This list of audiobook short story collections is sponsored by Book Marks: A Reading Tracker.
Meet your new reading buddy: an all-in-one spot to record everything and anything book related. Inspired by bullet journaling, Book Marks offers ideas for setting up a multitude of book tracking pages with a mix of fill-in prompts, charts, lists, and plenty of dot-grid pages to customize. To help expand your literary horizons, the journal also includes a section of recommended reading lists compiled by Book Riot. Use Book Marks to jot down what you’re currently reading, what’s on your nightstand, your favorite quotes, new vocabulary words, memorable characters, your reviews of recent reads, and more. A clever bonus: the back flap has a punch-out bookmark!
While I’ve never narrated an audiobook, I imagine that short story collections present a huge challenge. With each new story, narrators must set the scene and draw in listeners all over again. Some audiobooks get around this potential pitfall by using a full cast, changing voices with each new story. From a listener’s perspective, I’ve borne through several short story collections that just didn’t work on audio because the narrators struggled to transition from one story to the next. Fortunately, the rise in audiobook popularity has brought us many great narrators who are up to the challenge! Here are a few short story collections that successfully adapt to audio—whether with a single narrator or a full cast—and give listeners an incredible audiobook experience.
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, Narrated by a Full Cast
Lucia Berlin wrote several short story collections in her lifetime, but it wasn’t until after she passed away that she achieved both commercial success and literary acclaim. Read by a full cast, A Manual for Cleaning Women is a magnificent audiobook, featuring women and girls trying to make the most of each moment. In a Lucia Berlin story, even the laundromat is a revelation and the dentist’s office holds a wealth of secrets. Some stories play out in back alleys, grotesque but beautiful, while others move from room to room, the characters’ lives unraveling around them. If you haven’t read Lucia Berlin yet, you have such a wild ride ahead of you. Better buckle in.
All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva, Narrated by a Full Cast
In the very first story of All the Names They Used for God, an albino woman finds a cave that whispers to her in the dark. But before you have a moment to wonder how on earth Sachdeva will follow up such an incredible story, you begin reading about a man who experiences an accident that turns his lungs to glass. From mermaids to genetically engineered identical septuplets, each story is more wondrous than the one before it. When I interviewed Sachdeva about the collection, she mentioned that she read the whole book out loud before she submitted the final draft. When an author takes such care with her prose, it’s guaranteed to make for a brilliant audiobook.
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, Narrated by Anjoa Andoh
As soon as I listened to the first story in this collection, “Who Will Greet You at Home?”, I knew this book was for me. A woman desperate for a child weaves one for herself out of hair, which doesn’t turn out exactly as she’d hoped. In another story, certain human beings possess the ability to take on others’ pain, making them valuable members of society who live incredibly difficult lives. Each story seamlessly blends reality, mythology, and folklore, creating a collection that you’ll be thinking about years later.
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, Narrated by Amy Landon
You knew I was going to include this one, right? How could I not? Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection Her Body and Other Parties isn’t just a great audiobook, it’s a great experience. Each story flows into the next, from a woman with a ribbon around her neck that she insists her husband never touch to a series of snippets based on Law & Order: SVU. I gasped, I cried, and I immediately wanted to start the book over again as soon as I’d finished it.
An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao, Narrated by Neela Vaswani
While most readers know Shobha Rao for her debut novel Girls Burn Brighter, my favorite is her short story collection An Unrestored Woman. In this series of interconnected short stories, Rao examines the lives of characters, all touched by the partition of India, the greatest human migration event in recent history. Rao features characters of different ethnicities, faiths, and generations, illustrating the wide-ranging effects of this historic moment. With An Unrestored Woman, Rao brings readers back down to earth, reminding us that a story doesn’t have to be quirky or fantastical to be great. Sometimes our own history is sensational enough to grab our attention and remind us what it means to be human.