.95

The bus driver who wanted to be god & other stories, by etgar keret.

The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories Book Cover Picture

Tenth of December

By george saunders.

Tenth of December Book Cover Picture

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

By helen oyeyemi.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Book Cover Picture

Homesick for Another World

By ottessa moshfegh.

Homesick for Another World Book Cover Picture

Things We Lost in the Fire

By mariana enriquez.

Things We Lost in the Fire Book Cover Picture

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The bed moved, by rebecca schiff.

The Bed Moved Book Cover Picture

This Is How You Lose Her

By junot díaz.

This Is How You Lose Her Book Cover Picture

by Alice Munro

Dear Life Book Cover Picture

Lovers on All Saints’ Day

By juan gabriel vasquez.

Lovers on All Saints' Day Book Cover Picture

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

By mona awad.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl Book Cover Picture

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The 10 Best Short Story Collections of the Decade

And then some.

Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.

So, as is our hallowed duty as a literary and culture website—though with full awareness of the potentially fruitless and endlessly contestable nature of the task—in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the best and most important (these being not always the same) books of the decade that was. We will do this, of course, by means of a variety of lists. We began with the best debut novels of the decade , and now we’re back with the best short story collections of the decade—or to be precise, the best collections published in English between 2010 and 2019.

The following books were chosen after much debate (and several rounds of voting) by the Literary Hub staff. Tears were spilled, feelings were hurt, books were re-read. And as you’ll shortly see, we had a hard time choosing just ten—so we’ve also included a list of dissenting opinions, and an even longer list of also-rans. Feel free to add any favorites we’ve missed in the comments below.

The Top Ten

Claire vaye watkins,  battleborn 2012.

Claire Vaye Watkins’ searing, Nevada-set debut collection—which includes a sixty-page novella that takes place during the 1848 Gold Rush and a dazzling, devastating opening tale in which Watkins audaciously blends fiction, local history, and myth with the story of father’s involvement in the Manson Family during the late ’60s—is as starkly beautiful, as lonesome and sinister and death-haunted, as the desert frontier through which its stories roam. There’s an enviable fearlessness to Watkins’ writing, a refusal to look away from the despair that lies within the hearts of her lost and weary characters, to give them tidy trajectories or tidy resolutions. Her landscapes are exquisitely drawn, full of lush sensory detailing and characters stalked by the sorrows and violence of their pasts, the parched desperation of their presents. In one particularly aching story, a man finds a bundle of letters amid the strewn wreckage of a car crash, and proceeds to carry on a therapeutic, and increasingly revealing, one-sided correspondence with their owner, onto whom he superimposes the identity of a desperate neighbor he killed decades previous. In his reverie he remembers how nature marked the season it happened: “Late that Spring, a swarm of grasshoppers moved though Beatty on their way to the alfalfa fields down south. They were thick and fierce, rolling like a thunderstorm in your head.” It’s remarkable to come across a debut collection in which the voice, the vision, is so fully formed, so assured, but that’s what Watkins has achieved with this exceptional work. –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks Editor

Alice Munro, Dear Life 2012

Well, this one’s not really fair. I mean, any Alice Munro collection published in any given period of time has to automatically be on the list of best collections of said period. (I guess what I really mean is that it’s not really fair to other writers that Munro is such a goddamn genius.) Most of the stories in Dear Life were previously published in The New Yorker , Harper’s , and Granta ; they all display Munro’s uncanny ability to take a lifetime—or even generations of a single family—and shrink it into a thirty-page text—not by spinning out event after event, but by delivering a character so textured, and a series of moments so precise, that we can’t help but feel we know all about them. These stories and characters are not flashy, there’s little in the way of high concept; it’s simply that Munro knows people, and represents them so accurately, so wisely, and so humanely, that you can’t help but be moved. This is despite the fact that, as Michiko Kakutani pointed out, with age, Munro has gotten a little bit sharper in her portrayals of the common man. “Though Ms. Munro has not become judgmental exactly, she seems more focused on the selfishness, irrationality and carelessness people are capable of.” The collection also includes a few semi-autobiographical sketches—“autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact”—we are told. She writes: “I believe they are the first and last—and the closest—things I have to say about my own life.” They too are wonderful.

Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature the year after the publication of Dear Life , in 2013; the Swedish Academy called her a “master of the contemporary short story.” No shit. –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

George Saunders, Tenth of December 2013

It can be hard to tell what historical era you’re actually living through, as its happening. Is this the post-9/11 era or the Trump era? Or maybe we’re really in what will one day (I hope) be labeled the Misinformation Era. Honestly, though, this is probably the “we had a chance to save the planet but did nothing” era, in which case, there probably won’t be historians around in 200 years to call it anything… How ever you choose to see the last decade of life on Planet America, it is likely some version of it appears in George Saunders contemporary classic, Tenth of December .

This collection is as remarkable for its range of emotional registers as it is for its formal variety. From the aching, class-conscious pathos of “Puppy,” in which two families intersect around the possible purchase of a dog, to the grim, neo-futurist allegory of “Escape From Spiderhead,” in which clinical drug trials go way too far, Saunders sets his characters down in a series of bespoke narrative dioramas, a wry and loving god forever suspicious of the disappointments his creations engender, yet unable to resist setting little boobytraps to see how they’ll react. With a tenderness and generosity that catalyzes satirical clarity rather than the cloudiness of sentimentality, Saunders lets his characters puzzle their way through the confines of their own fictional lives, as wounded and joyous and magnificently broken as any among us, the living.

