6 Awesome Anthologies in Paperback

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Melody Schreiber

Staff Writer

Melody Schreiber is at work on a nonfiction anthology of premature birth. As a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., she has reported from nearly every continent. Her articles, essays, and reviews have been published by The Washington Post, Wired, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, NPR, The Toast, Catapult, and others. She received her bachelor’s in English and linguistics at Georgetown University and her master’s in writing at the Johns Hopkins University. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @m_scribe.

If you’re like me, when you hear “anthology” you probably think of Norton editions and Best American collections; you might even get flashbacks to college lit courses.

But anthologies go far beyond academia, and several new collections published recently are going to change your mind—and turn you into an anthology enthusiast. Like their single-authored cousin, the short-story collection, anthologies are finally getting their day in the sun.

The best part about anthologies is how they bring together a diverse array of experiences, highlighting a range of voices on the same topic or theme. If one essay or short story doesn’t speak to you in that moment, the next one will.

Anthologies are particularly great if you don’t have a ton of time to devote to one longer story. These collections are perfect for a quick read on your commute or in the doctor’s office. And they are an excellent way to discover new-to-you authors!

Below are a few recent collections, both fiction and nonfiction, that are guaranteed to make you fall in love with anthologies.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward’s collection on race in America has to be at the top of this list. The contributors she has assembled all offer powerful and important perspectives, addressing history, current events, and the future in the form of essays, memoir, and poetry. Amazon calls it a “surprise NYT bestseller,” but it’s no surprise to fans of Ward and the authors assembled in this collection. I will be returning to reread this collection many, many times over the next few years.

Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

This anthology tackles head-on the misogyny, racism, ableism, and other forms of hatred favored by Donald Trump—and supported by the people who voted for him. It features both well-known and emerging contributors who represent diverse communities, including perspectives from people of color, LGBTQ communities, religious minorities, and many others. This uplifting response to the ongoing oppression elevated by the 2016 election is a must-read—even if politics aren’t your jam.

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, edited by Kelly Jensen

This collection (from our own Kelly Jensen!) brings together writers, dancers, actors, and artists who contribute not only essays but also lists, poems, comics, and illustrations. I love the creativity of contributions! The book covers a range of topics—including body positivity, romance, gender identity, intersectionality, and fandoms—to offer readers a variety of paths toward claiming their own feminism.

Welcome Home: An Anthology on Love and Adoption, edited by Eric Smith

Eric Smith’s (also of Book Riot!) collection of short stories around adoption is a great example of how focusing on a specific theme can be really insightful and fascinating, because you see such a wide range of experiences and thoughts on one specific topic. The Young Adult authors featured in this collection also employ creative formats in their stories, incorporating emails, blog entries, and journals, and these fictional offerings show the complexities and diversity of experience around being adopted. As a reader who was not adopted, it’s really exciting to understand, just a little bit better, how adoptees find their families and homes in this world—and to know how powerful it is for those who are adopted to see themselves reflected in so many different stories.

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin

Should writers focus on art or business? In Manjula Martin’s collection, this debate develops new nuance as it explores the nature of both art for its own sake and art as a form of commerce. The contributors approach the same topic in myriad ways, offering well-rounded perspectives on the age-old tension between money and beauty. It’s a great example of how to illuminate a single topic in dozens of different lights, and how to write for an audience beyond just writers—it’s great for anyone pursuing a labor of love, particularly in a creative field.

Book cover of My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate BernheimerMy Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer

Who doesn’t love modern twists on fairy tales? Kate Bernheimer brings together well-known authors to take on classic fairy tale tropes, with stories just as likely to feature magical animals as murderous husbands. Fairy tales can be both whimsical and dark, and this collection encapsulates that breadth very well. It’s perfect for fans of The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg.

What anthologies do you recommend?