Several of you requested a Top 10 list of short story collections back when I asked what “best” lists you want to see.
This one was tough to compile. To make it easier on ourselves—and to mix it up—we decided to limit the list to recent releases. Each of these 10 books have come out in the last 10 years. (And hey, we figure you’re already familiar with Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver, anyway.)
So, here are 10 collections BookPage strongly recommends, ordered alphabetically. Read ‘em from beginning to end, or read them in bite-sized pieces. That’s what I love about story collections. They’re perfect when you don’t have time to read a whole book, or you want the satisfaction of a beginning, middle and end in a short period of time.
In Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Danielle Evans takes as her subject people in transition: adolescents, children split between divorced parents, college graduates drifting between partners and jobs. Moral ambiguity is explored beautifully in the best of these stories as well as the deeply felt moments of choice and regret. (Keep reading this review.)
In Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, Yiyun Li explores the big themes—individuality, honor, family ties and love—and sets them against a richly detailed tapestry of Chinese life. Though each story takes place in modern-day China, they are formally rigorous and crafted with an elegance that harkens back to stylists like Chekhov and William Trevor. (Keep reading this review.)
Kelly Link’s second short story collection is aptly titled Magic for Beginners, for the short fiction she presents here is truly magical, with masterfully crafted stories that are as dark as they are delightful. (Keep reading this review.)
David Bezmozgis’ Natasha: and Other Stories, seven stories about growing up a poor Russian Jewish immigrant in Toronto, are so Russian in tone they should be read with a glass of tea at hand and a cube of sugar between one’s teeth. Yet they are so Western in theme that even if you’ve never set foot outside your hometown, they’ll make your heart ache. (Keep reading this review.)
Hailed as Alice Munro’s best collection yet, Runaway is the 12th book from an author who has perfected the short story form. In these eight selections, each of which takes place in her native Canada, Munro examines the nuances of human relationships, exploring the complexities of marriage, the difficulties of parenting and the responsibilities inherent in friendship. (Keep reading this review.)
Karen Russell’s startlingly original collection, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, features graceful and seductive prose that transports the reader into surreal and yet utterly plausible realms. (Keep reading this review.)
The stories in Swim Back to Me, Ann Packer’s collection, are powerful. They focus on situations that make us uncomfortable to varying degrees—from the disorienting feeling of misjudging a co-worker, to the adolescent recognition of being ditched by a friend, to the excruciating pain of losing a child. (Keep reading this review.)
From the opening tale of Nam Le’s The Boat, it’s hard not to be giddy: Wait, was that a brilliantly self-conscious and humorous slice of the writing life, which doubled as a poignant story about fathers and sons and family tragedies? Yes. Yes, it was. Things only get better from there. (Keep reading this review.)
Most of the 12 stories in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck focus on men and women who travel between Africa and the United States. Nigeria is the place where most of Adichie’s characters live, leave and long to return, while the U.S. is a place of promise, new beginnings and ultimate disappointments. (Keep reading this review.)
Jhumpa Lahiri has carved out a distinctive literary niche, and her tales of Indians encountering contemporary American life have resonated with a wide swath of readers. Her story collection, Unaccustomed Earth, only burnishes that estimable reputation. (Keep reading this review.)
What collections are we missing from this list? Why do you love short stories?