It is a dark timeline, in which reality has outpaced satire, but at least it is a world we have seen before, in the short stories of George Saunders.  – Jonny Diamond, Editor in Chief

Clarice Lispector, tr. Katrina Dodson, ed. Benjamin Moser, The Complete Stories 2015

It’s complicated to include a “complete stories” collection in our list for the best of the decade, not least because Clarice Lispector has been considered Brazil’s greatest writer more or less since 1943 when her revolutionary debut novel, Near to the Wild Heart , was first published (she was 23). But in 2012, publisher New Directions began releasing new translations, from four different translators, of Lispector’s novels, a concerted effort to bring her remarkable work to the attention of an English-speaking readership. In 2015, the novels were followed by these “Complete Stories”—86 in all, originally published between 1952 and 1979. Translated by Katrina Dodson, the collection received dazzling reviews, establishing Lispector firmly in America’s consciousness as one of the preeminent writers of the last century.

A Clarice Lispector story is not easy to describe; they are feminist and absurdist, charting familial drama, love affairs, and existential surrealism, wheeling through the preoccupations and modes of twentieth century literary experimentation with a disorientating facility—and disorientation is the point. “Coherence is mutilation,” a character reflects at one point, “I want disorder”—an urge that Lispector understands and brings to life with more power than almost any writer I can think of, and perhaps with more relevance and urgency in these times than in any other in the four decades since her death.  –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor

Lucia Berlin, ed. Stephen Emerson, A Manual for Cleaning Women 2015

Is it all that remarkable that a short story collection by a writer who died in 2004 should, in fact, be one of the best collections of the decade that followed? Aside from the earthy brilliance of Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women itself, the fact of its phenomenon—at least among those who consume multiple story collections a year—speaks to a great gap in our literary culture. It won’t ever be possible to fully account for the stories and novels that went unheralded and untaught in a literary culture geared toward canonizing the anxieties and insights of well-to-do white guys, but at least in Berlin’s posthumous collection—and its frank rendering of women’s lives—we have a small correction to the record.

When Berlin writes of last-chance bus depots or cheap borderland hotels or third-rate nursing homes she does so minus the literary tourist’s appropriative bravado, that triumphalist wild boy tick that seems to define so much of the fiction of her male contemporaries. For Berlin, these are not places we pass through, to mine for epiphany or authenticity, but rather the locations in which life happens: as one reviewer put it, the stories in this collection are “all beginnings and middles with no ends,” and one only wishes Berlin had lived long enough to see the beginning of her own renaissance.   – Jonny Diamond, Editor in Chief

Colin Barrett,  Young Skins 2015

I first read Colin Barrett’s stories when I worked at The Stinging Fly magazine and press in Dublin. The editor had been working with Barrett for a couple of months on a few stories, and we were publishing one in an upcoming issue. I distinctly remember finishing the copy edit and turning to the editor and simply saying, “Holy shit.” When we put out Colin’s collection Young Skins in 2013, it wasn’t long before Grove Atlantic picked it up in the US, and it was published here in 2015. In the vein of William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, its seven stories all take place within the limits of the fictional town of Glanbeigh on the west coast of Ireland. Barrett’s characters live hard lives in the aftermath of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger years, an economic boom time that happened to other people but the effects of whose abrupt end are felt everywhere. There is drink and there are drugs and moments of shocking violence. There is the steady inescapability of failure and loss, and every so often there are moments of soaringly lyrical writing. Barrett’s mastery of the short story form won him the Guardian First Book Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize, and a National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honor. It’s a collection that’s striking for its audacity to be a debut—completely assured of voice, of character, and of a setting that is utterly realized. Thus, we’re calling it one of the best short story collections of the decade. –Emily Firetog, Deputy Editor

Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie 2016

“Whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me,” Ken Liu writes in the preface to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories , a collection in which metaphors are fully unwound into tangible corollaries. The Paper Menagerie gathers some of Liu’s most celebrated stories, summaries of which do little to convey the scope of his imagination. Take, for example, “State Change,” a bleak office rom-com set in a world where people’s souls are physical objects—an ice cube, a cigarette pack, a beech tree branch—that must be protected from mundane things like hot weather and nicotine addiction. “Good Hunting” begins as a folktale about a demon-hunting father-son duo in a small Chinese village and ends with a critique of British colonialism and modernity in Hong Kong, as well as a surprising reversal of misogynistic narrative tropes. The titular story, which won Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards, shows Liu in top form. The protagonist, born of a Chinese immigrant mother and white father, grows up loving the origami animals that his mother brings to life with her breath, only to spurn his Chinese heritage as he grows older. Though not all the stories here are quite as moving as this one, The Paper Menagerie cemented Liu as one of the decade’s most inventive (and popular) short story writers, adept at infusing his shapeshifting work with a touch of Charlie Kaufman-esque hyperreality and Eastern Asian folklore. –Aaron Robertson, Assistant Editor

Lesley Nneka Arimah,  What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky 2017

Lesley Nneka Arimah calls herself a pessimist . Thus unfolds her collection of short stories, What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky , most of which are set in Nigeria and utilize dystopian themes to reveal the bleak consequences of humankind’s ruthlessness towards the natural world as well as fellow humans. The title story, for example, is about a world ravaged by climate change, where a group of scientists try, by the creation of a “formula,” to undo what has been done and make it so the human body can defy gravity. The flaws in this hubristic, quick-fix mindset are immediately revealed when the eponymous man falls from the sky. Another story in the collection “What Is A Volcano?” reflects a similar human urge to play god, drawing on myth and literally presenting feuding gods who argue over each other’s primacy. Arimah blends magical realism and fable into her narratives to illuminate as she says, the “baser instincts” of humankind, to watch humanity “turn grotesque.”

