100 Must-Read Contemporary Short Story Collections

This list of must-read contemporary short story collections is sponsored by Random House’s Buzziest Short Story Collections of 2018

From New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld’s dazzling first collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It, to National Book Award winner Denis Johnson’s final collection, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, there’s something for every book lover from Random House.

Carmen Maria Machado raves of Anjali Sachdeva’s exhilarating collection, All the Names They Used for God; “completing one [story] is like having lived an entire life, and then being born, breathless, into another.”

All are available in Spring 2018 from Random House, wherever books are sold.


Of all of the 100 must-read lists I have done so far, this was probably the easiest, because there are so many amazing contemporary short story collections. Story collections are such a gift: a whole bunch of different stories in one convenient place! What fun! The following list is made up of the first 100 collections that popped into my head. I have read and loved each of them. (And I probably have enough titles to do a sequel—stay tuned!) And by “contemporary” I mean “published this century.” (Which still gave me eighteen amazing years to choose from!)

I’ve included a brief description from the publisher with each title. Tell us in the comments about which of these you’ve read or other contemporary short story collections that you love. There are a LOT of them. Yay, books!

the thing around your neckThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them…Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.”

War by Candlelight: Stories by Daniel Alarcón

“Something is happening. Wars, both national and internal, are being waged in jungles, across borders, in the streets of Lima, in the intimacy of New York apartments. War by Candlelight is an exquisite collection of stories that carry the reader from Third World urban centers to the fault lines that divide nations and people—a devastating portrait of a world in flux—and Daniel Alarcón is an extraordinary new voice in literary fiction, one you will not soon forget.”

The Water Museum: Stories by Luis Alberto Urrea

“From one of America’s preeminent literary voices comes a new story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called ‘wickedly good’ (Kansas City Star), ‘cinematic and charged’ (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and ‘studded with delights’ (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning ‘Amapola’ and his now-classic ‘Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses,’ which had the honor of being chosen for NPR’s ‘Selected Shorts’ not once but twice.”

In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar

“In these nine globe-trotting tales, Mia Alvar gives voice to the women and men of the Philippines and its diaspora. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s stories explore the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined. In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home—and marks the arrival of a formidable new voice in literature.”

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky: Stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah

“A dazzlingly accomplished debut collection explores the ties that bind parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends to one another and to the places they call home…Evocative, playful, subversive, and incredibly human, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky heralds the arrival of a prodigious talent with a remarkable career ahead of her.”

north american lake monstersNorth American Lake Monsters: Stories by Nathan Ballingrud

“Nathan Ballingrud’s Shirley Jackson Award–winning debut collection is a shattering and luminous experience not to be missed by those who love to explore the darker parts of the human psyche. Monsters, real and imagined, external and internal, are the subject. They are us and we are them and Ballingrud’s intense focus makes these stories incredibly intense and irresistible.”

Young Skins: Stories by Colin Barrett

“Enter the small, rural town of Glanbeigh, a place whose fate took a downturn with the Celtic Tiger, a desolate spot where buffoonery and tension simmer and erupt, and booze-sodden boredom fills the corners of every pub and nightclub. Here, and in the towns beyond, the young live hard and wear the scars…In each story, a local voice delineates the grittiness of post boom Irish society. These are unforgettable characters rendered through silence, humor, and violence. Told in Barrett’s vibrant, distinctive prose, Young Skins is an accomplished and irreverent debut from a singular new voice in contemporary fiction.”

There Are Little Kingdoms: Stories by Kevin Barry

“These stories, filled with a grand sense of life’s absurdity, form a remarkably sure-footed collection that reads like a modern-day Dubliners. The winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and a 2007 book of the year in The Irish Times, the Sunday Tribune, and MetroThere Are Little Kingdoms marks the stunning entrance of a writer who burst onto the literary scene fully formed.”

We Show What We Have Learned and Other Stories by Clare Beams

“The literary, historic, and fantastic collide in these wise and exquisitely unsettling stories. From bewildering assemblies in school auditoriums to the murky waters of a Depression-era health resort, Beams’s landscapes are tinged with otherworldliness, and her characters’ desires stretch the limits of reality…As they capture the strangeness of being human, the stories in We Show What We Have Learned reveal Clare Beams’s rare and capacious imagination—and yet they are grounded in emotional complexity, illuminating the ways we attempt to transform ourselves, our surroundings, and each other.”

