Love short stories? Or are you a book lover who doesn’t always have the time (or concentration) to sit down with a fully-fledged novel? This reading list is the one for you.
This list contains short story collections from wonderful authors around the world. From well-known masterpieces, critical successes that may have flown under your radar, to independent gems.
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by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
by Shireen from The Happy Days Travels
Manchester Happened is a short story collection written by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi about the experience of Ugandans choosing to make England their home. Some stories touch upon living in London but the majority of stories are set between Uganda and Manchester. There are 12 stories altogether, and each time I read the next story, it was my favourite, until the one after. Every story has new characters, different voices and scenarios but are all connected through the Ugandan protagonist’s experience in England and similarities linked to Uganda.
My favourite short story from the collection is ‘Memoirs of a Namaaso’ because it is told from the perspective of a stray Ugandan dog accidentally ending up as a pet dog in Manchester. I thought it was original and a unique method of communicating the wider plots to the story. The collection explores the themes of belonging, culture shock and tradition. I felt like I learned a few things about Ugandan people from the similarities in each story. If you love reading literature from a country outside of the UK or how the UK looks through Ugandan eyes, pick up this collection.
by R. K. Narayan
by Rachita from MeandarWander
Malgudi Days is a short collection of fictional stories by author R. K. Narayan that was published in 1943. There are 32 stories in this that portray the different aspects of life. All the stories in this collection are set in the fictional town of Malgudi, South India, and evoke an emotion in you like no other. I have been reading these stories as a kid and they have become a huge part of my life now because every story in this collection teaches you a lesson about life and its unexpected turns.
My favourite story from the entire collection has to be ‘The Missing Mail’ in which a postman withholds an important mail for the benefit of a family. He could lose his job for this but he puts the well-being of others over this possibility. This story truly gripped my heart because it displayed how people can be kind and good to you even when you aren’t close to them. This is the theme of most of the stories in this collection, you see how Indian small-town society worked earlier on and how the status quo was a major part of everything.
This is a great read for understanding the ethics that one must follow to live a good life or you could simply read it to get a glimpse of what Indian society looks like. Anyone who is looking for a powerful and emotional read should definitely give Malgudi Days a chance.
Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri
by Claudia from The Visa Project
While a nightly blackout strikes their Boston neighbourhood, a young Indian-American couple confronts the grief of their stillborn. An eleven-year-old boy becomes aware of how profoundly a Bengali woman in Boston misses her native country and how lonely it makes her. A newly-married Hindu couple moves to a new home in Connecticut and comes across Christian devotional items everywhere…
With intimate and real stories, Jhumpa Lahiri builds a bridge between India and the United States with a lucid and uncomplicated prose style that speaks to you long after you have finished the nine stories that make up the Interpreter of Maladies.
The identity crisis, the struggles, and the cultural mishmash of the immigrants come alive in the form of a complex web of human relationships, cuisine, traditions, family values, and a lot more that bind the protagonists to two different worlds. I read the stories more than a few times en route to becoming an OCI in India and, being a Latina in a foreign country, I could instantly connect to the shared identity one feels while living in a foreign country.
My favourite is the title story, where a man who is an interpreter of native Indian languages for a doctor who also works as a tour guide for tourists in India. While accompanying an Indian-origin American couple and their kids in West Bengal, the wife reveals her startling secrets to him as if he were a psychological counsellor.
I would definitely recommend the collection to anyone. And if possible, read it over a few days rather than finishing it in one go. You wouldn’t want it to be over.
I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere
by Anna Gavalda
by Lena from Salut from Paris
The short story collection “I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere” is the first book published by Anna Gavalda. The award-winning French writer describes in 12 novelettes the quintessence of life, destiny and love.
Anna Gavalda has an outstanding talent for bringing characters to life. With a few sharp remarks every protagonist in her short story collection turns into a complex personality, but very importantly: not into a hero. Her stories are about the banality and absurdity of life. About real human emotions, decisions and even more about turning points.
The red thread of every story in this collection is the brief moments and encounters, that is changing the direction of one’s destiny. There is no topic this is not covered in this book. Be it about the horrible consequences of a missed highway exit, an unexpected turn when taking your fathers car, or about holding hands with a stranger for a photo that nobody ever will see.
The short stories from Anna Gavalda are for readers with a fable for the magic of the ordinary. They want to relate and to connect, and moreover want to go on an emotional journey through everyday life and fate.
Tenerife Tall Tales
by Tony Thorne
By Or from My Path in the World
The book includes seventeen witty Speculative Fiction tales packed with unusual elements, from a mini Jurassic Park to black holes, and you never really know what to expect because it seems like anything could happen on the next page.
My favourite story is EVOLUTION, one of the shortest tales in this book. Without providing too many spoilers, I can only say that a short story with an adorable talking animal will surely put a smile on your face.