Arimah tackles the pressures of womanhood, familial relationships, and Nigerian culture, including its religious and social expectations. “Glory” is about a girl of the same name, bearing the pressure of her family to achieve greatly; “Who Will Greet You At Home” is about a woman so desperate for a child and her mother’s blessing that she risks weaving one out of hair: “Everybody knew how risky it was to make a child out of hair, infused with the identity of the person who had shed it. But a child of many hairs? Forbidden.” Despite the variety of its incarnations, this collection portrays a variety of hauntings, often literal in the form of ghosts or dolls coming to life, and others figurative, as in a father’s fear for his daughter out in the world. Underlying all of Arimah’s narratives ultimately though, is emotion: the ways in which we show or suppress love and affection and display vulnerability. Being as we are each an entire mind away from another, grief accompanies not only big events but even everyday instances of a missed chance at getting across to someone we care about what we really mean and want. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow

Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties 2017

“[P]erhaps you’re thinking,” the narrator of “Resident,” a short story by Carmen Maria Machado in Her Body and Other Parties , muses, “that I’m a cliché—a weak, trembling thing with a silly root of adolescent trauma, straight out of a gothic novel.” The reference to being in a gothic story is intriguingly apt. On the one hand, “Resident” deliberately conjures up a gothic atmosphere of dread that feels like it could have been taken from many other stories in the genre; on the other, though, it says something about Machado’s haunting collection as a whole. Many of the stories in Her Bodies and Other Parties contain echoes of the images and themes that so often constellate gothic literature and “the gothic” as a mode or atmosphere of writing: ghosts, beheadings, violence, trauma, claustrophobic environments, a pervading sense of unease or uncertainty. But while many classic tales of gothic literature—with a few exceptions—have portrayed women as tropes at best and monsters at worst, Machado’s stories beautifully and poignantly focus on what it means to be a woman, to inhabit a woman’s body, in a gothic landscape that, for all its ghosts and mysterious plagues, feels all too terrifyingly, traumatically like the world we live in. Women are harassed in the stories, as much by people as by the unsettling atmospheres around them. From the title itself, Machado makes it clear that collection will focus on women’s bodies–and her deployment of the dispassionate-sounding “parties” as the title’s second half suggests the cool detachment with which male harassment, for instance, so often involves equating women’s worth to their bodies. Yet “parties” can also suggest festivity, and her women, for all the horror around them, have moments of happiness and release, too. Her Body and Other Parties is a masterful reimagining of what the gothic can do and be, creating a world in which the tremendous weight of being a woman is chillingly palpable throughout nearly all of the stories. It’s a powerful collection that surprised me in the best of ways, and I think it will continue to for a long time to come. –Gabrielle Bellot, Staff Writer

Ottessa Moshfegh, Homesick for Another World 2017

Even before Ottessa Moshfegh had published her first book, people were calling her “the best writer of our generation.” I know this for a fact, because one of those people was me, and I was sure of it based on the short stories she’d been publishing in The Paris Review , including the wonderful (and frequently horrifying, in the best way) “ Bettering Myself ,” the opening story of Homesick for Another World , which won the Plimpton Prize in 2013.

Most of the stories in Homesick for Another World were originally published in The Paris Review —though a couple are from The New Yorker and Vice , one each from Granta and The Baffler , one original. They are all basically realist, if dark, psychological portraits, but there’s something fabulistic about them—Moshfegh pushes humanity to its logical extension, and the results are grotesque and poignant. It’s not quite surrealism—maybe I would call it slime-coated realism. She has a sharp, ironic eye, and a flat affect, which contributes to the sense of irreality, but she’s doing more than just rolling her eyes at her—often horrible—characters; she’s getting into the muck with them, and pulling us along for the ride.

It may not be my actual favorite, but the story I think about most often from this collection is “ The Beach Boy ”—which may be because, as a committed hypochondriac, I am in constant fear of dying the way Marcia does in this story, but also because of the expert unspooling of her husband once she’s gone. –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Dissenting Opinions

The following books were just barely nudged out of the top ten, but we (or at least one of us) couldn’t let them pass without comment.

Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove 2013

The title short story of Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove is my favorite short story of all time, but the collection itself is mesmerizing. A friend, a fellow English teacher at the high school where I used to teach, first shared a copy with me when I had my seniors read Dracula , and I read it at my desk, towards the end of the day. I discovered that it’s a book that doesn’t so much draw you in as creep up on you. You don’t glide through it, you’ll burrow into it; you’ll start reading it, and by the time you’re finished, the lights in the department office will be out, dusk will have fallen outside, and all your colleagues and some passing students will have stood in front of you trying to get your attention and wave goodbye before giving up and walking out. You don’t simply finish this book, you are released from it. Materially speaking, anyway. It’ll still haunt you after you’re done. This might be because its stories are so tender, so perfectly painful—another reason might be because that they can be so genuinely creepy, so softly scary that you’ll find yourself rereading parts over and over, trying to experience the section more deeply to make sure that what you think is happening is really happening. And then, when it is finally done with you, you’ll walk yourself home in the dark, and it’s a good thing you’ll know the route by heart, because you won’t be able to think about where you’re going. –Olivia Rutigliano, CrimeReads Editorial Fellow

Diane Cook, Man V. Nature 2014

When I first read this collection, during graduate school, I remember having to stop in the middle and take a break. The collection was making me feel bad, and almost panicky. It was just too good. It was so good that I felt confident there was no reason for me to ever write another word; Diane Cook had already done everything I was trying to do and more. Eventually, I got over it (the writer’s ego being a slippery but unquenchable fiend) and finished this surreal and glorious book of stories.

I mean, what to say: in “The Way the End of Days Should Be” one of the last survivors of what is apparently a watery apocalypse tries to keep out invaders as the seas rise around their (Doric columned) home: “This man in the nice suit asked for food and water, then tried to strangle me, choked back tears, apologized, asked to be let in, and when I refused, tried to strangle me again. When I managed to close the door on him, he sat on my veranda and cried.” Did I mention Diane Cook is hilarious? Especially at her darkest, she is a comedic genius. The title story is equally funny and equally bleak; it also involves water as an adversary, and also the men who used to be your friends. At least one of them, anyway.

