Was “read more books” one of your goals this year, but you just haven’t found the time or motivation to dive into a novel yet? If a busy schedule is holding you back from starting your next book, there are ways to find time to read! But if you are put off by the idea of investing in a book you might not like or even have time to finish, we have the perfect solution: a short story collection.
Short stories are a great way to help you read more, even if you are not quite ready to commit to a full-length novel at the moment. You can read one story per day, or even one per week, and you don’t have to worry about taking breaks in between stories when life gets in the way.
Short stories are also an excellent way to experiment with new-to-you genres. Not sure if you will like fantasy? Try a short story collection and just reshelve it if it doesn’t strike your fancy. Nervous about reading horror? Read one short story to try it out, and don’t feel guilty about trading it in for something more your style if needed. As I learned in my library science program: “Never apologize for your reading tastes” (Rosenberg’s First Law of Reading).
No matter what your reading tastes are, here are 15 suggested short story collections to get you started:
1. What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi
Read it if … you enjoy literary fiction with a touch of whimsy.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side.
2. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B.J. Novak
Read it if … you want to laugh.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: A boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes—only to discover how claiming the winnings might unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins—turning for help to the famed motivator himself. Along the way, we learn why wearing a red T-shirt every day is the key to finding love, how February got its name, and why the stock market is sometimes just . . . down. One More Thing has at its heart the most human of phenomena: love, fear, hope, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might just make a person complete.
3. Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women, Nora Ephron
Read it if … you want to laugh at women (and men) with women.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: The classic Crazy Salad, by screenwriting legend and novelist Nora Ephron, is an extremely funny, deceptively light look at a generation of women (and men) who helped shape the way we live now. In this distinctive, engaging, and simply hilarious view of a period of great upheaval in America, Ephron turns her keen eye and wonderful sense of humor to the media, politics, beauty products, and women’s bodies. In the famous “A Few Words About Breasts,” for example, she tells us: “If I had had them, I would have been a completely different person. I honestly believe that.”
4. The Thing Around Your Neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Read it if … you like to read. Or think. (Seriously, Adichie is so talented.)
FROM THE PUBLISHER: In her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.
5. A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin
Read it if … you want realistic observations about women and everyday life.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they’d ever overlooked her in the first place.
6. Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman
Read it if … you don’t mind sleeping with the light on.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.
7. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
Read it if … you debate the pronunciation of “Pulitzer” with your book club. (By the way, it’s pronounced “PULL-it-sir,” not “PEW-lit-sir.”)
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant. She is an important and powerful new voice.
8. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, edited by Philip Pullman
Read it if … you are curious about pre-Disney fairytales.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Two centuries ago, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their first volume of fairy tales. Since then, such stories as “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” “Rapunzel,” and “Hansel and Gretel” have become deeply woven into the Western imagination. Now Philip Pullman, the New York Times–bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, makes us fall in love all over again with the immortal tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Here are Pullman’s fifty favorites—a wide-ranging selection that includes the most popular stories as well as lesser-known treasures like “The Three Snake Leaves,” “Godfather Death,” and “The Girl with No Hands”—alongside his personal commentaries on each story’s sources, variations, and everlasting appeal. Suffused with romance and villainy, danger and wit, Pullman’s beguiling retellings will cast a spell on readers of all ages.
9. Get in Trouble, Kelly Link
Read it if … you appreciate dark humor with a fantastical touch.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The nine exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a middle-aged movie star makes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll.
Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty—and the hidden strengths—of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.
10. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
Read it if … you skipped required reading in high school.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.
11. Runaway, Alice Munro
Read it if … you want realistic characters paired with award-winning writing.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: 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.
12. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling
Read it if … you are still waiting for your letter.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore.
Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.
13. Dubliners, James Joyce
Read it if … you wanted to major in English lit but defected to a “more lucrative” field.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: James Joyce’s Dubliners is a vivid and unflinching portrait of “dear dirty Dublin” at the turn of the twentieth century. These fifteen stories delve into the heart of the city of Joyce’s birth, capturing the cadences of Dubliners’ speech and portraying with an almost brute realism their outer and inner lives. Dubliners is Joyce at his most accessible and most profound, and this edition is the definitive text, authorized by the Joyce estate and collated from all known proofs, manuscripts, and impressions to reflect the author’s original wishes.
14. Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Karen Russell
Read it if … you appreciate a bit of bizarre in your literature.
FROM THE PUBLISHER: Within these pages, a community of girls held captive in a Japanese silk factory slowly transmute into human silkworms and plot revolution; a group of boys stumble upon a mutilated scarecrow that bears an uncanny resemblance to a missing classmate that they used to torment; a family’s disastrous quest for land in the American West has grave consequences; and in the marvelous title story, two vampires in a sun-drenched lemon grove try to slake their thirst for blood and come to terms with their immortal relationship.
15. Drown, Junot Díaz
Read it if … you want moving stories set in both the author’s homeland and America.
FROM AMAZON.COM: With ten stories that move from the barrios of the Dominican Republic to the struggling urban communities of New Jersey, Junot Diaz makes his remarkable debut. Diaz’s work is unflinching and strong, and these stories crackle with an electric sense of discovery. Diaz evokes a world in which fathers are gone, mothers fight with grim determination for their families and themselves, and the next generation inherits the casual cruelty, devestating ambivalence, and knowing humor of lives circumscribed by poverty and uncertainty. In Drown, Diaz has harnessed the rhythms of anger and release, frustration and joy, to indelible effect.