Welcome Thieves: Stories by Sean Beaudoin

“Black humor mixed with pathos is the hallmark of the twelve stories in this adult debut collection from a master writer of comic and inventive YA novels…Beaudoin’s stories are edgy and profane, bittersweet and angry, bemused and sardonic. Yet they’re always tinged with heart. Beaudoin’s novels have been praised for their playfulness and complexity, for the originality and beauty of their language.”

the man who shot out my eye is deadThe Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead: Stories by Chanelle Benz

“The characters in The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead, Benz’s wildly imaginative debut, are as varied as any in recent literature, but they share a thirst for adventure which sends them rushing full-tilt toward the moral crossroads, becoming victims and perpetrators along the way. Riveting, visceral, and heartbreaking, Benz’s stories of identity, abandonment, and fierce love come together in a daring, arresting vision.”

Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman

“Exploring the way our choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, Megan Mayhew Bergman’s powerful and heartwarming collection captures the surprising moments when the pull of our biology becomes evident, when love or fear collides with good sense, or when our attachment to an animal or wild place can’t be denied.”

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin

“A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With the grit of Raymond Carver, the humor of Grace Paley, and a blend of wit and melancholy all her own, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday, uncovering moments of grace in the Laundromats and halfway houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians. Readers will revel in this remarkable collection from a master of the form and wonder how they’d ever overlooked her in the first place.”

Things that Fall from the Sky by Kevin Brockmeier

“Weaving together loss and anxiety with fantastic elements and literary sleight-of-hand, Kevin Brockmeier’s richly imagined Things That Fall from the Sky views the nagging realities of the world through a hopeful lens…Achingly beautiful and deceptively simple, Things That Fall from the Sky defies gravity as one of the most original story collections seen in recent years.”

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell

“Named by the Guardian as one of our top ten writers of rural noir, Bonnie Jo Campbell is a keen observer of life and trouble in rural America, and her working-class protagonists can be at once vulnerable, wise, cruel, and funny. The strong but flawed women of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters must negotiate a sexually charged atmosphere as they love, honor, and betray one another against the backdrop of all the men in their world. Such richly fraught mother-daughter relationships can be lifelines, anchors, or they can sink a woman like a stone.”

honeymoon and other storiesHoneymoon and Other Stories by Kevin Canty

“Honeymoon is a book about love, about lovers and would-be lovers exploring unlikely alliances, all of them toeing a certain eventful edge, a decision between rational restraint and something altogether different…Revealing the hidden longings and quirky needs of both men and women with a tough sensitivity and deep, sometimes biting humor, Honeymoon presents a masterful writer purely at home in his form, yet continuing to push himself and his stories to their limits with enthusiasm and daring.”

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by Leonora Carrington

“Surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) was a master of the macabre, of gorgeous tableaus, biting satire, roguish comedy, and brilliant, effortless flights of the imagination. Nowhere are these qualities more ingeniously brought together than in the works of short fiction she wrote throughout her life.”

Among the Missing by Dan Chaon

“In this haunting, bracing new collection, Dan Chaon shares stories of men, women, and children who live far outside the American Dream, while wondering which decision, which path, or which accident brought them to this place. Chaon mines the psychological landscape of his characters to dazzling effect. Each story radiates with sharp humor, mystery, wonder, and startling compassion. Among the Missing lingers in the mind through its subtle grace and power of language.”

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

“What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang.”

The Ladies of Grace Adieu: and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke

“Faerie is never as far away as you think. Sometimes you find you have crossed an invisible line and must cope, as best you can, with petulant princesses, vengeful owls, ladies who pass their time embroidering terrible fates or with endless paths in deep, dark woods and houses that never appear the same way twice. The heroines and heroes bedeviled by such problems in these fairy tales include a conceited Regency clergyman, an eighteenth-century Jewish doctor and Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as two characters from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: Strange himself and the Raven King.”

whatever-happened-to-interracial-love-coverWhatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories by Kathleen Collins

“Now available in Ecco’s Art of the Story series: a never-before-published collection of stories from a brilliant yet little known African American artist and filmmaker—a contemporary of revered writers including Toni Cade Bambara, Laurie Colwin, Ann Beattie, Amy Hempel, and Grace Paley—whose prescient work has recently resurfaced to wide acclaim. Humorous, poignant, perceptive, and full of grace, Kathleen Collins’s stories masterfully blend the quotidian and the profound in a personal, intimate way, exploring deep, far-reaching issues—race, gender, family, and sexuality—that shape the ordinary moments in our lives.”

