Reading Short Stories

13 Dec

This has been my autumn of short story collections. Not for any particular reason other than I had a number of unread ones sitting on my shelf, and I wanted to clear them out. I know a lot of people who buy books at a much greater rate than they read them, and I too used to be one of those people. But I find it satisfying to go through these books and winnow down my collection. I have limited space, and I try to only hold onto the books that mean the world to me. The rest I give away to friends or donate. I do, however, one day want to own a house where all the walls are made of books shelves, but even in that scenario, I want them to be the great books, the ones I wouldn’t hesitate recommending to someone. That requires making sure that the books I own have been read and to commit to not buying new ones until the unread ones have been dealt with accordingly.


Remember when the Beast gave Beauty this library, and it was the most romantic thing ever, and it set your standards of romance at an unreasonable height when you were still only 8-years-old?

I wholeheartedly believe in the short story as a medium, although it is still one of the most looked over. When I tell people that I’m reading a short story collection, they tend to dismiss the genre either because they think it’s pointless to read something so brief or they’ve never even tried reading short stories, because it holds no interest for them. What draws me to it is the intensity of the story and the language. Short stories, by their nature, have a limited amount of space in which to make the reader feel, grow attached to the characters, and watch them change. Time cannot be wasted in a short story. Novels can be short, long, or painfully long. They can go on wild tangents that have almost nothing to do with the plot and more to do with the author’s political views. I’m looking at you, all 19th century Russian writers. ESPECIALLY YOU, TOLSTOY.

We live in a fast-paced, ADHD society, and short stories are a great option. A brilliant tale with intense images that can be read in 15-20 minutes? It’s the Twitter of Literature. It’s also a great way to get a sampler of the literary scene at the moment. Most mainstream novelists also write short stories and publish them on the side, sometimes expanding them into full-length novels. I do most of my reading on the subway, and I love that I can read about a story per journey. So time-efficient!




I’m a fan of all the “Best American” collections. They offer about any genre and do a great job of pulling together a snapshot of the best of what has been published in the previous year. Best American Poetry. Best American Sports Writing. Best American Essays. Best American Mystery Writing. I like it, because it is conscious of literary trends that come and go and offers a good glimpse at what is being put out there.



My aunt gave me a couple of these collections years ago for the bus ride back to New York, but I only just got around to reading them. I don’t know why I stayed away so long, honestly. The stories were excellent and tend to come with the most well known authors on the literary scene. Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, George Saunders. I found one or two stories by new writers, but they tend to collect stories from authors at the height of their powers.



The Pushcart Prize is a collection of short story, poetry, and essay that have been published by a small press. One of my first jobs was at a small press in Seattle. Three people in an office space, talking about poetry and living on a tight budget. The collection is known for being ahead of the curve as far as trends and publishers go. They pull together from more well-known literary magazines/publishers like McSweeney’s and Tin House and smaller ones that I would probably not come into contact with other wise, like the Alaska Quarterly or the New Ohio Review.



Of course, authors also have their own collections which are fantastic and some of my favorite books. I recently read Lorrie Moore’s “Bark.” Her writing is so cutting and something I aspire to. They’re easy books to buy with confidence, too. Just invest the ten minutes or so at the bookstore to read one of the stories, if you like it, chances are you’ll like the rest too.


2 Responses to “Reading Short Stories”

  1. michellejoycebond December 13, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    Great post! I don’t usually come across short story compilations, but I remember really enjoying the few I’ve read.

    Also, I would LOVE a library like Belle’s, but unfortunately, most of my books are sitting in plastic containers right now. **sigh**

    • Chrissy December 13, 2015 at 9:03 pm #

      Most of my books are in stacks along my wall! One day I’ll have wall-to-wall shelves!

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