In closing: where is the next book from Diane Cook? I’ve been waiting for years; it’s starting to feel unfair. Who knows what a woman might do without one? –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Hassan Blasim, tr. Jonathan Wright, The Corpse Exhibition 2014

It’s rare for a conflict to go on for so long that witnesses may begin to record its history before the conflict is over, and yet that is what has happened as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, and publishing does its duty to bring suffering into print. Hassan Blasim was a vocal critic of Saddam Hussein’s government, in exile in Finland for much of his literary career, so it makes sense that his story collection would explore the Iraqi expat experience as well as crafting stories immersed in the war itself; several stories are stranded between judging and defending those who have gotten out and who then, refuse to return. Whether Blasim is writing about the war itself or its many rippling effects, he brings a sardonic sensibility to his stories, parodying the language of bureaucracy and always pointing to the violence common to both order and chaos. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand both the war and the ongoing attempts to process the conflict through literature, and a necessary complement to the wide array of fiction by American veterans released over the past few years. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Associate Editor

Dorthe Nors, Karate Chop 2014

Karate Chop was the first of Dorthe Nors’ books to be available to the English-speaking world (translated from the Danish). It was pressed into my hands by the amazing Julie Buntin (author of Marlena ) when she was my internship supervisor, back in 2014. She told me it was a perfect gem of a collection, and that I was going to love it. Boy oh boy was she right! Karate Chop is a compact powerhouse, with fifteen pithy stories (no more than a few pages apiece!) that pull back the curtain on everyday life to reveal something much more odd and sinister. (A few notable examples: after his wife goes to bed, a man obsessively falls down the online rabbit hole of female serial killers; two hunters agree to kill each other’s dogs in an exploration of male friendship; a young woman leaps from thought to thought, trying very hard to avoid thinking about something traumatic that’s happened. I could go on!) Dorthe Nors writes with such a dry, biting specificity. Her matter-of-fact tone makes you trust her. And then she pulls the rug out from under you in the best way! The situations she throws her characters (and her readers) into could only be conjured up by her. (The story about the hunters that hatch a plan to kill their dogs? It’s also a story about a failing marriage. But in a Dorthe Nors story, it has to be tangled up in this amazing way. Just surrender to the logic.) In a lot of ways, this is a collection about the ways we fail to connect to one another, and the mental and emotional acrobatics we partake in to avoid hurt. –Katie Yee, Book Marks Assistant Editor

Phil Klay, Redeployment 2014

Redeployment is a classic exploration of the veteran’s experience, going back and forth between stories immersed in the moment of trauma and those exploring the dislocating experience of return to a peacetime world after the disruptions of war – my favorite story in the collection details a philosophical confrontation between a veteran at college on the GI Bill and a student activist who feels threatened by him (and whom he, in turn, feels threatened by). Their attempt to understand each other is one of the best dialogue sequences I’ve ever come across, and symbolic of the book’s larger message of humanism, although some stories embrace a bleaker message of the dark comedy of errors and bureaucracy that is war. I’m including this on the list as the first of many works to be written by returning veterans – the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have had the dubious honor of being long enough for an entire generation to have returned home, enrolled in MFA programs, and published novels en masse as the war continues. If fiction is the first step in processing trauma, than perhaps this means we’re getting a head start—or perhaps, there’s just too much suffering in the world to wait for a thing to end before writing books about it. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Associate Editor

Amelia Gray,  Gutshot 2015

In my former life as a bookseller, this one made its way around the story with hushed whispers and bated breath, furtively paged through and softly recommended in brief lulls between helping customers, perused at the registers as we yawned and waiting for the store to close, on the quiet second floor in the early hours of a Saturday morning, or in the deathly quiet of the children’s section in mid-week to a soundtrack of Muzac radio and the booms and thuds of near-by construction. You have to read this , we said to each other; s tart with the story in the middle , we commanded to friends and colleagues; don’t talk to me until after you finish reading it , we mock-warned to those who appeared on the fence about finishing.

What makes this one so special, in a sea of collections that each try their hardest to capture some kind of zeitgeist with sentences beautiful enough to guarantee that the era their contents define will be remembered? Amelia Grey is the grand-guignol heiress to Angela Carter, crafting grotesque body horror and immersed in the violence of everyday life, full of more blood, sugar, sex, and magic than a 90s-era record store. Although perhaps, given the matter-of-fact way her characters accept their bloody, inglorious fates, I should describe her as Angela Carter meets Etgar Keret, whose story collection The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God ushered in a new era of magical realism grounded in the everyday, ordinary, and mundane. If art is meant to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, then Amelia Grey’s Gutshot is very high art indeed. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Associate Editor

Kelly Link, Get In Trouble

Kelly Link,  Get In Trouble 2015

I am here for literally everything Kelly Link writes (have you heard she’s writing a novel ?)—after all, she is an official genius whose work combines fairy tale archetypes, horror tropes, pop culture references, and surrealist play with some of the finest literary writing around. I know, this isn’t as uncommon as it once was, but Link is the OG short story irrealist, and she’s also the best. People who haven’t read Kelly Link can’t really understand that they need Kelly Link in their lives, but they do. This is part of why I always think of her work as being a secret, like something only my friends and I know about and reference and pass around to one another and try to copy, a kind of shibboleth for a certain type of writer.