Mary and O’Neil: A Novel in Stories by Justin Cronin

“Justin Cronin’s poignant debut traces the lives of Mary Olson and O’Neil Burke, two vulnerable young teachers who rediscover in each other a world alive with promise and hope. From the formative experiences of their early adulthood to marriage, parenthood, and beyond, this novel in stories illuminates the moments of grace that enable Mary and O’Neil to make peace with the deep emotional legacies that haunt them: the sudden, mysterious death of O’Neil’s parents, Mary’s long-ago decision to end a pregnancy, O’Neil’s sister’s battle with illness and a troubled marriage. Alive with magical nuance and unexpected encounters, Mary and O’Neil celebrates the uncommon in common lives, and the redemptive power of love.”

We’ve Already Gone This Far: Stories by Patrick Dacey

“In this stunning debut, Patrick Dacey draws us into the secret lives of recognizable strangers. Here, in small-town Massachusetts, after more than a decade of boom and bust, everyone is struggling to find their own version of the American dream: a lonely woman attacks a memorial to a neighbor’s veteran son, a dissatisfied housewife goes overboard with cosmetic surgery on national television, a young father walks away from one of the few jobs left in town, a soldier writes home to a mother who is becoming increasingly unhinged.”

The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies

“From remote Australian settlements to the snows of Siberia, from Colorado to Cumbria, restless teenagers, middle-aged civil servants, and Quaker spinsters traverse expanses of solitude to reveal the secrets of the human heart. Written with raw and rigorous prose, charged throughout by a prickly wit, the stories in The Redemption of Galen Pike remind us how little we know of the lives of others.”

The Shell Collector: Stories by Anthony Doerr

“The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr’s debut collection take readers from the African Coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties—metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts—conjuring nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of the characters in these stories contend with hardships; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the ravishing universe outside themselves.”

ghost summerGhost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due

“Whether weaving family life and history into dark fiction or writing speculative Afrofuturism, American Book Award winner and Essence bestselling author Tananarive Due’s work is both riveting and enlightening. In her debut collection of short fiction, Due takes us to Gracetown, a small Florida town that has both literal and figurative ghost; into future scenarios that seem all too real; and provides empathetic portraits of those whose lives are touched by Otherness.”

The Wilds by Julia Elliott

“In her genre-bending stories, Elliott blends Southern gothic strangeness with dystopian absurdities, sci-fi speculations with fairy-tale transformations. Teetering between the ridiculous and the sublime, Elliott’s language-driven fiction uses outlandish tropes to capture poignant moments in her humble characters’ lives. Without abandoning the tenets of classic storytelling, Elliott revels in lush lyricism, dark humor, and experimental play.”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: Stories by Nathan Englander

“These eight new stories from the celebrated novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander display a gifted young author grappling with the great questions of modern life, with a command of language and the imagination that place Englander at the very forefront of contemporary American fiction.”

A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson

“A stuffed bear’s heart beats with the rhythm of a dead baby, Reno keeps receding to the east no matter how far you drive, and in a mine on another planet, the dust won’t stop seeping in. In these stories, Evenson unsettles us with the everyday and the extraordinary—the terror of living with the knowledge of all we cannot know.”

Half an Inch of Water: Stories by Percival Everett

“For the plainspoken men and women of these stories—fathers and daughters, sheriffs and veterinarians—small events trigger sudden shifts in which the ordinary becomes unfamiliar…Half an Inch of Water tears through the fabric of the everyday to examine what lies beneath the surface of these lives. In the hands of master storyteller Everett, the act of questioning leads to vistas more strange and unsettling than could ever have been expected.”

a natural history of hellA Natural History of Hell: Stories by Jeffrey Ford

“Emily Dickinson takes a carriage ride with Death. A couple are invited over to a neighbor’s daughter’s exorcism. A country witch with a sea-captain’s head in a glass globe intercedes on behalf of abused and abandoned children. In July of 1915, in Hardin County, Ohio, a boy sees ghosts. Explore contemporary natural history in a baker’s dozen of exhilarating visions.”

Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories by Ben Fountain

“The well-meaning protagonists of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara are caught—to both disastrous and hilarious effect—in the maelstrom of political and social upheaval surrounding them. Ben Fountain’s prize-winning debut speaks to the intimate connection between the foreign, the familiar, and the inescapably human.”

Ayiti by Roxane Gay*

“From New York Times–bestselling powerhouse Roxane Gay, Ayiti is a powerful collection exploring the Haitian diaspora experience. Originally published by a small press, this Grove Press paperback will make Gay’s debut widely available for the first time, including several new stories.”

