My Favorite Short Story Collections

You Only Get Letters from JailI’ve been on a short story kick lately – writing them, reading them, being generally obsessed with the fantastic work going on in this area by a lot of the talented writers out there. As a result, I’ve been talking to everyone who will listen to me about the various collections I appreciate (that’s right, both of you…).

Sometimes I draw a blank, though. Like last night at my critique group, after I did a quick reading of the first half of one of my new short stories, one of the new members asked me for a list of collections I thought they should check out (in conversation, I’d mentioned one or two). Although I knew I had a long list of writers and collections to recommend in my head, I froze, unable to name even one more (such pressure!).

So tonight I decided to document a list right here on my blog that I hope to keep updated as I continue to enjoy more of these collections. I’ve read a lot more collections than these, but if I really enjoy one in its entirety, I’m going to try to include it here.

We Live in WaterThat way, next time I’m asked, I can just say, “Check out that entry on my blog for a full list.”

  1.  “We Live in Water” – Jess Walter – such a broad range of styles and subject matter. Really skillfully done.
  2. You Only Get Letters from Jail” – Jodi Angel – stories of young men stuck in that tender age between teenager and adulthood, written in an engaging, tumble-down-a-hill style
  3. Knockemstiff” – Donald Ray Pollack – an unforgettably bleak collection of stories all set in the same area of rural Ohio
  4. The Things They Carried” – Tom O’Brien – one story in this collection contained some of the most powerful writing I’ve ever experienced. I recommend in particular the audio version read by Bryan Cranston
  5. Revenge” – Yoko Ogawa – dark magical realism tales written in that wondrous Japanese style reminiscent of some of the best Haruki Murakami
  6. The Opposite of Loneliness” – Marina Keegan – this young woman’s life was cut way too short. This collection demonstrates the brilliance she left behind. Contains stories as well as essays.
  7. Fragile Things” – Neil Gaiman – Gaiman’s stories are my original short story loves.
  8. Smoke and Mirrors” – Neil Gaiman – yes, that’s anything by Neil Gaiman.

KnockemstiffI’m not going to include a list at this time, but if you’re interested in flexing your short story muscles as a writer, I also recommend consuming comic books as well. There’s so much great short fiction going on in that medium all the time.

What are some of your favorites?


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