However, when I think this, I am wrong: not only did Link win a MacArthur, but her most recent collection, Get In Trouble , was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and widely and well reviewed . The secret’s out. And well, fine, because I want (most) people to be happy. Like every Link collection, Get In Trouble is full of classics: all killer, no filler, as the kids—maybe once, one time, used to—say. “The New Boyfriend” is like something out of Grimm’s My So Called Life , “The Summer People” is mysterious, atmospheric masterpiece, and “Valley of the Girls” is a story that I do not fully understand, and never will, but that I read again every year and think about all the time. –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Kirstin Valdez Quade,  Night at the Fiestas 2015

Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut collection, Night at the Fiestas , came out almost five years ago now, in early 2015, and it’s not overstating to say that it managed on a first reading to expand my conception of American literary fiction, what it could do, what a story collection could do, and the kinds of stories that could and should be told. Returning to the stories in the time since—especially to the visceral, driving “Five Wounds” and the haunting “Nemecia”—has only confirmed that feeling, that Valdez Quade is one of the most talented storytellers at work today. New Mexico—its landscapes, its cultures, its families—is the setting for her work, and the majority of the stories center around people dealing with the weight of everyday life, spiritual striving, and the deep, complex connections that bind them. In “Five Wounds,” a man reenacts the Passion of the Christ; in “Nemecia,” two girls reckon with a dark family legacy. Throughout the collection, the strange textures of sin, blood, and relations arise again and again. The stories are intense, finely observed works of realism, but they pulsate with a special kind of energy that seems to allow for an enhanced reality, another plane of possibility. A religious feeling, in short. It’s rare to find that kind of power or preoccupation in contemporary fiction. When you do, it’s a reminder of why we tell stories in the first place, of the kind of communal reckoning we’re undertaking when we explain our stories, our families, our pasts. –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Managing Editor

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Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles (2015)

I’m a little perplexed as to why more people haven’t read this book. Or, if they have, why it seems to have all-but disappeared from the Best Books of the Twenty-First Century conversation (despite having won the National Book Award for Fiction less than five short years ago). Perhaps the rapturous reception that greeted The Orphan Master’s Son , the grimly absurdist novel for which Johnson won the Pulitzer Prize three years previous, served to drown out his quieter follow-up. Perhaps it’s the fault of the book’s cheery cast of characters, which includes an uncomfortably sympathetic child-porn addict, an unrepentant former Stasi prison guard, a young mother with cancer, a pair of North Korean defectors, a hologram of a recently-assassinated US president, and a woman with advanced Guillain-Barré syndrome. Or perhaps it’s that every one of these six lengthy tales—dark, disquieting, and all the more unsettling for their subtle infusions of tenderness—leaves an indelible, but rarely pleasant, mark on the reader’s consciousness. As Lauren Groff wrote in her New York Times review: “Each of these stories plants a small bomb in the reader’s head; life after reading Fortune Smiles is a series of small explosions in which the reader—perhaps unwillingly—recognizes Adam Johnson’s gleefully bleak world in her own.” This is not an uplifting collection. It will illicit chuckles only as a means to further devastate. It will not make you feel good about yourself, about technology, about our ability to successfully navigate life’s random cruelties. But it will exhilarate. It will suck the breath from your lungs. –Dan Sheehan, Book Marks Editor

Steven Millhauser, Voices in the Night 2015

I’ve never understood why Stephen Millhauser isn’t more widely read (at least in the United States—apparently he’s big in France, which makes sense, because the French tend to appreciate the finer things). Maybe it’s because his “most famous” book— Martin Dressler , which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1997—is his least interesting. Listen, I love Millhauser, and I can easily imagine someone reading Martin Dressler , thinking “hmm, okay,” and then forgetting all about him forever. But no one should do this. Because Millhauser’s stories , on the other hand, are wonderful, weird things, steady and fantastical at once, as if Raymond Carver had developed a thing for ghosts and girls who die of laughter.

This latest collection contains some of my favorite stories from Millhauser’s long career, including the opener, “Miracle Polish,” which I won’t describe, but will tell you that I return to it regularly, and am moved every time. If you find that more frustrating than intriguing, I’ll tell you that at the beginning of We Others , Millhauser’s 2011 collection of new and selected stories (also considered for this list, naturally), he writes: “What makes a story bad, or good, or better than good, can be explained and understood up to a point, but only up to a point. What’s seductive is mysterious and can never be known. I prefer to leave it at that.”

So I’ll leave it at this: these stories are better than good. –Emily Temple, Senior Editor

Helen Oyeyemi,  What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours 2016

Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is woven with imagination, complexity, and such fierce intelligence that I have always been thoroughly amused and fascinated with anything she writes. In her collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours , Oyeyemi showcases this talent by planting keys, hidden rooms, puppets, ghosts, magical libraries, and secret gardens which the reader follows, as if they were breadcrumbs, hoping they will lead to answers. Admirably, equal to Oyeyemi’s appetite for adventure is her commitment to attaining truth. In that way, she reminds me of storytellers like Angela Carter, Ursula Le Guin, and Jorge Luis Borges.

Embracing a voice uniquely her own, however, Oyeyemi toys with the reader with titles like “if a book is locked there’s probably a good reason for that don’t you think.” Then, she infuses that wryness with piercing emotion, as in the story “is your blood as red as this,” in which the narrator, uninhibited, observes a character at a party, “you had a string of fairy lights wrapped around your neck. I sort of understood how that would be comforting.” The narrator continues, “Sometimes I dream I’m falling, and it’s not so much frightening as it is tedious, just falling and falling until I’m sick of it, but then a noose stops me short and I think, well, at least I’m not falling anymore.” A signature of Oyeyemi’s creative talent is that she can begin a story from somewhere, drag the reader by the hand and then suddenly drop them into unknown territory.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours deserves a place on this list because each narrative is immersive, a complete universe onto itself. Each story flaunts a whole cast of diverse characters imitating life in the many comings-and-goings of people; it delves into historical moments, like the Spanish saint’s day, The Day of the Book and the Rose, just to tell the obscure story of some character affected by this moment in time. Though curiosity may launch an Oyeyemi story, the ultimate joy of it is that it’s all about connection, forged under unexpected circumstances by moments of pure synchronicity. –Eleni Theodoropoulos, Editorial Fellow

