An icon of the Southern Gothic tradition, Flannery O’Connor made a huge impact on American literature. Her writing frequently featured the grotesque and centered around themes of morality. Her stories carry her singular voice, and her Complete Stories was the recipient of the National Book Award in 1972, cementing her place as a monumental figure in the short story world.
This book made a huge splash when it was released, becoming a surprise finalist for the National Book Award, and even reading it at the height of its buzz it blew me away. Here’s what I had to say about it:
An astounding debut from a talented author, this collection of stories is original, inventive, and wholly mesmerizing. Beautifully written with a dark and exhilarating edge, each tale vibrates with its own brilliant ferocity. Seamlessly blending aspects of realism and fantasy, the book also effortlessly manages to be funny, insightful, terrifying, and relatable.
The Yellow Wall-Paper is a story I vividly remember reading in high school, and this gorgeous new edition of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work makes me excited to dive into more of her writing. This volume not only includes her most well-know short stories, but a novel and some poetry, all of which is rooted in her frustration with the typical gender roles of the time.
A favorite of our COO, Lori, this is a collection that has been very popular with both individuals and book clubs here at the store. Here’s what Lori thought about it:
Brilliance--once again! If you read Constellation of Vital Phenomenon, you must read this! (If not--read both!) I love how Anthony Marra not only writes these Russian short stories--spanning hundreds of years--but he finds ways, sometimes extremely subtle, to weave a story in itself between them! Some heart-breaking, many thought-provoking!
This is a favorite story collection of several booksellers in the store, and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. When it was first released, Michiko Kakutani noted in The New York Times that it was easy to forget that it was Lahiri’s first book because her “prose is so eloquent and assured”. It was the beginning of many impressive publications for Lahiri, including the translations of some Italian works to English!
This posthumous collection of stories from the author perhaps most famous for A Wrinkle in Time captures the spirituality, artistry, philosophy, and science-mindedness of so many of her works. L’Engle proved herself to be a master of many areas of writing, and this would be a great volume to pick up for anyone who hasn’t yet read her work.
In her remarkable and insightful new collection of short stories, Roxane Gay makes it clear that being a "difficult" woman carries no shame. Her characters are painted as complicated, strong, beautiful, flawed and very, very real. Hauntingly raw and powerfully written, the stories range from realistic to fantastic, but are all unfailingly rooted in a relatable humanity. An engineer tries to find her place in foreign and frigid Upper Michigan. A woman made of glass struggles with her husband's careful version of love. A mother is separated from her son after a new civil war divides America. These women struggle with pain, forgiveness, grief, love, and acceptance, and they have stayed with me long after I finished reading.
I’ve heard our Head Buyer, Andrew, rave about this book many times, and each time it makes me think of all the fiction that has followed in its footsteps. Here’s what Andrew says:
My father recommended this to me when I was in high school. I was on a short story kick. When I was finished with it, I knew I had just read a singular and timeless book. A seminal work of Modernist Literature, Winesburg, Ohio weaves a portrait of small town America through interconnected short stories. Today, this is a common storytelling technique, but Sherwood Anderson was breaking new ground when he wrote this in the teens. Character driven, small yet with epic impact, it is a book you will remember for the rest of your life.
National Book Award finalist Edwidge Danticat has been writing impactful, stirring fiction and nonfiction for years, much of which is focused on her native Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years ago, and she is as brilliant in person as her writing is on the page.
Through her relatively short life, Shirley Jackson wrote over two hundred short stories, including “The Lottery”, which remains one of the most well-known stories in American literature, and caused quite a stir upon its publication in The New Yorker in 1948. This edition also contains twenty-four of her other unique, unsettling stories.
This debut story collection, written by an insanely creative TV showrunner, is one of the most unique books I’ve read in years. Here’s what I said about it when I first read it:
From the creator of BoJack Horseman, this exceptionally unique and witty collection of love stories oozes Bob-Waksberg's sense of bleak whimsy. Perfectly suited for anyone who hides their romantic side with cynicism, these stories will have you laughing through painfully relatable moments and crying in the midst of hilariously absurd situations. Brilliant!
Edith Wharton may be best known by many for her novels, which have remained highly read classics, but she was an equally prolific writer of short stories. With an uncanny eye for capturing the societal flaws of New York’s Gilded Age, she was a groundbreaking writer with a well-deserved legacy.
Any new book by Zadie Smith is cause for celebration, and her newest, Grand Union, adds a collection of stories to her repertoire of novels and essays. Praised for her vibrancy and versatility, Smith continues to be one of the most impactful writers at work today.
As short story month was coming up, I knew I could count on our receiver, Matt, to rave about his favorite collection of stories. It’s not uncommon to see him revisiting the pages of this book as it comes across his desk. Here’s what he told me about it:
Fragile Things is so powerfully uncomfortable, I had to put it down until I literally forgot why I stopped reading it. Contains my favorite short story, "Other People."
This is three-time Hugo Award winner N.K. Jemisin’s first collection of stories, and it shows that the highly respected fantasy novelist is equally adept when it comes to short fiction. Her work, while still in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, masterfully reflects many aspects of the world in which we live.