*Originally published in 2011, being reissued by Grove Press on June 12

Dead Girls and Other Stories by Emily Geminder

“With lyric artistry and emotional force, Emily Geminder’s debut collection charts a vivid constellation of characters fleeing their own stories. A teenage runaway and her mute brother seek salvation in houses, buses, the backseats of cars. Preteen girls dial up the ghosts of fat girls. A crew of bomber pilots addresses the ash of villagers below. And from India to New York to Phnom Penh, dead girls both real and fantastic appear again and again: as obsession, as threat, as national myth and collective nightmare.”

Gutshot: Stories by Amelia Gray

“A woman creeps through the ductwork of a quiet home. A medical procedure reveals an object of worship. A carnivorous reptile divides and cauterizes a town. Amelia Gray’s curio cabinet expands in Gutshot, where isolation and coupling are pushed to their dark and outrageous edges. A master of the macabre, Gray’s work is not for the faint of heart or gut: lick at your own risk.”

delicate edible birdsDelicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories by Lauren Groff

“Throughout the collection, Groff displays particular and vivid preoccupations. Crime is a motif—sex crimes, a possible murder, crimes of the heart. Love troubles recur; they’re in every story—love in alcoholism, in adultery, in a flood, even in the great flu epidemic of 1918. Some of the love has depths, which are understood too late; some of the love is shallow, and also understood too late. And mastery is a theme—Groff’s women swim and baton twirl, become poets, or try and try again to achieve the inner strength to exercise personal freedom.”

You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine

“You Should Pity Us Instead explores some of our toughest dilemmas: the cost of Middle East strife at its most intimate level, the likelihood of God considered in day-to-day terms, the moral stakes of family obligations, and the inescapable fact of mortality. Amy Gustine exhibits an extraordinary generosity toward her characters, instilling them with a thriving, vivid presence.”

Madame Zero: 9 Stories by Sarah Hall

“From one of the most accomplished British writers working today, the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Wolf Border, comes a unique and arresting collection of short fiction that is both disturbing and dazzling…In this collection of nine works of short fiction, she uses her piercing insight to plumb the depth of the female experience and the human soul.”

You Are Not a Stranger Here: Stories by Adam Haslett

“In these unforgettable stories, the acclaimed author of Imagine Me Gone explores lives that appear shuttered by loss and discovers entire worlds hidden inside them. The impact is at once harrowing and thrilling…Told with Chekhovian restraint and compassion, and conveying both the sorrow of life and the courage with which people rise to meet it, You Are Not a Stranger Here is a triumph of storytelling.”

Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny

“For the commitment-averse women in the eleven sublime stories of Single, Carefree, Mellow, falling in love is never easy and always inconvenient…The women grapple with love amidst everything from unwelcome houseguests to disastrous birthday parties as Katherine Heiny spins a debut that is superbly accomplished, endlessly entertaining, and laugh-out-loud funny.”

The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos HernandezThe Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernández

“Assimilation is founded on surrender and being broken; this collection of short stories features people who have assimilated, but are actively trying to reclaim their lives…Poignant by way of funny, and philosophical by way of grotesque, Hernandez’s stories are prayers for self-sovereignty.”

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

“Imogene is young, beautiful…and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945…Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing…John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead…Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds…The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past…”

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

“Fearless, candid, and incredibly funny, Lauren Holmes is a newcomer who writes like a master. She tackles eros and intimacy with a deceptively light touch, a keen awareness of how their nervous systems tangle and sometimes short-circuit, and a genius for revealing our most vulnerable, spirited selves.”

Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

“In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall with unfulfilled ghosts, or herding chickens that occasionally breathe fire, Hopkinson continues to create bold fiction that transcends boundaries and borders.”

Deceit and Other Possibilities by Vanessa Hua

“In this powerful debut collection, Vanessa Hua gives voice to immigrant families navigating a new America. Tied to their ancestral and adopted homelands in ways unimaginable in generations past, these memorable characters straddle both worlds but belong to none. These stories shine a light on immigrant families navigating a new America, straddling cultures and continents, veering between dream and disappointment.”

daddy's lindsay hunterDaddy’s by Lindsay Hunter

“Lindsay Hunter tells the stories no one else will in ways no one else can. In this down and dirty debut she draws vivid portraits of bad people in worse places…A rising star of the new fast fiction, Hunter bares all before you can blink in her bold, beautiful stories. In this collection of slim southern gothics, she offers an exploration not of the human heart but of the spine; mixing sex, violence and love into a harrowing, head-spinning read.”

Knockout: Stories by John Jodzio

“The work of John Jodzio has already made waves across the literary community. Some readers noticed his nimble blending of humor with painful truths reminded them of George Saunders. His creativity and fresh voice reminded others of Wells Tower’s Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. But with his new collection, Jodzio creates a class of his own.”

Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson

“Throughout these six stories, Pulitzer Prize winner Adam Johnson delves deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal, giving voice to the perspectives we don’t often hear.”

All Aunt Hagar’s ChildreN: stories by Edward P. Jones

“Returning to the city that inspired his first prizewinning book, Lost in the City, Jones has filled this new collection with people who call Washington, D.C., home. Yet it is not the city’s power brokers that most concern him but rather its ordinary citizens. All Aunt Hagar’s Children turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them further north, people who in Jones’s masterful hands, emerge as fully human and morally complex, whether they are country folk used to getting up with the chickens or people with centuries of education behind them.”

After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones

“The fifteen stories in After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones explore the horrors and fears of the supernatural and the everyday. Included are two original stories, several rarities and out of print narratives, as well as a few ‘best of the year’ inclusions.”

unaccustomed earthUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

“These eight stories by beloved and bestselling author Jhumpa Lahiri take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. Here they enter the worlds of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. Rich with the signature gifts that have established Jhumpa Lahiri as one of our most essential writers, Unaccustomed Earth exquisitely renders the most intricate workings of the heart and mind.”

Virgin and Other Stories by April Ayers Lawson

“Nodding to the Southern Gothic but channeling an energy all its own, Virgin and Other Stories is a mesmerizing debut from an uncannily gifted young writer. With self-assurance and sensuality, April Ayers Lawson unravels the intertwining imperatives of intimacy—sex and love, violation and trust, spirituality and desire—eyeing, unblinkingly, what happens when we succumb to temptation.”

Back Talk: Stories by Danielle Lazarin

“Through stories that are at once empathetic and unexpected, these women and girls defiantly push the boundaries between selfishness and self-possession. With a fresh voice and bold honesty, Back Talk examines how narrowly our culture allows women to express their desires.”

The Birthday of the World: And Other Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin

“The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, five Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards, the renowned writer Ursula K. Le Guin has, in each story and novel, created a provocative, ever-evolving universe filled with diverse worlds and rich characters reminiscent of our earthly selves. Now, in The Birthday of the World, this gifted artist returns to these worlds in eight brilliant short works, including a never-before-published novella, each of which probes the essence of humanity.”

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee

“Rebecca Lee, one of our most gifted and original short story writers, guides readers into a range of landscapes, both foreign and domestic, crafting stories as rich as novels…Showing people at their most vulnerable, Lee creates characters so wonderfully flawed, so driven by their desire, so compelled to make sense of their human condition, that it’s impossible not to feel for them when their fragile belief in romantic love, domestic bliss, or academic seclusion fails to provide them with the sort of force field they’d expected.”

we come to our sensesWe Come to Our Senses: Stories by Odie Lindsey

“For readers of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and Redeployment, a searing debut exploring the lives of veterans returning to their homes in the South. Lacerating and lyrical, We Come to Our Senses centers on men and women affected by combat directly and tangentially, and the peculiar legacies of war.”

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link

“Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the Pyramids…These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty—and the hidden strengths—of human beings. In Get in Trouble, this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.”

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector,‎ Benjamin Moser (Editor),‎ Katrina Dodson (Translator)

“Now, for the first time in English, are all the stories that made her a Brazilian legend: from teenagers coming into awareness of their sexual and artistic powers to humdrum housewives whose lives are shattered by unexpected epiphanies to old people who don’t know what to do with themselves. Clarice’s stories take us through their lives—and ours. From one of the greatest modern writers, these stories, gathered from the nine collections published during her lifetime, follow an unbroken time line of success as a writer, from her adolescence to her death bed.”

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

“With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories…Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.”

Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce

“Set in Japan, Luce’s playful, tender stories—reminiscent of Haruki Murakami and Aimee Bender—tip into the fantastical, plumb the power of memory, and measure the human capacity to love. The award-winning narratives in this mesmerizing debut trace the lives of ex-pats, artists, and outsiders as they seek to find their place in the world.”

half wildHalf Wild: Stories by Robin MacArthur

“Spanning nearly forty years, the stories in Robin MacArthur’s formidable debut give voice to the dreams, hungers, and fears of a diverse cast of Vermonters—adolescent girls, aging hippies, hardscrabble farmers, disconnected women, and solitary men. Straddling the border between civilization and the wild, they all struggle to make sense of their loneliness and longings in the stark and often isolating enclaves they call home—golden fields and white-veiled woods, dilapidated farmhouses and makeshift trailers, icy rivers and still lakes rouse the imagination, tether the heart, and inhabit the soul.”