Samantha Hunt,  The Dark Dark 2017

This is Samantha Hunt’s first short-story collection, though her fourth book. She’s an eccentric, imaginative creator and a candid storyteller, often presenting slightly fantastical, vaguely supernatural scenarios frankly and unblinkingly. She can make the most far-flung ideas seem very real. The Dark Dark dials this tendency back down. The most common site of magic in these stories is actually the female body, which, she points out, always transforms itself and has the power to make life and to kill parts of itself and can turn women into endless new versions of themselves. The Dark Dark is about women, mostly, and about fear, loneliness, being a parent, losing a parent, becoming someone else, realizing you’re losing yourself. Despite the lack of literal magic, these stories are still shivery, still eerie, and still, when they need to be, dreamy. –Olivia Rutigliano, CrimeReads Editorial Fellow

Honorable Mentions

A selection of other books that we seriously considered for both lists—just to be extra about it (and because decisions are hard).

Danielle Evans, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self (2010)  ·  Brad Watson, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (2010)  ·  Patricia Engel, Vida (2010)  ·  Don DeLillo, The Angel Esmeralda (2011)  ·  Charles Baxter, Gryphon (2011)  ·  Colm Toíbín, The Empty Family (2011)  ·  Can Xue, tr. Karen Gernant, Vertical Motion (2011)  ·  Jamie Quatro, I Want to Show You More (2013)  ·  Aimee Bender, The Color Master (2013)  ·  Susan Steinberg, Spectacle (2013)  ·  Rebecca Lee, Bobcat (2013)  ·  Ramona Ausubel, A Guide to Being Born (2013)  ·  Laura van den Berg, The Isle of Youth  (2013)  ·  Rivka Galchen, American Innovations  (2014)  ·  Naja Marie Aidt, tr. Denise Newman, Baboon (2014)  ·  Lydia Davis, Can’t and Won’t (2014)  ·  Stuart Dybek, Paper Lantern (2014)  ·  Donald Antrim, The Emerald Light in the Air (2014)  ·  Joy Williams, The Visiting Privilege (2015)  ·  Thomas Pierce, Hall of Small Mammals (2015)  ·  Jen George, The Babysitter at Rest (2016)  · Rion Amilcar Scott, The Insurrections (2016) · Alexandra Kleeman, Intimations (2016)  ·  James McBride, Five-Carat Soul (2017)  · Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Refugees (2017)  ·  Denis Johnson, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (2018)  ·  Jamel Brinkley, A Lucky Man (2018)  ·  Lauren Groff, Florida (2018)  ·  Xuan Juliana Wang, Home Remedies (2019)  ·  Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black  (2018)  ·  Karen Russell, Orange World  (2019), Edwidge Danticat, Everything Inside (2019).

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

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The 10 best short story collections

Elizabeth Day chooses the sharpest and smartest of small but perfectly formed works of fiction

Elizabeth Day co-founded Pin Drop, which presents authors and actors reading short stories in inspiring locations;

Author Jon Mcgregor from Bloomsbury

This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You Jon McGregor (2012)

The best short stories should haunt you for days and weeks. The stories in McGregor’s collection have stayed with me for months on end. They are linked by a unity of place – the fenlands of Norfolk and Cambridge – and by precise, elegant prose that elevates everyday occurrences into small, perfectly rendered pieces of art. As Maggie O’Farrell put it in her Guardian review: “The stories wrap themselves around the wholly disconcerting premise that catastrophes can rear up in anyone’s life without warning.”

Raymond Carver

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? Raymond Carver (1976)

Possibly the most economical short story writer in this list, Carver, with his precise, punchy prose, conveys in a few words what many novelists take several pages to elucidate. In stories such as “Fat” and “Are You a Doctor?” he writes with flat understatement about suburban disenchantment in mid-century America. The collection – shortlisted for the National Book prize – was written during what Carver called his “first life”, when he almost died of alcoholism. His “second life” started in 1977, when he gave up drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

REVIEWAuthor George Saunders, New York City, 3rd ave. Shot by Tim Knox, 11th

Tenth of December George Saunders (2013)

Winner of last year’s inaugural Folio prize for fiction, Saunders is, according to Entertainment Weekly , “the master of joy bombs: little explosions of grin-stimulating genius that he buries throughout his deeply thoughtful, endlessly entertaining flights of imagination”. Stories such as “Victory Lap” demonstrate his deftness of touch in mixing humour and humanity, as well as showcasing his technical brilliance, incorporating several different points of view in a contained space. And “Sticks”, little over a page in length, is one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Thing Around Your Neck Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)

Adichie had written two novels set in her native Nigeria before this collection. It shifts her gaze to the US in 12 stories that explore the experiences of husbands and wives, parents and children, immigrants and permanent residents. The title story delves into the loneliness suffered by a Nigerian girl who moves to an America far removed from her imaginings. A wise and emotive writer, in this collection Adichie touches on her familiar themes of exile, cultural miscommunications and the human desire to reconcile internal and external worlds.

Alice Munro

Runaway Alice Munro (2004)

The Canadian writer won the Nobel prize for literature in 2013 for her extraordinary work as “master of the contemporary short story”. She also won the 2009 Man Booker International prize for her lifetime body of work and has been called a modern-day Chekhov. Runaway is among her best collections and displays all of Munro’s mastery: the effortless shifts in time, sometimes across decades; the ability to convey an entire life in a few pages; the exploration of complex truths in uncomplicated language.

Katherine Mansfield.

The Garden Party and Other Stories Katherine Mansfield (1922)

This collection was first published in 1922, a year before Mansfield’s death at the age of 34 from tuberculosis. A pioneering modernist writer, Mansfield was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand before moving to Britain, where she became friends with DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. The title story, one of her best-known works, is written in the modernist style, with the deceptively simple setting of a family preparing for a garden party. Against this backdrop Mansfield brilliantly interweaves meditations on class, life and death, illusion and reality.

