Reading Group Center

Short Story Collections For Book Clubs

If your book club has tired of novels and nonfiction, consider a change of pace: short fiction!

Swim Back to Me by Ann Packer is an unforgettable collection of short stories that we can’t get enough of. As a bonus, listen to a Spotify playlist inspired by one of the stories in the book.

Read on for more reading group-friendly short story collections.

Swim Back to Me by Ann Packer

“Stunning. . . . Packer can break your heart—and she can mend it, too. ” —O, The Oprah Magazine

Ann Packer is one of our most talented observers of family life, with its hidden crevasses and unforeseeable perils. In these unforgettable, emotionally searing stories, she explores the moral predicaments that define our lives, the frailty of ordinary grace, and the ways in which we are shattered and remade by loss.

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You Are Not a Stranger HereYou Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett

“Spectacular. . . . You should buy this book, you should read it, and you should admire it. . . . [It] is the herald of a phenomenal career.” —The New York Times Book Review

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Finalist. An elderly inventor, burning with manic creativity, tries to reconcile with his estranged gay son. A bereaved boy draws a thuggish classmate into a relationship of escalating guilt and violence. A genteel middle-aged woman, a long-time resident of a psychiatric hospital, becomes the confidante of a lovelorn teenaged volunteer. Told with Chekhovian restraint and compassion, and conveying both the sorrow of life and the courage with which people rise to meet it, You Are Not a Stranger Here is a triumph of storytelling.

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Unaccustomed EarthUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

“Glorious. . . . Showcases a considerable talent in full bloom.” —San Francisco Chronicle

These eight stories by beloved and bestselling author Jhumpa Lahiri take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. Here they enter the worlds of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. Rich with the signature gifts that have established Jhumpa Lahiri as one of our most essential writers, Unaccustomed Earth exquisitely renders the most intricate workings of the heart and mind.

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RunawayRunaway by Alice Munro

Runaway may very well be the synthesizing work of one of literature’s keenest investigators into the human soul.” —USA Today

The incomparable Alice Munro’s bestselling and rapturously acclaimed 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.

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How to Breathe UnderwaterHow to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer

“These stories are without exception clear-eyed, compassionate and deeply moving.” —The Guardian

Nine brave, wise, and spellbinding stories make up this award-winning debut. In “When She is Old and I Am Famous” a young woman confronts the inscrutable power of her cousin’s beauty. In “Note to Sixth-Grade Self” a band of popular girls exert their social power over an awkward outcast. In “Isabel Fish” fourteen-year-old Maddy learns to scuba dive in order to mend her family after a terrible accident. Alive with the victories, humiliations, and tragedies of youth, How to Breathe Underwater illuminates this powerful territory with striking grace and intelligence.

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The Whore's ChildThe Whore’s Child by Richard Russo

“Straightforward and engaging from the first page. . . . Mr. Russo makes writing short stories seem effortless.” —Wall Street Journal

A cynical Hollywood moviemaker confronts his dead wife’s lover and abruptly realizes the depth of his own passion. As his parents’ marriage disintegrates, a precocious fifth-grader distracts himself with meditations on baseball, spaghetti, and his place in the universe. And in the title story, an elderly nun enters a college creative writing class and plays havoc with its tidy notions of fact and fiction. The Whore’s Child is further proof that Russo is one of the finest writers we have, unsparingly truthful yet hugely compassionate and capable of creating characters real that they seem to step off the page.

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