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

“In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.”

Music for Wartime: Stories by Rebecca Makkai

“Rebecca Makkai’s first two novels, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, have established her as one of the freshest and most imaginative voices in fiction. Now, the award-winning writer, whose stories have appeared in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stories, returns with a highly anticipated collection bearing her signature mix of intelligence, wit, and heart.”

Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken

“In Elizabeth McCracken’s universe, heartache is always interwoven with strange, charmed moments of joy—an unexpected conversation with small children, the gift of a parrot with a bad French accent—that remind us of the wonder and mystery of being alive. Thunderstruck & Other Stories shows this inimitable writer working at the full height of her powers.”

Heartbreaker: Stories by Maryse Meijer

“In her debut story collection Heartbreaker, Maryse Meijer peels back the crust of normalcy and convention, unmasking the fury and violence we are willing to inflict in the name of love and loneliness. Her characters are a strange ensemble—a feral child, a girl raised from the dead, a possible pedophile—who share in vulnerability and heartache, but maintain an unremitting will to survive. Meijer deals in desire and sex, femininity and masculinity, family and girlhood, crafting a landscape of appetites threatening to self-destruct. In beautifully restrained and exacting prose, she sets the marginalized free to roam her pages and burn our assumptions to the ground.”

Maile Meloy Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want ItBoth Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

“Eleven unforgettable new stories demonstrate the emotional power and the clean, assured style that have earned Meloy praise from critics and devotion from readers. Propelled by a terrific instinct for storytelling, and concerned with the convolutions of modern love and the importance of place, this collection is about the battlefields—and fields of victory—that exist in seemingly harmless spaces, in kitchens and living rooms and cars. Set mostly in the American West, the stories feature small-town lawyers, ranchers, doctors, parents, and children, and explore the moral quandaries of love, family, and friendship.”

Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville

“The fiction of multiple award–winning author China Miéville is powered by intelligence and imagination. Like George Saunders, Karen Russell, and David Mitchell, he pulls from a variety of genres with equal facility, employing the fantastic not to escape from reality but instead to interrogate it in provocative, unexpected ways.”

I Was a Revolutionary: Stories by Andrew Malan Milward

“Grounded in place, spanning the Civil War to the present day, the stories in I Was a Revolutionary capture the roil of history through the eyes of an unforgettable cast of characters: the visionaries and dreamers, radical farmers and socialist journalists, quack doctors and protestors who haunt the past and present landscape of the state of Kansas.”

Runaway by Alice Munro

“In Munro’s hands, the people she writes about—women of all ages and circumstances, and their friends, lovers, parents, and children—become as vivid as our own neighbors. It is her miraculous gift to make these stories as real and unforgettable as our own.”

After the Quake: Stories by Haruki Murakami,‎ Jay Rubin  (Translator)

“The six stories in Haruki Murakami’s mesmerizing collection are set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence. But the upheavals that afflict Murakami’s characters are even deeper and more mysterious, emanating from a place where the human meets the inhuman.”

you are my heartYou Are My Heart and Other Stories by Jay Neugeboren

“From the secluded villages in the south of France, to the cattle crawl in the Valley of a Thousand Hills in South Africa, to the hard-knock adolescent streets of Brooklyn, Neugeboren examines the great mysteries and complexities that unsettle and comprise human relationships. In works that are as memorable, engrossing, and exciting as they are gorgeously crafted, Neugeboren delivers on his reputation as one of our pre-eminent American writers.”

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

“With the same incisiveness as in The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to the hopes and expectations of people making life-changing decisions to leave one country for another, and the rifts in identity, loyalties, romantic relationships, and family that accompany relocation. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of migration.”

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls: Stories by Alissa Nutting*

“Throughout these breathtakingly creative seventeen stories spread across time, space, and differing planes of reality, we encounter a host of women and girls in a wide range of unusual jobs…Wickedly funny yet ringing with deep truths about gender, authority and the ways we inhabit and restrict the female body, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls is a brilliant commentary on the kaleidoscope of human behavior and a remarkably nuanced satire for our times.”

*Originally published in 2011, being reissued by Ecco on July 3

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa,‎ Stephen Snyder (Translator)

“Sinister forces collide—and unite a host of desperate characters—in this eerie cycle of interwoven tales from Yoko Ogawa, the critically acclaimed author of The Housekeeper and the Professor…Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge is a master class in the macabre that will haunt you to the last page.”

Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

“A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death’s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses and his own ghoulish bosses. Gordo, the old Cubano that watches over the graveyards and sleeping children of Brooklyn, stirs and lights another Malaguena. Down the midnight streets of New York, a whole invisible universe churns to life in Daniel Jose Older’s debut collection of ghost noir.”

the bigness of the worldThe Bigness of the World: Stories by Lori Ostlund

“In Lori Ostlund’s award-winning debut collection, people seeking escape from situations at home venture out into a world that they find is just as complicated and troubled as the one they left behind. In prose highlighted by both satire and poignant observation, The Bigness of the World contains characters that represent a different sort of everyman—men and women who poke fun at ideological rigidity while holding fast to good grammar and manners, people seeking connections in a world that seems increasingly foreign.”

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

“Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination ‘both physical and emotional’ of a generation of Japanese Americans…Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times.”

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

“With penetrating insight that belies her youth—she was only nineteen years old when Seventeen magazine printed her first published story—ZZ Packer helps us see the world with a clearer vision. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a striking performance—fresh, versatile, and captivating. It introduces us to an arresting and unforgettable new voice.”

Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman

“In this sumptuous offering, one of our premier storytellers provides a feast for fiction aficionados. Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, these twenty-one vintage selected stories and thirteen scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.”

I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

“Sharp-edged and fearless, mixing white-hot yearning with daring humor, Quatro’s stories upend and shake out our views on infidelity, faith, and family. Set around Lookout Mountain on the border of Georgia and Tennessee, Quatro’s hypnotically revealing stories range from the traditional to the fabulist as they expose lives torn between spirituality and sexuality in the New American South. These fifteen linked tales confront readers with fractured marriages, mercurial temptations, and dark theological complexities, and establish a sultry and enticingly cool new voice in American fiction.”

you have never been hereYou Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories by Mary Rickert

“Open this book to any page and find yourself enspelled by these lush, alchemical stories. Faced with the uncanny and the impossible, Rickert’s protagonists are as painfully, shockingly, complexly human as the readers who will encounter them. Mothers, daughters, witches, artists, strangers, winged babies, and others grapple with deception, loss, and moments of extraordinary joy.”

The Republic of East LA: Stories by Luis J. Rodriguez

“From the award-winning author of Always Running comes a brilliant collection of short stories about life in East Los Angeles. In these stories, Luis J. Rodriguez gives eloquent voice to the neighborhood where he spent many years as a resident, a father, an organizer, and, finally, a writer: a neighborhood that offers more to the world than its appearance allows.”

The Girl of the Lake: Stories by Bill Roorbach

“These moving and funny stories are as rich in scope, emotional, and memorable as Bill Roorbach’s novels. He has been called “a kinder, gentler John Irving…a humane and entertaining storyteller with a smooth, graceful style” (the Washington Post), and his work has been described as “hilarious and heartbreaking, wild and wise” (Parade magazine), all of which is evident in spades (and also hearts, clubs, and diamonds) in every story in this arresting new collection.”

Telling the Map: Stories by Christopher Rowe

“There are ten stories here including one readers have waited ten long years for: in new novella The Border State Rowe revisits the world of his much-lauded story The Voluntary State. Competitive cyclists twins Michael and Maggie have trained all their lives to race internationally. One thing holds them back: their mother who years before crossed the border…into Tennessee.”

All the Names They Used for God: Stories by Anjali Sachdeva

“Like many of us, the characters in this collection are in pursuit of the sublime, and find themselves looking not just to divinity but to science, nature, psychology, and industry, forgetting that their new, logical deities are no more trustworthy than the tempestuous gods of the past. Along the way, they walk the knife-edge between wonder and terror, salvation and destruction. All the Names They Used for God is an entrancing work of speculative fiction that heralds Anjali Sachdeva as an invigorating, incomparable new voice.”

Tenth of DecemberTenth of December: Stories by George Saunders

“Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human. Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December—through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit—not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov’s dictum that art should ‘prepare us for tenderness.'”

Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell

“Its interconnected stories explore the commonly shared but rarely spoken of experiences that build girls into women and women into wives and mothers. In revealing all their vulnerabilities and twisting our preconceived notions of who they are, Elissa Schappell alters how we think about the nature of female identity and how it evolves.”

Ambiguity Machines: and Other Stories by Vandana Singh

“Singh’s stories have been performed on BBC radio, been finalists for the British SF Association award, selected for the Tiptree award honor list, and oft reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Her dives deep into the vast strangeness of the universe without and within and with her unblinking clear vision she explores the ways we move through space and time: together, yet always apart.”