Julian Barnes

Pulse Julian Barnes (2011)

Barnes is best known as a novelist and won the Man Booker prize in 2011 for The Sense of an Ending . As a result, his short stories are rather overlooked and shouldn’t be. Pulse is Barnes’s 17th book and is a masterclass in the shorter form. He is brilliant at evoking social nuance and has an unfailing eye for the tiniest detail that will shine light on the whole. Two particularly wonderful examples from this collection are “Complicity”, about the delicate beginnings of a love affair, and “East Wind”, about a relationship between an estate agent and a foreign waitress.

Author Lorrie Moore

The Collected Stories Lorrie Moore (2008)

This deliciously fat collection gives the reader the chance to dip in and out of one of the best observers of human behaviour. Moore is notable for her arch tone and her sharp humour. But what makes her special is the way she can shift so smoothly to gut-wrenching poignancy. She writes about terminal illness, family dynamics and infidelity with equal fluency. A particular favourite from this volume is “How to Be an Other Woman” from her first published collection, Self-Help (1985), which was composed almost entirely of stories from her master’s thesis.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri (1999)

This debut collection of nine stories won the Pulitzer prize shortly after it was published in 1999 and was named the New Yorker ’s debut of the year. The stories, written with what Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times described as “uncommon elegance and poise”, deal with the diversity of Indian-American immigrant experience and the curious alchemy of love and relationships. My particular favourite in this collection is “A Temporary Matter”, a beautiful mediation on grief, love and loss as a couple try to come to terms with the stillbirth of their child.

The glimpse of truth

That Glimpse of Truth David Miller (ed) (out 23 October 2014)

Some of the best short stories contain unexpected moments of felicity on which the plot pivots. And so it was that, just as I was compiling this list, I received a giant package containing this doorstep of a book. It might be the most comprehensive collection of short stories… ever, featuring an all-star cast including Angela Carter, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl and more, selected by David Miller, a literary agent and author.

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OK, there are a lot of incredible short story writers not on this list.  A lot. And to include  I Am An Executioner: Love Stories over works from Cheever, Joyce, Salinger, and others seems a bit blasphemous, but we wanted a few picks you might not have already read. Rajesh Parameswaran’s book is incredibly innovative. In “The Infamous Bengal Ming,” our favorite story in the collection, you feel sorry for a baby-killing animal. The stories are so clever and fresh that you’ll eagerly await flipping the page to a fresh one. Link


Arrived Lets You Invest Like All Your Favorite Billionaires

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The best short story collections

From the gothic horror of edgar allan poe to the literary brilliance of dima alzayat, here is our edit of the best short story collections..

short story compilation books

There are so many reasons to love short stories; not least their ability to immerse us in new worlds in the time it takes to commute to work, or the common themes that weave through anthologies to create a thought-provoking whole. Here, we’ve collated our edit of the best short story collections. From spine-chilling tales and funny short stories to literary masterpieces, these are simply not to be missed.

Objects of Desire

Book cover for Objects of Desire

In these eleven short stories, thrilling desire and melancholic yearning animate women’s lives – from the brink of adulthood, to the labyrinthine path between twenty and thirty, to middle age, when certain possibilities quietly elapse. With powerful observation and mordant humour, Clare Sestanovich opens up a fictional world where intimate and uncomfortable truths lie hidden in plain sight.

Objects of Desire  is a book pulsing with subtle drama, rich with unforgettable scenes and alive with moments of recognition, each more startling than the last – a spellbinding, brilliant debut.

by Gerard Woodward

Book cover for Legoland

Many of  Legoland 's fifteen stories begin with Gerard Woodward's sharp and unflinching eye alighting upon an apparently everyday detail or situation, but then a sudden twist takes them to an unsettling place where life's normal rules no longer apply.

In Woodward's brilliant story 'The Family Whistle', shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, a woman's husband returns home from war, only to discover his wife thinks he's been back for years because another man has already claimed his place. ‘What’s wrong, Florian? Don’t you recognize your own husband?’

The Office of Historical Corrections

By danielle evans.

Book cover for The Office of Historical Corrections

Described by Roxane Gay as the 'finest short story writer working today,' Danielle Evans packs a powerful punch with each of the stories included in this remarkable collection. Across six short stories, as well as an eye-opening titular novella, she magnifies pivotal moments in her character's lives or relationships that allow for a wider blistering exploration of race, culture and history. 

You Will Never Be Forgotten

By mary south.

Book cover for You Will Never Be Forgotten

Mary South's bitingly funny debut collection explores how technology can both ruin relationships and provide new opportunities for genuine connection. The ten stories contained in this book are darkly absurdist and saveagely critical of our current cultural climates, while at the same time finding hope in moments of tenderness and fleeting interactions. Mary South is a perceptive, distinctive new voice in fiction. 

Stories of Your Life and Others

By ted chiang.

Book cover for Stories of Your Life and Others

In this masterful collection, Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories. 'Story of Your Life' was adapted into the blockbuster  Arrival , starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, and each of the seven other stories included in this book are just as gripping. Chiang spent years working on these science-fiction short stories creating epic worlds that are beyond the imagination.

Alligator and Other Stories

By dima alzayat.

Book cover for Alligator and Other Stories

Alligator and Other Stories  explores the many ways of feeling displaced: as a Syrian, as an Arab, as an immigrant, as a woman. Each of these rich, relatable stories highlights the moment when unusual circumstances mark us as ‘other’ – different from our neighbours. Each of these stories is startling and real, delivering an emotional punch which lingers long after reading.

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth

By daniel mason.

Book cover for A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth  is a funny, irreverent and moving collection of short stories from the award-winning author Daniel Mason. On a fated flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever, a telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the depth of the Amazon, and a bare-knuckle fighter prepres to face his most fearsome opponent. In these interlacing tales, men and women face the mysteries and magic of the world.

