best short story collection

Must-read short story collections to add to your bookshelf

Within a few pages, a short story can put words to a feeling you've been unable to express. It renders nostalgia and leaves you ruminating, much like a good book, but only shorter.
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Reading an interesting short story is the perfect way to take a break from your daily schedule and unwind. There’s something for everyone, with genres ranging from fantasy and historical fiction to adventure and horror. Short stories are a fun change from novels, demonstrating that a writer can build a story not just once but multiple times in one book. They allow you to immerse yourself in characters and storylines every time you pick a new story, all in just a fraction of the time as compared to novels.

The touching, humorous, and often heart-rending collection of short stories are delightful, to say the least. A short story is a perfect way to land in the world of books, and learn about writers and their stories. Within a few pages, a short story can put words to a feeling you’ve been unable to express. It renders nostalgia and leaves you ruminating, much like a good book, but only shorter.

If you find yourself struggling to make your way through extensive novels, then it may be time to read some fascinating short stories. But, if you don’t know where to begin, here’s a list of short story collections that won’t disappoint you.

The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde

This classic collection of five captivating fairy tales by ace storyteller Oscar Wilde has enchanted readers, both young and old, with the richness of his words and thoughts. At the core of each story lies a basic moral on an important human virtue. In The Happy Prince, a statue of a prince takes the help of a selfless swallow to bring comfort and solace to the downtrodden. The Nightingale and the Rose follows a nightingale and a young man determined to marry the lady he loves. It is a touching story about love and sacrifice. The Selfish Giant is a story of hope where the end of a long winter finally ushers springtime and bliss. The beauty and artistry of Wilde’s exceptional mind in this collection will appeal to readers of all age groups.

Salt Slow, by Julia Armfield

Julia Armfield’s debut short story collection comprising nine stories is a joy to read. The craft behind each story is riveting yet effortless. A highlight of the collection is The Great Awake, a story that explores our tumultuous relationship with sleep. In another short story Mantis, notions of puberty, transformation and beauty are explored through a funny but ironic tale. The writing forces the reader to examine the everyday anxieties and relationships of women and their experiences of isolation, obsession and love. Blending the mythic and the phenomenal, the collection represents worlds that are exciting, terrifying and captivating, while at the same time, extremely real and humane.

Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri

This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of nine short stories draws a contrast between the Indian culture and traditions that the characters have inherited and their lives in a bewildering new world. Lahiri writes with a nuanced social and cultural insight, touching upon the real problems that Indians face everywhere. In A Temporary Matter, a young Indian-American couple copes with the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their neighbourhood faces a nightly power outage. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their predecessors and hears an astonishing confession. The characters in the stories seek love past the boundaries of culture and conditioning and speak to everyone estranged and alienated from their countries of origin.

Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang

Stalwart author Ted Chiang presents an award-winning short story collection of eight diverse stories that are incredibly strange and devastatingly familiar. With sharp insight and humour, the author examines the reality of a world that is defined by both vulnerability and magnificence. In Story of Your Life, a grieving mother copes with divorce and the death of her daughter by using her knowledge of alien languages and non-linear memory. Another story Liking What You See: A Documentary is a clever parody of reports and interviews that accounts for a college’s initiative to “turn off” the human capacity to recognise beauty. Chiang’s thoroughly envisioned world of fantasy urges us to question our own understanding of the concepts of time and space.

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

This comprehensive short story collection by Ernest Hemingway incorporates the author’s most adored classics such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro and A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. A total of sixty stories, these pieces depict complex events and emotions and extraordinary accounts of love and fortitude, challenges and rewards set in eloquently described times and places. This collection shows Hemingway’s ability to compose delightful prose for each unique story, with plots that range from the experiences of war to touching moments between a father and child. Hemingway is a great storyteller, his writing is sensible and down-to-earth, and his characters are easy to relate with.

The Complete Stories, by Anita Desai

Anita Desai is an expert in capturing the intricacies of human behaviour, addressing both trivialities and oddness, and capturing both with depth and accuracy. Hidden disappointments, sudden setbacks and new companionships are all addressed in this extraordinary collection of short stories. With her signature empathy and gentle satire, Desai uses her prose to make familiar situations unique. The stories include a dog that creates terror among neighbours but is loved by his strict master; an ageing couple stranded in a stifling Delhi summer by the visit of a crafty but charming old friend from England; and an American woman visiting hippies living in the hills of India and pining to go back home to Vermont, among others. In one masterly volume, Desai’s cherished stories have been compiled for our reading pleasure.

The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson

Most of the 24 stories in this collection talk about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. In Charles, a kindergartner engages his folks with stories of Charles, a troublemaking classmate. A family gets new neighbours in Of Course, and their relationship soon turns sour. The Lottery is about a town that holds a lottery every year, however, it’s not the sort of lottery you would want to win. In each story, there is a lurking sense that something could go horribly wrong at any minute. Most of the narratives are about the little demonstrations of unkindness that happen every day. This short story collection genuinely makes for an enlightening read.

The Garden Party and Other Stories, by Katherine Mansfield

Written by Katherine Mansfield, this collection comprises fifteen remarkable stories that mostly reflect the plight of women in the early part of the 20th century. In At the Bay, the entire household of women relaxes only when the patriarch Mr. Burnell leaves for work; in Mr. and Mrs. Dove, regardless of how Anne feels about Reggie, she will most likely marry him rather than remaining single. There is a nagging feeling that most of the women in the stories are powerless, carrying on with their lives totally dependent on the whims and fancies of their men. These stories are glimpses into human relationships with a focus on class and gender domination and division.

Under the Banyan Tree and Other Stories, by R K Narayan

The 28 brief pieces in this collection by author R K Narayan offer quick glimpses into the unassuming lives of Malgudi characters—although distant in setting but highly relatable to all. There is no deliberate sense of fascination created in these snapshots of ordinary Indian life. Like the Sun narrates the distress and eventual success of a man who promises to tell only the truth all day. In The Shelter, an estranged husband and wife find themselves reunited under the same banyan tree during a heavy downpour. The stories range from humorous to solemn and all are filled with Narayan’s masterful observations of human behaviour told with affectionate simplicity.

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