The Virginity of Famous Men: Stories by Christine Sneed

“Long intrigued by love and loneliness, Sneed leads readers through emotional landscapes both familiar and uncharted. These probing stories are explorations of the compassionate and passionate impulses that are inherent in—and often the source of—both abiding joy and serious distress in every human life.”

The Unfinished World: And Other Stories by Amber Sparks

“Sparks’s stories—populated with sculptors, librarians, astronauts, and warriors—form a veritable cabinet of curiosities. Mythical, bizarre, and deeply moving, The Unfinished World and Other Stories heralds the arrival of a major writer and illuminates the search for a brief encounter with the extraordinary.”

Monstress by Lysley TenorioMonstress: Stories by Lysley Tenorio

“A luminous collection of heartbreaking, vivid, startling, and gloriously unique stories set amongst the Filipino-American communities of California and the Philippines, Monstress heralds the arrival of a breathtaking new talent on the literary scene: Lysley Tenorio. Already the worthy recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and a Stegner Fellowship, Tenorio brilliantly explores the need to find connections, the melancholy of isolation, and the sometimes suffocating ties of family in tales that range from a California army base to a steamy moviehouse in Manilla, to the dangerous false glitter of Hollywood.”

Swimmer Among the Stars: Stories by Kanishk Tharoor

“With exuberant originality and startling vision, Tharoor cuts against the grain of literary convention, drawing equally from ancient history and current events. His world-spanning stories speak to contemporary challenges of environmental collapse and cultural appropriation, but also to the workings of legend and their timeless human truths. Whether refashioning the romances of Alexander the Great or confronting the plight of today’s refugees, Tharoor writes with distinctive insight and remarkable assurance. Swimmer Among the Stars announces the arrival of a vital, enchanting talent.”

Night at the Fiestas: Stories by Kirstin Valdez Quade

“With intensity and emotional precision, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s unforgettable stories plunge us into the fierce, troubled hearts of characters defined by the desire to escape the past or else to plumb its depths…Always hopeful, these stories chart the passions and obligations of family life, exploring themes of race, class, and coming-of-age, as Quade’s characters protect, betray, wound, undermine, bolster, define, and, ultimately, save each other.”

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us: Stories by Laura van den Berg

“Containing work reprinted in Best Non-Required Reading 2008, Best New American Voices 2010, and The Pushcart Prizes 2010, the stories in Laura van den Berg’s rich and inventive debut illuminate the intersection of the mythic and the mundane…Rendered with precision and longing, the women who narrate these starkly beautiful stories are consumed with searching—for absolution, for solace, for the flash of extraordinary in the ordinary that will forever alter their lives.”

Battleborn: Stories by Claire Vaye Watkins

“In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region’s vast spaces, winning redemption despite—and often because of—the hardship and violence they endure.”

children of the new worldChildren of the New World: Stories by Alexander Weinstein

Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society. Alexander Weinstein is a visionary new voice in speculative fiction for all of us who are fascinated by and terrified of what we might find on the horizon.”

Honored Guest: Stories by Joy Williams

“With her singular brand of gorgeous dark humor, Joy Williams explores the various ways—comic, tragic, and unnerving—we seek to accommodate diminishment and loss. A masseuse breaks her rich client’s wrist bone, a friend visits at the hospital long after she is welcome, and a woman surrenders her husband to a creepily adoring student. From one of our most acclaimed writers, Honored Guest is a rich examination of our capacity for transformation and salvation.”

Diving Belles: And Other Stories by Lucy Wood

“In these stories, the line between the real and the imagined is blurred as Lucy Wood takes us to Cornwall’s ancient coast, building on its rich storytelling history and recasting its myths in thoroughly contemporary ways. Calling forth the fantastic and fantastical, she mines these legends for that bit of magic remaining in all our lives—if only we can let ourselves see it.”

The Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon

“Hailed by New York magazine as a ‘quotidian-surreal craft-master’ and a ‘radiant star in the current literary firmament’ by The Dallas Morning News, Yoon realizes his worlds with quiet, insightful, and gorgeous prose. Though each story is distinct from the others, his restrained voice and perceptive observations about violence—to the body, the landscape, and ultimately, the human soul—weaves throughout this collection as a whole, making The Mountain a beautiful, memorable read.”

Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang

“Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.”

What are your favorite contemporary short story collections? 

Sign up to get the librarian's one-stop shop for news, book lists, and more with the Check Your Shelf newsletter.
We have a $250 Barnes & Noble gift card to give away! Go here to enter, or just click the snazzy image below. Good luck!
VIEW COMMENTS