Short stories don’t always get the attention they deserve from book clubs, as they often are too brief to offer enough fodder for discussion. But there are many authors who manage to include just as much substance in a twenty-five-page story as others do in an eight-hundred-page tome. To help you and your book club get started, we’ve identified nine short story collections that would make excellent picks for your next meeting. From fantastical tales of unicorns to emotional accounts of love lost, these stories will whet your appetite for more bite-sized fiction packed with meaning.
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons
“The stories in Black Light are grimy and weird, surprising, utterly lush. . . . I loved every moment of this book.” —Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
With raw, poetic ferocity, Kimberly King Parsons exposes desire’s darkest hollows—those hidden places where most of us are afraid to look. In this debut collection of enormously perceptive and brutally unsentimental short stories, Parsons illuminates the ache of first love, the banality of self-loathing, the scourge of addiction, the myth of marriage, and the magic and inevitable disillusionment of childhood.
“Alice Adams has an inimitable ‘voice’— quick, deft, brilliantly evocative and specific. There is always something special about a story of hers, like a watercolor perfectly executed.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
Famous for illuminating the hidden workings of human relationships, Alice Adams’s work was a staple in The New Yorker and a mainstay of the O. Henry Award collections. The Stories of Alice Adams gathers fifty-three of her most celebrated pieces into one career-defining collection.
In story after story, insight joins with grace to show us the truth about the lives of people around us. A moving and elegant collection and the capstone to a brilliant career.
“The experience of reading this collection is rather like being wrapped in a tartan blanket and handed a nice mug of cocoa.” —The Guardian
As the world around it marches forward, the bucolic English village of Notwithstanding remains unchanged. It is, as it always has been, a place of pubs and cricket pitches, where local eccentrics almost fit in. In this delightfully evocative collection of stories, in which a young couple falls in and out of love by letter alone, an eleven-year-old boy battles a monstrous fish, and a man of the cloth has a premonition of death, Louis de Bernières conjures up a rural idyll long since forgotten.
“Remarkable. . . . Each of these nine stories is superb.” —The New York Times
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.
“Those who still cling to the promise of the short story can be glad that there is still someone willing to do the heavy lifting.” —Los Angeles Times
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 gathers twenty of the best short stories of the year, selected from thousands published in literary magazines. Whether fantastical or realistic, gothic or lyrical, the stories here are uniformly breathtaking. They are accompanied by the editor’s introduction, essays from the eminent jurors on their favorites, observations from the winning writers on what inspired them, and an extensive resource list of magazines.
“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
In his bestselling and lavishly praised first book of stories, Adam Haslett, author of Imagine Me Gone, explores lives that appear shuttered by loss and discovers entire worlds hidden inside them. An elderly inventor, burning with manic creativity, tries to reconcile with his estranged gay son. A bereaved boy draws a classmate into a relationship of escalating guilt and violence. A genteel middle-aged woman, a longtime 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.
“Thank goodness for Ali Smith, for who else could write a short story collection about libraries and make it wild.” —The Times (London)
The stories in Ali Smith’s new collection are about what we do with books and what they do with us: how they travel with us; how they shock us, change us, challenge us, banish time while making us older, wiser, and ageless all at once; how they remind us to pay attention to the world we make. Woven between the stories are conversations with writers and readers reflecting on the essential role that libraries have played in their lives. At a time when public libraries around the world face threats of cuts and closures, this collection stands as a work of literary activism—and as a wonderful read from one of our finest authors.
“Darkly comic stories about, and for, ‘grown-ass’ ladies.” —People
Meet the women of American Housewife. They wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies from the oven. Taking us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the unique initiation ritual of a book club, these twelve delightfully demented stories are a refreshing and wicked answer to the question: “What do housewives do all day?”
“One of the great short story writers not just of our time but of any time.” —The New York Times Book Review
In story after story in this brilliant collection, Alice Munro pinpoints the moment a person is forever altered by a chance encounter, an action not taken, or a simple twist of fate. Her characters are flawed and fully human: a soldier returning from war and avoiding his fiancée, a wealthy woman deciding whether to confront a blackmailer, an adulterous mother and her neglected children, a guilt-ridden father, a young teacher jilted by her employer. Illumined by Munro’s unflinching insight, these lives draw us in with their quiet depth and surprise us with unexpected turns. Elevated by Munro’s clarity of vision and her unparalleled gift for storytelling, Dear Life shows how strange, perilous, and extraordinary ordinary life can be.
“Splendid. . . . The collection as a whole, unlike most, begins to grow and resonate in a wonderful cumulative effect.” —Tim O’Brien, Chicago Tribune Book World
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.