Sometimes in your reading goals it’s nice to have a palate cleanser in between all of the novels, biographies, and works of nonfiction. I think short stories can sometimes have that effect. And since “Short Story Collection” is a category on some of the Book Fifty Reading Challenge lists, I’m sharing six of my favorite short story collections with you today.
If you’re not familiar with reading short stories, I’m hoping this little list will give you some ideas for titles and names to look out for. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a great place to start!
If you like beautiful prose with a hint of the supernatural…
Opt for Anthony Doerr’s intriguing collection The Shell Collector. The title story is my favorite piece in this book, but all of the stories are interesting and a little strange. Doerr is also the author of All the Light we Cannot See, a simply gorgeous novel that will probably be on the bestseller list forever.
You really can’t go wrong with Flannery O’Connor. Over the last few years, she has become a huge inspiration and role model for me, so much so that I’m willing to put her in my top five list of favorite authors. You don’t have to tackle all of her stories at once, though. She has two collections: A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything that Rises Must Converge. Everything that Rises Must Converge is her second collection, and it is her best group of short stories, in my opinion. That being said, the story that made O’Connor famous is “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” which is in the earlier collection. I would say “pick your poison,” but I just can’t bring myself to call her writing poison. Plus, O’Connor is from right here in Georgia. For all you Georgia folks that’s like the literary equivalent of shopping local.
Ian McEwan, author of Atonement, among other things, has written stories that feel like they could be read for children, but they also carry deeper meaning. This short volume contains stories about the same boy, Peter Fortune. As you read, you really feel the transient nature of childhood and the speed with which our youth vanishes. I’d recommend this if you’re looking for something lighter that still has meaning.
Who else but O. Henry? He may not actually be the father of the short story, but we still give short story awards in his name, so he’s pretty famous! These stories are lessons in dramatic irony, so be prepared for surprise endings and lots of twists and turns. Think of “The Gift of the Magi,” and you’ll know what I mean. Reader beware–this collection has A LOT of stories, so you might get a little tired of them by the end.
If you want modern war stories…
I’m reading this book right now for my fiction writing class, and it is incredibly gripping. Some of the stories are very difficult to read. They are raw and honest, and you can tell that the author has put every bit of his own experience into these short stories. Because of the subject matter, the language and content are often dark and somewhat upsetting, but this book has all the emotional depth of Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried. I’d recommend to any fans of military stories or military history.
If you want to discover the stories that started a genre…
Who else but Sherlock Holmes? Everyone’s favorite consulting detective is the invention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and these stories will be sure to entertain for hours. Don’t let the Victorian language fool you, Sherlock and Watson are some of the best-developed characters around, and their bromance will make you smile. Plus, you’ll be able to talk to all your friends about how the original texts have been used and abused in all of our modern Sherlock adaptations.
So which short story collection will you tackle this year? I’m sure there are countless other collections out there to read, so let me know in the comments which I’ve missed.