May is Short Story Month, which means it’s time to dive into some delicious bite-sized prose. As a short fiction writer myself, I try to devour as many collections, anthologies, and literary magazines as I can get my hands on. Don’t have time to read? Fret not! You can often read short stories in a single sitting. Books of short stories are the apple of my eye, the peanut butter to my chocolate, the coffee to my soul. Unfortunately, collections often get a bad rep in the publishing industry since they don’t sell as well as novels (sigh), but the short story is such a beautiful, necessary art form that all readers can enjoy.
Therefore, it is my pleasure to recommend the following books of stories for your Short Story Month TBR.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
If you’re into fairytales, read this. If you’re into feminist fairytales, then definitely read this. Or, perhaps, if you crave tales of love so goddamn beautiful and grotesque that you want hide your eyes but also can’t look away, stop what you’re doing right now and read this. Carter paved the way for a lot of the fairytale retellings we see in the world now. Seriously. Don’t miss the stories “The Bloody Chamber,” “The Tiger’s Bride,” and “The Lady of the House of Love.” Also, if you purchase the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, you can read the fabulous introduction by Kelly Link.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Do you have a few minutes for me to talk about my lord and savior, Shirley Jackson? Jackson is renown for her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but one cannot speak of short stories without mentioning her famous and controversial story, “The Lottery.” The story originally published in The New Yorker in 1948, and some readers were so shocked, they thought the story actually happened. It’s gritty, it’s gothic, it’s oh so good. The whole collection explores the sinister undertones of the mundane. Check out the other stories “The Daemon Lover,” “The Witch,” and “Charles.”
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez, Translated by Megan McDowell
If you’re looking for a collection in translation to read for Short Story Month, then this is an excellent choice. I am all about dark, sinister tales (can you tell?) and Enriquez filled my heart with delectable, foreboding prose. These stories are set in Argentina, reflecting on the country’s troubled history while simultaneously exploring the darkest corners of our hearts. These stories take place in dark alleyways, abandoned houses, government-enforced blackouts, and honestly NEED I SAY MORE? Some of the stories that still haunt me are “The Dirty Kid,” “Adela’s House,” and “Under the Black Water.”
Don’t Kiss Me by Lindsay Hunter
Flash fiction is my jam, and Hunter is a master. These stories will gut-punch you before you can even cross the street, and each story feels GREAT to read out loud. Flash fiction is even more underrated than short stories and are, in my not-so-subtle opinion, harder to write. If you’re a writer, I suggest you underline the shit out of this. Hunter introduces us to characters you’d probably loathe in real life but ultimately cannot forget. She artfully paces each work so that, by the time you finish, you’re gulping down air. It’s a wild ride. Check out the stories “After,” “Gerald’s Wife,” and “Me and Hardy.”
The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, Edited by N.K. Jemisin
If you’re looking for a book of short stories with multiple authors and assorted styles, then The Best American series is a great place to start. The most recent issue edited by Jemisin is truly a compilation of astounding work. Jemisin asks in her introduction, “Can science fiction and fantasy, by helping us examine the present, in turn shape the future – and in particular shape it away from its current destructive path?[…]How, then have science fiction and fantasy answered, in 2017? With a whole lot of goddamn revolution.” And she is goddamn right. Don’t miss the amazing stories “Destroy the City with Me Tonight” by Kate Alice Marshall, “Don’t Press Charges and I Won’t Sue” by Charlie Jane Anders, and “Black Powder” by Maria Dahvana Headley.
Oh and if you’re excited about the The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2019, run, don’t walk, to your local indie bookstore on October 1, because it’s edited by Carmen Maria Machado. Are you swooning? Because I am!
What stories are you reading for Short Story Month? List your favorite collections, anthologies, and literary magazines in the comments.