Lucia Berlin’s stories have seen a resurgence of popularity in the past few years- and for good reason. Roxanne loved A Manual for Cleaning Women, and my first exposure to her writing was Evening in Paradise, which left me wanting to devour all of her work. Here’s what I had to say about the collection:
An absolutely masterful writer of short stories, Lucia Berlin has recently found widespread posthumous acclaim. The stories contained in this most recent volume of her work are observant, funny, touching, and full of life. Berlin's fiction borrows heavily from her own experiences, which brings a relatable truth to the lives of her protagonists, and her stunning prose is particularly effective at capturing feelings of alienation and loneliness. Her work is not to be missed.
Today’s pick is a throwback to one of Roxanne’s favorites- a hilarious collection of linked stories by Julie Hecht, a longtime contributor to The New Yorker before publishing her debut Do the Windows Open? in 1997. In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly said, “Some of the stories may remind the reader of a long phone conversation with a batty, obsessed neighbor who doesn't know when to hang up. You may breathe a little sigh of relief when they're over--but then again, her point of view is so entertaining, you can't wait for her to call back.”
Because May is short story month, there are always some exciting new stories being released. Perhaps the biggest name with a new selection for us this year is Richard Ford, whose collection out today has gathered rave reviews from both The Wall Street Journal and Kirkus, the latter of which said, "Powerfully unsettling stories in which men nearing the end of their lives wonder, befuddled, if that's all there is."
I don’t think I’ll ever truly grow out of my appreciation for young adult fiction. One way that I’ve discovered some authors that I’ve really loved is through anthologies, many of which have very charming themes, and a great mix of writing styles and genres!
Andre Dubus, who died in 1999, is considered by many to be a short story master. In an ambitious project, David R. Godine, Publisher, a small publishing house to whom Dubus was loyal for much of his career, released in 2018 three volumes of his stories, the third volume containing previously uncollected works.
Lorrie Moore is an acclaimed author of short stories, novels, and essays. Top critics have described her story collections as “resonant”, “lyrical and prickly”, and “beguiling”. Just this year, Everyman’s Library collected forty of her stories into one volume for the serious short story enthusiast!
Denis Johnson is another short story writer with a huge reputation- and one I’ve yet to read myself! However, here’s what Mandy had to say when his posthumous collection The Largesse of the Sea Maiden was released:
Denis Johnson perfectly captures the essence of the down-and-out, the drifter, and the outcast. He has a way of pulling you in and completely immersing you in the tales he is telling. For long time fans his last collection of stories will leave you feeling satisfied. For first timers -- you will want to devour everything he has ever written. Denis Johnson is a master storyteller.
This is the follow up to Penguin’s equally stunning book of Japanese short stories, and we loved it so much here at the store that we made it one of our featured holiday picks for 2019. Here’s what I wrote about it then:
This remarkable volume covers over a hundred years of Italian literature and many of the forty stories featured have been translated into English for the very first time. Jhumpa Lahiri, a talented writer and translator, has chosen works from both well-known and more obscure writers, while presenting a wide range of Italian voices and experiences. Each author is thoughtfully introduced before you dive into their work. This beautiful edition deserves a place of prominence on the shelf of any lover of literature.
George Saunders has received numerous awards and fellowships for his short story writing, and Tenth of December, in particular, is a favorite of many. In Michiko Kakutani’s words, “It’s a measure of Mr. Saunders’s talents as a writer- his brassy language, his narrative instincts, his bone-deep understanding of his characters- that he takes what might have been a contrived and sentimental parable and turns it into a visceral and moving act of storytelling.”
Today marks the paperback release of Karen’s Russell’s most recent story collection. Orange World and Other Stories was the first of Russell’s work that I’d read, and I’ll be celebrating short story month this year by treating myself to her two other collections! Here’s what I wrote about Orange World a year ago:
While these exquisite short stories are all grounded in the real world, they take the reader beyond the expected, into imaginatively off-kilter circumstances. Russell is a master of weaving together imagery and language into a remarkable tapestry, while delicately maintaining the fundamental relatability of her stories. A truly impressive and transfixing collection that pushes the boundaries of fiction in the most satisfying ways.
Short story anthologies are a great way to discover new authors you haven’t yet tried- or maybe haven’t ever heard of! Anthologies have a great mix of themes, genres, and voices to explore, and may launch you into a new realm of literary interest.
Months after its publication last year, Ted Chiang’s Exhalation made the “Best of 2019” lists of most major publications, and cemented itself as essential reading for both science fiction fans and wider audiences. The New York Times said, “these stories are carefully curated into a conversation that comes full circle, after having traversed extraordinary terrain.”
For me, Ayşe Papatya Bucak’s debut was the kind of book that convinced me instantly that I’d ready anything that this author would put in front of me. Here’s what I wrote about it when I first read it last year:
This debut story collection impressed me deeply. The stories within feel both modern and traditional, and are each unique and interesting, with a sly sense of humor woven throughout. The author's inventiveness delighted me, although all her stories remain grounded in history and humanity. You won't regret picking this book up for even a moment.
When I’m asked to recommend short stories to someone looking for a good place to start, I always include Alice Munro. Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013 as a “master of the contemporary short story”, and is a literary legend in her native Canada and around the world. In the words of The New York Times Book Review, “As is so often the case now in Munro’s fiction, the drama sneaks up and then slips past almost before you’re aware of it.”