Book cover for Exhalation

This groundbreaking collection by Ted Chiang, acclaimed author of  Stories of Your Life and Others , contains nine startlingly original, provocative and moving short stories. Wrestling with the oldest questions on earth – What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of the universe? – this is truly thoughtful and complex science fiction.

Book cover for Salt Slow

This dazzling collection of short stories about women and their experiences in society is sure to shock and delight. Characters experience isolation, obsession and love in uncanny worlds where women become insects, men turn to stone and a city becomes insomniac. Blending the mythic and the gothic, this is an extraordinary collection. 

Book cover for Sweet Home

This highly anticipated collection of short stories is the first from the talented Wendy Erskine. Set in her native Northern Ireland, this collection features eleven short stories about the struggles of everyday people to lead ordered, simple lives in a world where tragedy can be just around the corner.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

By helen oyeyemi.

Book cover for What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

The stories collected in  What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours  are linked by more than the exquisitely winding prose of their creator: Helen Oyeyemi's ensemble cast of characters slip from the pages of their own stories only to surface in another.

''Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea' invites us into a 'house of locks' where doors can be closed only with a key. 'Boudicca doesn’t care how big or pretty her fellow fish are; if they come to her manor she will obliterate them.'

Civilwarland in Bad Decline

By george saunders.

Book cover for Civilwarland in Bad Decline

Civilwarland is the first collection of short stories from the 2017 Man Booker Prize winner, George Saunders. In these stories, he takes a bleak but comic look at America in the not-so-distant future. Saunders is regarded as a master of the short story, making this collection simply unmissable.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

By edgar allan poe.

Book cover for Tales of Mystery and Imagination

A master of the gothic and macabre; mysterious illnesses, insanity, murder and the supernatural abound in Poe’s short stories. This collection brings together some of his most famous tales, from The Tell-Tale Heart to The Fall of the House of Usher, with lesser-known gems.

Swimmer Among the Stars

By kanishk tharoor.

Book cover for Swimmer Among the Stars

Furiously inventive, beautifully crafted short stories from a strikingly original voice. The stories in this collection reveal an extraordinary young storyteller, whose tales of lonely elephants, fabled cooks and doomed villages emerge from a tradition that includes Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and Angela Carter.

The story from which the collection takes its name takes the form of an interview with the last speaker of a language. 'With nobody to speak her language to, she began talking with objects, the pots and pans, a creaking door, the sharp corner of a table.’

A Manual for Cleaning Women

Book cover for A Manual for Cleaning Women

It is only after her death that the incredible works of Lucia Berlin are truly getting the attention they deserve. In this collection of 43 short stories, she gives an intimate insight into her chaotic yet beautiful life. This collection is introduced by Lydia Davis.

The Bloody Chamber

By angela carter.

Book cover for The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter is perhaps the Queen of Magic Realism. In this astounding collection, she takes classic fairy-tales we all know and love - Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast - and turns them upside down, creating dark, sensual stories that you’ll need to be brave to read at bedtime.

How to Love a Jamaican

By alexia arthurs.

Book cover for How to Love a Jamaican

In her debut collection, Alexia Arthurs’ extraordinary short stories explore the lives and experiences of Jamaican immigrants and the families they leave behind. Her moving stories, including ‘Light Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands’, ‘Mermaid River’ and ‘Bad Behaviour’, are sure to leave a lasting impact.

The Not-Dead and The Saved and Other Stories

Book cover for The Not-Dead and The Saved and Other Stories

Kate Clanchy, past winner of the BBC National Short Story Award, lays bare raw emotion in this moving collection of short stories about love and loss. Just as powerful as her poetry, this collection highlights Clanchy’s enormous talent.

Beneath the Bonfire

By nickolas butler.

Book cover for Beneath the Bonfire

In these ten stories, Nickolas Butler demonstrates his talent for portraying a place and its people with unparalleled tenderness, evoking an American landscape that will be instantly recognizable to readers enchanted by his debut novel,  Shotgun Lovesongs .

In 'Rainwater' a grandfather raises his grandson after his mother disappears without a trace. 'He drank the remainder of the rainwater and began rocking them with more vigor. He hugged the child fiercely, felt his own lips meeting the top of the boy’s head.'

Men Without Women

By haruki murakami.

Book cover for Men Without Women

In the seven short stories that make up this collection, Haruki Murakami depicts the lives of men who for various reasons have found themselves alone. Fans of his work will recognise his wry humour on every page and for new readers, this collection serves as the perfect introduction to one of today’s most renowned writers.

The Fat Artist and Other Stories

By benjamin hale.

Book cover for The Fat Artist and Other Stories

Benjamin Hale's fiction abounds with a love of language and a wild joy for storytelling. Occasionally nightmarish and often absurd, the seven stories in this collection introduce us to a company of indelible characters reeling with love, jealousy, megalomania, and despair.

'Don't Worry Baby' tells the story of 1960s political radicals on the run from the law and a flight that descends into the worst of trips, in both senses of the word. ‘When they became outlaws they gave themselves new names.’

The Happy Prince & Other Stories

By oscar wilde.

Book cover for The Happy Prince & Other Stories

Part of the beautiful Macmillan Collector’s Library series,  The Happy Prince & Other Stories  is a charming collection of short stories written by Oscar Wilde between 1887 and 1891. The stories are fantastical, magical and sparkling with Wilde’s unique wit and personality. Beautifully illustrated, this collection is a great gift for friends and family.

by Roald Dahl

Book cover for Kiss Kiss

Roald Dahl’s stories for children are delightful and fantastical, with just the right pinch of deviousness thrown in. But in this collection of short stories for adults, things get a lot darker. . . Introduce yourself to a new side of one of Britain’s most beloved authors.

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