Short story collections are the perfect companion for busy readers who don’t have time to consume a hefty tome. Here are my picks for the best short story collections that can provide your fiction fix without the commitment.
Mouthful of Birds by Samantha Schweblin
If you’re a fan of magic realism, like dark stories and love narratives packed with unexpected twists and turns, Schweblin is the writer for you.
I fell in love with her work after reading her debut novel, Fever Dream, as a shadow judge for the Man Booker International Prize 2017, for which Schweblin was shortlisted. Mouthful of Birds only made the longlist of the 2019 prize but is just as dazzling as its predecessor.
The stories explore relationships and the human condition in a range of ordinary and extraordinary circumstances; and they’ll leave you pondering their true meaning and subtle undertones long after reading.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyemi’s novels are stunningly beautiful and this collection of short fiction is no different. She explores folklore myths and fairytale tropes in stories that are both dark and searingly moving.
Books feature heavily in this collection – probably why I adore it so much – so it’s a perfect read for dedicated bookworms. Think mysterious libraries, book swap parties, and exchanging books and roses with your love. Ideal!
You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian
This collection follows Roupenian’s viral short story hit, ‘Cat Person’, a few years ago and picks up where she left off on the dark social commentary front.
The stories cover sex, dating and modern life from women’s perspective, with a combination of experienced and inflicted pain. It has been described as exploring the “messed-up power dynamic between men and women” and will make you re-evaluate everything.
The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd
With ten novels under his belt, Boyd is an assured and confident writer whose short stories are packed with intriguing characters and clever plots.
The title story is a 100-page novella with a collection of shorter tales around it, each offering humour, wit, nostalgia and emotional warmth.
You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld won international praise for her novel, The American Wife, and her short stories provide another body of top-quality writing.
This debut collection features a tale about Hilary Clinton on the campaign trail, a daring game that goes wrong at a dinner party and other stories that explore how the characters misread each other and deceive themselves.
And one to watch…
Zadie Smith will publish her first short story collection, Grand Union, in October. A mix of new work and pieces previously published in the The New Yorker and other publications, the collection offers ten tales on modern life. Stick it on your to be read pile as this will be everywhere come autumn.