As much as I love reading, after a long day at work, I typically just want to plop myself on the couch and stare mindlessly at whatever drama is currently escalating on “The Bachelor.” By the time most of us are finished reading documents, emails, and the plethora of internet articles that we come across during our busy days, we oftentimes don’t want to come home and open up a lengthy book. I love a long reading day and an extensive novel but for those busy weeks (or sometimes months) where starting a new book just seems too ambitious, I lean heavily on short stories to help me unwind and get my dose of reading. Short stories can be a great way to de-stress and delve into another reality without the commitment of having to build upon chapter after chapter. While you might want something quick you can devour in a short amount of time, you may also want something that will keep you busy for a while without the hassle of trying to remember where you left off and what came before. Collections of short fiction are the perfect antidote; you can read one story at a time and come back for the others without having to find new reading material. Whether you read them in order, at random, a collection from the same author or an anthology, short stories are the perfect morsel of fiction.
I have compiled some of my favorites; everything from classic individuals to collections that kept me page flipping. Check ‘em out!
Flannery O’Connor — “The Complete Stories”
My Favorites: “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Good Country People”
For the quirky, strange, and odd, go read O’Connor and enjoy her disturbing characters as you devour the short stories and get a taste of Southern Grotesque. If you think you know what’s going to happen — think again!
James Joyce — “Dubliners”
My Favorite: “The Dead”
Joyce pulls you back in time as you glimpse into life at the turn of the 20th century Ireland, at the height of Irish Nationalism. In this collection, his characters often face an epiphany as they navigate different periods in life.
Richard Connell — “The Most Dangerous Game” also known as “The Hounds of Zaroff”
Many consider this one of the greatest short stories ever written and for good reason. It will have your heart racing as you anxiously page flip to get to the bottom General Zaroff’s deranged character!
Sherwood Anderson — “Winesburg, Ohio”
My Favorites: “The Book of the Grotesque,” “Hands,” “An Awakening”
As the collection that launched his career, Anderson revolutionized the American short story as well as American fiction with “Winesburg, Ohio.” While they are individual stories, they’re interconnected and meant to give the reader an understanding of small-town life.
Junot Diaz — “This is How You Lose Her”
My Favorites: “Invierno,” “The Cheater’s Guide to Love”
From the author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” this collection follows Junior, a Dominican born immigrant, and his relationship trials. While each story can and does act as a stand-alone, they can also be read together as the reader will come to know Junior’s character throughout the entirety of the collection. Enraging, heartbreaking, with dashes of humor, Diaz weaves together prose to entice readers to follow Junior’s unlikable yet captivating story.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — “The Thing Around Your Neck”
My Favorites: “On Monday of Last Week,” “The American Embassy”
As the writer of “Americanah” and “We Should All Be Feminists,” I will always read anything with her name on it. Her brilliance, poise and passion for people leap off the pages, and “The Thing Around Your Neck” is no exception. Adichie’s personal writing style truly lets the reader get to know every character in just a few pages.
Jhuma Lahiri — “Interpreter of Maladies”
My Favorites: “A Temporary Matter,” “The Treatment of Bibi Haldar,” “ The Third Continent”
Coming from Indian Origin, Lahiri utilizes the customs and practices of the culture as a basis for many of her stories. Relationships are also one of the central focuses; whether between a husband and wife, family, or cultures within a community, Lahiri writes about enriching and complicated relationships that emphasize the human experience.
“New American Stories” — Edited by Ben Marcus
My Favorites: “Slatland,” by Rebecca Lee, “Love is a Thing on Sale for More Money Then There Exists,” by Tao Lin
As a professor at Columbia, book reviewer and essayist for some of the top publications in the world and an award-winning author, Ben Marcus is one to look to for knowing great fiction. In this collection, Marcus highlights some of the up and coming voices in American fiction with stories that are captivating and visceral. As he writes on the cover: “The potent story writers, to me, are the ones who deploy language as a kind of contraband, pumping it into us until we collapse on the floor, writhing, overwhelmed with feeling.”
Need a bite-sized dose of fiction? Come check out these short stories and collections along with others at the library today or view them online at salinapubliclibrary.org!