I grew up a novel reader. I used to think short stories were shorter versions of novels and thusÂ easier to write. After studying creative writing and reading a lot,Â I know it’s not true, and I respect the short story as its own art form. To conjure a character out of two lines and tell a satisfying story out of a few pages is no easy task.
There are plenty of short story collections I like and recommend, but I’m narrowing this list down to 7 contemporary books I feel have the most widespread appeal. For those short on time, these stories are perfect to get your literary fix.
Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman
This is a collection I’m currently reading and I’m so impressed. The title intrigued me to pick it up. As the author explains, “The stories in this collection are born of fascination with real women whose remarkable lives were reduced to footnotes.” Every story is brilliantly written. While Bergman gives herself artistic permission to explore these women’s lives, they are stemmed from a decade of reading and research.
Too See You Again: Stories by Alice Adams
Alice Adam is a master of the short story form and greatly underrated. She was a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, which published overÂ 25 of her stories. I got hooked after reading the title story of this collection. This book is worth getting just for that story and “Greyhound People” alone, the latter which remains one of my favourite short stories of all time.
The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
Marina Keegan was a talented Yale studentÂ who died in a car crash five days after graduation. She left behind a collection of essays and short stories that gave a voice to twenty-somethings with a painful authenticity I have yet to find in other young writers (who often strive to sound mature and worldly). The first story punched me in the gut and the last essay containing Keegan’s enthusiasm for the future made me hopeful but tearyÂ that she won’t be able to live it.
The Elephant Vanishes: Stories by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami’s short stories are the love children of Kafka and Raymond Carver. With deadpan humour, he can make a hungry couple’s robbing of a McDonald’s (“The Second Bakery Attack”) sound like a normal thing to do on a regular weeknight. Then he’ll hit you with a subtlyÂ sweet love story about an ordinary man and woman passing each other on the street (“On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning”).
Yo! Julia Alvarez by Julia Alvarez
In high school, I found this book in the International Fiction section of the school’s library. Which is a shame because the stories in this book areÂ for anyone, not just those interested in Dominican Republican culture. Our protagonist Yolanda Garcia, Yo for short, has just released a wildly successful novel with characters based on real life lovers, friends and family. Some are angry, but they can’t stay angry at Yo for long. While Yo never gets to defendÂ herself in this collection of stories about her, everyone else gets centre stage to speak their piece. The stories that stuck with me the most over the years are “The Cousin” and “The Student”.
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
There’s a certain lightness in Salinger’s storiesâthe funny descriptions, the witty dialogue. I’ll be laughing out loud throughout a story, get to the end, then want to cry. “Just Before the War with the Eskimos” is one I’ll always reread.
Â Interpreter of Maladies byÂ Jhumpa Lahiri
AfterÂ I started the first story in Interpreter of Maladies, I found myself sinking deeper into aÂ couch. The writing is so smooth it put me under a spell. Lahiri won the Pulitzer not due toÂ any clever literary acrobatics but because of the emotional resonance of her stories. My favourites are “A Temporary Matter” and “Sexy.”
What are your favourite short stories? Let me know in the comments below.Â