Short Story Collections & Why I Love Them

May 10, 2016

Short Story Collection

Last month I was taking a look at my to-be-read pile and realised… the majority of books on that pile were short story collections. This wasn’t my intention, but I seem to have been subconsciously drawn to these slender little paperbacks and I must say, I’m a big fan of this type of reading.

Is it me or the publishing industry that are currently going through a love affair with the short story collection? Perhaps it’s our busy lifestyles and limited attention span or that we’re finding ourselves with increasingly less leisure and that’s making short story collections so appealing, but either way I can’t get enough of them. And because of that, I wanted to share with you some of the fabulous short story collections that have been filling my bookshelves over the last year or so.

A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower

I picked up Elizabeth Harrower’s collection of short stories, which spans 50 years of her writing, after it was shortlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. I actually took it away with me when Sim and I had a weekend away at Leongatha and the cosy, country cabin we stayed in was the perfect setting to read Harrower’s collection. A Few Days in the Country contains 12 works of fiction, most of which feature a female lead character at various ages and stages of their lives.

Themes of country and identity and strong throughout this collection and Harrower’s writing is subtle, witty and striking.  I loved how Harrower was able to create complex characters with real depth in just a few pages and I was engrossed by each and every story – not a common feeling with most short story collections!

Leaving Elvis by Michelle Michau-Crawford

I’ve written a full book review about Leaving Elvis which you can read here, but to give you a snapshot of this collection, Leaving Elvis is a collection of short chapters from the perspective of different characters within the same family. The whole collection spans roughly 50 years and it differs from the other short story collections because each story belongs to an over-arching narrative, it’s just that the voice of each chapter changes in form and language. It’s an incredible study in family history and I couldn’t put this book down!

Free Love and Other Stories by Ali Smith

Ali Smith works her literary genius as she explores the complexity of love in all of its forms in her collection of short stories, Free Love and Other Stories. This is a fabulous book for those of us who like to pick up a book every now and then and want something completely different from each short story.

Public Library by Ali Smith

A whole short story collection about libraries and books? Yes please! As soon as I heard Ali Smith had published a book of short stories all about why and how people connect with libraries and reading, I knew I would love it. Dispersed between each chapter are quotes and mini interviews with writers on what public libraries mean to them. If you’re into books and reading, and you love visiting your local library, pick up this beautifully written collection by Ali Smith, you won’t be disappointed!

I Call Myself a Feminist edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Mosse

These are the stories from 25 women under the age of thirty about what feminism means to them. I picked this up to participate in the Feminist Orchestra book club run by one of my favourite BookTuber’s Jeans Bookish Thoughts. I really enjoyed the diverse perspective of women’s experiences showcased in I Call Myself a Feminist, it’s one of those short story collections that you can dip into every now and then, and find inspiration and hope, while also learning a thing or two in every chapter.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s third collection of short fiction, Trigger Warning, delves into the shady underworld of life’s realities with experimental writing and fantastical storylines. Alongside each story, Gaiman shares the meaning behind his inspiration and writing process for the story. Gaiman guides you through his writing while also leaving a lot of interpretation up to the reader. Creative, kooky and captivating, Trigger Warning will entrance you from the first page.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

I threw this one in the pile as something a little different! Through the Woods is a fantastic, dark and striking graphic novel with four distinct short stories. The illustrations are creepy, the stories are haunting and each story will simultaneously send shivers up your spine and drawn you in deeper and deeper.

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If you’ve read any short story collections lately, I’d love to hear about it! Leave your suggestions in the comments below. Happy reading. x

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3 Comments

  • Reply Danielle Binks May 10, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Fantastic post! I’ve long been a fan of the short story, and I do find myself gravitating towards them at certain times of the year – and often when I’m in a reading-slump. I find that they are often just the spark I need to reinvigorate myself.

    Some of my favourites that you might like (just because we seem to have quite similar taste in short story collections):
    – ‘St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves’ by Karen Russell
    – ‘Suddenly, a Knock on the Door’ by Etgar Keret
    – ‘Black Juice’ by Margo Lanagan
    – ‘Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry’ by Elizabeth McCracken (“It’s Bad Luck to Die” is a hands-down favourite. Bring tissues.)
    – ‘If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This’ by Robin Black

    • Reply lillytales May 10, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      Danielle! Thank you so much for this amazing list of recommendations! I have a flurry of GoodReads tabs open on my screen right now so I can look into all of them. I completely agree that short stories are a great way to get you excited and buzzed about reading after a slump. Did I read correctly on Twitter that you’re in the process of writing a short story collection?

      • Reply Danielle Binks May 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm

        I make no apologies for adding to your Goodreads TBR pile, because you just did the same for me 🙂

        Yes indeed! I’m editing & contributing to a collection of ten new and original short stories from some of the best and brightest that Aussie YA has to offer (plus me, the emerging writer newbie). May 2017, HarperCollins.

        It’s a little while away but the stories have started rolling in for edits, and … I’m excited. I’m invigorated. I’m especially thrilled to be offering something for teen readers, because there’s not a *lot* of short story collections out there for them (but what *is* out there tends to be fabulous – aforementioned Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link, David Almond, Stephanie Perkins “My True Love Gave to Me”…)
        I know that I didn’t venture into reading and writing short stories until I was in my 20s, and I wish I’d discovered them sooner.

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