Six More Short Story Collections I Loved
More Bossy Short Story Love
Some of my fellow readers have mentioned to me in the past that they don't seek out short stories, whether because they want more of a hefty book to dive into, they worry about getting invested in the characters and then getting kicked out abruptly via an ending that feels like it comes too soon, or they worry that a short story won't feel fully realized.
But short stories in the hands of talented authors can serve as glimpses into small moments that change everything, alluding to a greater story and world beyond the brief foray into a situation. And if you're having trouble finding time to dig into a longer work with the holidays coming, or just because of Life, short stories can feel more manageable--you can pick up and put down the book as needed without losing the plot.
Have you read any of these collections? Do you have any favorite short story collections I should read?
You might also like the books on my first Greedy Reading List of short stories: Six Short Story Collections to Wow You.
01 Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Evaristo offers a set of twelve interconnected stories about Black women in contemporary Britain and their friendships, loves, struggles, and successes.
The twelve women in Girl, Woman, Other --each of whom gets a chapter to tell her story, which is often joined in progress--are mothers, daughters, friends, and lovers concerned with sexuality, autonomy, race, artistic expression, tradition, class, education, loyalty, and how each of these factors shape their past, present, and future identities as Black British women.
We get to know something about life in contemporary Britain through the varied interconnected friendships, partnerships, loves, struggles, successes, and the ways in which these twelve women's lives are affected by past colonialism and the present-day British environment.
I was most fascinated by the looping and sometimes surprising interconnectedness of the characters. During the multiple lessons the characters gave each other about feminism and gender--complete with references to authors, activists, texts, and more--I felt as though I were taking a class; I was interested in the facts but didn't feel drawn into the characters or their stories during those sections.
Evaristo won the Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other.
For my full review, check out Girl, Woman, Other.
02 Festival Days by Jo Ann Beard
In Jo Ann Beard's lovely essays and short stories, she writes honestly and beautifully about moments large and small, from the weightiness of saying goodbye to loved ones for the last time to the comically complicated corralling of unruly ducks.
In the nine essays and short stories that make up Festival Days, the fantastic Jo Ann Beard explores tiny moments that make up a day and ultimately make up a life, as well as enormously important moments of life-and-death balance that can define everything.
Festival Days is not light reading: "Cheri" delves into the last days of a woman who is terminally ill with cancer; "Last Night" relates the final moments of the author's beloved dog's life; and the backbone of the collection is the title piece, "Festival Days," which centers around a trip through India that explores mortality and love.
But Beard's writing feels like long-form poetry in a way--evocative and anchored in wonderfully wrought detail--and despite the sometimes difficult subject matter, she injects humor and beauty into the disparate scenes and situations she relates.
Festival Days is lovely and sometimes surprising; it feels honest as Beard explores bitterness, confusion, petty thoughts, life-and-death issues, trivial concerns, and intense love and loss. It's also often wryly funny.
Click here for my full review of Festival Days.
03 You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead
Shipstead's varied stories range from funny with an edge to darkly haunting. She builds her characters with vivid detail, and she serves up the brutal truth alongside vulnerability in this fascinating collection.
In You Have a Friend in 10A, Maggie Shipstead offers gripping, sometimes haunting, sometimes darkly funny short stories, diving into eclectic and vivid settings ranging from an Olympic village, to a deathbed in Paris, to a Pacific atoll, to an abandoned mountaintop.
The tones of each captivating story vary wildly, whether lighthearted with an edge or tragic and dark.
Throughout each disparate story, Shipstead's eye for detail and for illustrating pivotal small moments allows her to explore the lives of a cast of vivid characters and make them feel fully formed.
For my full review, please check out You Have a Friend in 10A.
04 You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld shapes fully realized, fascinating characters that stuck with me in the ten stories of You Think It, I'll Say It. I loved it and rated the collection five stars.
I had no idea, of course, that of all the feelings of my youth that would pass, it was this one, of an abundance of time so great as to routinely be unfillable, that would vanish with the least ceremony.
At the start of this collection I was concerned that this was going to be a short story collection about people making poor choices, and I have loooots of trouble and get verrrry nervous reading those situations.
But Sittenfeld has a fascinating way of turning situations on their heads and making the reader sympathetic to absurd, heartbreaking, sometimes dramatic everyday situations, as she does here.
The ten stories in You Think It, I'll Say It explore expectations related to gender and relationships while Sittenfeld builds characters whose lives are shaped by missed connections, coincidences--and the aforementioned faulty decision-making.
For my full review of this book, check out You Think It, I'll Say It.
05 Half Wild by Robin MacArthur
MacArthur's stories, set in rural Vermont, are tragic, beautiful, heartwarming, and heartbreaking.
MacArthur, who is from Vermont and lives on the farm where her grandparents lived and where she was born, here offers stories spanning forty years, featuring women, men, and young people tied to the beautiful and wild land of rural Vermont and to each other.
I loved these vaguely interconnected, often beautifully and minorly (or majorly) tragic but never overblown stories set in rural Vermont. The themes feel potentially universal to other small, rural communities.
The author has an eye for the details that bring characters to life and a gift for showing readers the grit, emotion, imperfection, and beauty related to the setting that shapes them.
MacArthur is also the author of the mystery Heart Spring Mountain.
For my full review, please see Half Wild.
06 Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King
King builds each story within Five Tuesdays in Winter to be full, rich, and full of pain and poignancy. I loved this collection.
In Lily King's story collection, she turns her eye for detail and for wonderfully faulted characters on explorations of love, desire, loss, and tragedy.
From a bookseller closed off emotionally from the world who begins to consider letting someone in again to the complicated, tragic reunion of former college roommates; from a mourning elderly man faced with disaster to a writer who has been silenced for too long, King mines uncomfortable or joyful, sometimes tiny moments that shape her characters' lives in profound ways.
With masterful storytelling, King builds a world within each short story that feels immediate, sometimes poignant, and which repeatedly surprised me with the amount of heart involved.
Lily King is also the author of Writers & Lovers and Euphoria.
For my full review, please see Five Tuesdays in Winter.