One of my writing teachers told me that a novel is like living in a house, but a short story is just a glimpse into one window. May is National Short Story Month, and even if you don’t normally read short stories, you’ll love these collections that show you another world in one quick look.
Story Collections for People Who Don’t Read Short Stories
Lucia Berlin used her experiences as a cleaning lady, a clerical worker, a hospital staffer, and a switchboard operator to write a stunning, gritty, and strange body of short stories that went mostly unknown until after her death. Written mainly in first person, Berlin’s stories are accessible and intimate, and bring the reader to places most literary fiction doesn’t dare go. While her voice may be reminiscent of luminaries from Raymond Carver to Rachel Kushner, ultimately Berlin sounds like no one but herself.
Are you a die-hard novel purist, but feel the urge to dabble in short stories? RED LIGHT RUN, which consists of 11 linked stories that center around a two-car collision in a Chicago suburb, might be the perfect stepping stone into new territory. An exciting debut by Best New American Voices writer Baird Harper, RED LIGHT RUN zooms out from the scene of the crime to show that it takes more than two people to cause an accident.
Successfully writing in the second person takes a true master—like Lorrie Moore. While all of her books are stunning, her first collection—the much beloved SELF HELP—is iconic for a reason. Even though it was originally published more than 30 years ago, every single one of the stories feel as startlingly fresh, raw, and transcendent as if they were written today. These are narratives that aren’t afraid to dig deep, get under your skin, and by their end, feel like your own stories.
Lorrie Moore perfectly understands the potential of short stories, and she pushes that potential to its limits. SELF-HELP uses the second person in a way that would never hold up in a novel, pretending to instruct (“How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes),” “How to Be an Other Woman,” “The Kid’s Guide to Divorce”) while actually creating rich, memorable characters. These stories are generous and flat-out funny.
Ethereal and strange, sad and euphoric. You probably haven’t read anything like Miranda July’s short stories. The characters in this collection ache for a deeper connection with others in their lives, but when the chance arises, they each reconsider the appeal of solitude. July’s work asks the question—Can we ever really get to know others when there are so many layers of our own selves left to explore?
In Broad City’s interview with Sleater-Kinney on NPR Music, Carrie Brownstein recommended Miranda July’s new novel, The First Bad Man. We’d like to draw attention to July’s acclaimed short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. July’s stories and films are known for their whimsy and awkwardness, and Broad City’s colorful, chaotic, absurd version of New York has a degree of that as well.
Dave Eggers has done it all: memoir, screenplay, parable—but short stories may just be his forte. Just as sweeping and ambitious as his longer works, the stories in HOW WE ARE HUNGRY take us from Costa Rica to Kilimanjaro—but show that our insatiable human longing is the same across the globe.
Inside this collection, there are robots you can purchase to teach your adopted children about their native culture and companies that create branded memories. But the day-to-day life of the characters doesn’t feel all that different than ours. Bizarre and compelling, CHILDREN OF THE NEW WORLD shows us that even in the future, we will want the same things that we do today, the same things we always have.
Some artists work in watercolor or oil; Amy Hempel works in brevity. She has the ability to pack a monumental emotional punch in just a few hundred words. Her COLLECTED STORIES gathers together four volumes for the ultimate transformative reading experience.
The title of Jamie Quartro’s brazen and lurid collection does not lie—these 15 stories that dance around the intersection of sexuality and spirituality bare it all in a peculiar, startling, and poignant, and all together original collection.
Lauren Holmes’ unflinching debut delves into the interior lives of a series of misunderstood or misrepresented people (and one dog) in this brilliant collection of character-driven stories that show that no one is exactly who they seem.