Although you can say that this book was only written to make you enjoy an out-of-the-ordinary reading experience, it might also make you think about things like the unpredictable consequences of technology, what the future holds for this planet, and more. If you need more of this quirkiness in your life, this book also has two sequels – ‘More Tenerife Tall Tales‘ and ‘Even More Tall Tenerife Tales.’
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
by Flannery O’Connor
by Maggie from Books Like This One
If you’re looking for a short story collection from an American literary great, then look no further than A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor. Originally published in 1953, this Southern Gothic masterpiece is at times unsettling, controversial and haunting.
The eponymous short story A Good Man is Hard to Find, easily one of O’Connor’s most famous, follows a family as they embark on a road trip from Georgia (where the vast majority of O’Connor’s stories are set) to Florida for a summer holiday. With news of an escaped murderer (referred to as the Misfit) who has last been sighted in Florida concerning the difficult grandmother, she is insistent that the family head west to Tennessee instead. Oh, she is also highly concerned about her cat dying while they are away on holiday and goes to lengths to sneak her into the car before they leave for the trip.
Though the story does focus on the family dynamics, the Grandmother is the main antagonist of the story. Her belligerent nature, bigoted views and old fashioned values feel incredibly stunted out of step with the family. When the family inevitably encounters the Misfit the Grandmother has been so anxious about, however, she shows that she is capable of grace and redemption although she has been so horrible and insufferable throughout.
Avoiding any spoilers, the ending to A Good Man is Hard to Find is incredibly controversial and very dark, however, it expertly explores themes that are present in many of O’Connor’s other works, such as redemption and the nuance involved in horrendous events. Dark and Gothic, there are a number of stories in this collection that will provoke deep thought about society and likely also be a bit unsettling to read.
Stories of Your Life and Others
by Ted Chiang
I adore this collection of short stories by Ted Chiang, which draw on science fiction themes by exploring the answers to unanswerable questions.
‘Story of Your Life’, my personal favourite from the collection, was later adapted to the film Arrival. This heart-wrenching story follows a linguist as she attempts to learn an alien language. It is at once a conceptual, otherworldly and also a deeply human one.
Some of these stories cover complex themes and may require a good level of concentration (or good coffee) to get the most out of them!
Chiang’s second collection, Exhalation, is also a must-read for science fiction fans, though Stories of Your Life and Others remains my personal favourite.
Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
by Neil Gaiman
If you’ve read a Neil Gaiman novel, such as Stardust or Coraline (or seen the film adaptations), you know he has a wonderful imagination.
This collection allows fans and new readers to watch Gaiman turn his writer’s hand to poetry, fairytale, gothic and ghost stories, alongside reinventions of popular characters or revisiting other famous science fiction worlds.
The stories are really accessible, despite their depth and darkness, so it’s the perfect collection for dipping in and out of.
by Banana Yoshimoto
This touching collection explores themes such as love, fate, loss and despair. Having read two of Yoshimoto’s earnest and touching novels, Kitchen and Asleep, her short story collection Lizard is next on my list.
No One Belongs Here More Than You
by Miranda July
Bizarre characters, intriguing encounters, and surprisingly a tender use of language made Miranda July’s short story collection an off-beat yet acclaimed success. No One Belongs Here More Than You is a series of short vignettes – windows into the lives of a diverse range of characters, as they share amusing and surprising moments.
It’s been years since I read this collection, and yet it always comes to mind when I hear talk about short stories. Sometimes sweet, sometimes unsettling or self-conscious, and always a little strange, July’s art is often described as an acquired or peculiar taste. But there’s still a chance that one of these tales will hit you write in the heartstrings. (Or, at least, your funny bone.)
Pretend to read this book to avoid talking to strangers
by Cassie Bailey
Six short stories explore love, loneliness, and the human search for connection. We all seek to belong somewhere. But what does it mean to really feel that sense of belonging? To feel truly connected – to our Earth, and to each other? ‘Pretend to read this book to avoid talking to strangers‘ both explores these questions and, bonus, helps the reader avoid eye contact with strangers on the tube.
Each tale was written at a different point in the author’s 20s, and the scattered but reflective story structures explore the inner workings of her neurodiverse brain.
And, um, yes that’s me. So to avoid feeling uncomfortably self-serving, I’ll share this advanced reader review instead.
‘From the moment I began reading dizzy & wires, I was awed by Cassie’s ability to turn her heartfelt thoughts into poetry. Her neurodiverse brain is an absolute gift and the magic, depth, and originality she produces within these pages is a thing to behold.
Raw, vulnerable, at times quirky and at other times thought-provoking, these short stories are the kind you’ll want to come back to again and again and you’ll keep discovering fresh delights you missed the first time around.’
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.