So I'm trying to write more short stories. That was the main impetus for me joining this little workshop. However, I figure the best way to write good short fiction is to read good short fiction. I really haven't read a lot. My new jam has been reading short story collections. I'd like you to tell me what your favorites are and why. Here's a couple of my favorites just to get the discussion going. Please disagree or agree and give me some other counter-examples. I'd prefer examples of literary fiction, but genre fiction is also welcome.
So here's some of my favorite so far…
A VISIT FROM THE GOOD SQUAD - Jennifer Egan (this doesn't really count, since it's like a novel, but still)
DROWN - Junot Diaz
GO DOWN, MOSES - William Faulkner
DUBLINERS - James Joyce
GIRL WITH CURIOUS HAIR - David Foster Wallace
IN OUR TIME - Ernest Hemingway
A MODEL WORLD - Michael Chabon
really that's all I got...
Dubliners and Drown are so good.
Here's a few I can add off the top of my head:
The Ice at the Bottom of the World by Mark Richards
Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel by Amy Hempel
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver (actually anything by him, but I had to put a title there)
I've read all of the above multiple times.
Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollack
10th of December by George Saunders
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk, however, this is also technically a novel. Just read the stories; the little interim bits that make it a novel are meh.
The Ones that got Away by Stephen Graham JonesJones
This is how you lose her by Junot Diaz
I've been meaning to read George Saunders for a while now. And I've even had 10th of December in my hands a few times. Still haven't done it yet though.
I'll second Haunted for some really good shorts.
Read Diaz's This is How You Lose Her. I LOVED Drown, but TIHYLH is extraordinary writing. There is no other voice like Junot's.
Tenth of December is amazing.
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman; Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken; What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver; and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander; and Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti are among my favorite collections.
Yes, read 10th of December, Pete!
But also how could I forget Lindsay Hunter, Daddys, or Don't Kiss Me. Both are awesome.
Of these, I've read the Joyce & the Pollock in whole. Also Carver's Where I'm Calling From (which is a selection including What We Talk About...), Saunders' CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, and various stories from others (Hempel, Faulkner, Hemingway, Ligotti), all of which I'd say were at least pretty good.
To add (well-known pick): Any of Borges' fiction volumes. (I read the collection.) Worth reading because a lot of it is good, on top of which it provides early examples of devices and structures often considered hallmarks of "postmodern" fiction (nesting stories, meta-fiction, stories presented as encyclopedia entries and such).
Also (less well-known, though not totally obscure pick): St. Augustine's Pigeon by Evan S. Connell. If you can get along with fairly straight mid-century fiction, but haven't read Connell, maybe check him out. He was somewhat scattered in his pursuits and perhaps didn't develop the singular voice of some better-known authors, but a lot of it is quite good.
Angel Dust Apocalypse by Jeremy Robert Johnson. Holy ballsack, he really takes you to some believably unbelievable places.
Also, before Angel Dust, hands-down I would have named Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth as the most out-there, well-constructed short story collection I've read. I love Stephen Graham Jones. So damn much.
I second Jesus' Son; every time I reread it it morphs. It really has a way of capturing damaged life; the very strange daily grind of being a substance abuser.
I also second Hempel's Collected Stories. Hempel makes me feel like a toddler. Both in terms of still limiting myself as a writer and in the sheer feeling her stories elicit.
Am I the only one who loves Haunted as a novel? It changed my life. The short stories, I think, are incredible on their own, but he really did something unconventional by tying it together with that premise of wanna-be creators who use their stories to victimize themselves, until the true story (through their own biased lens) comes out. People as married to their pain. Not to mention that the last story, Obsolete, is one of the best apocalypse stories I've found. When I finished Haunted--and, granted, it was my intro to Palahniuk and transgressive anything--I could not fully wrap my head around it, which is why I liked it so much. It's weird. Even in Palahniukian terms.
You've read Faulkner, Joyce, and Hemingway. If you're into the history of the form, you have to add Flannery O'Connor (collected), and at least sample Chekhov.
Otherwise you should probably start with Carver. I'll second Where I'm Calling From, to get all his best.
Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson is a must read. Three other collections of that same era that remain among my favorites are The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, and Drown, (which you've read).
If you want to sample a less 'realist' tradition, you should try Borges (collected), Forty Stories by Donald Bartheleme, and Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley.
Some other big names that I think are worth having the Collected Stories of... treatment are Hempel (mentioned above), Barry Hannah, and Cheever.
There are a ton of great collections out there. Just comes down to taste. Saunders, Murakami's early stuff, Mary Gaitskill, William Gay, I could go on an on...
I'll second The Ones that got Away by Stephen Graham Jones. One or few authors I'll only read when the sun's still up.
Anyone read Olive Kitteridge? I hear it's good. Love the suggestions. Thanks y'all.
I haven't. I saw the Olive Kitteridge series on HBO and it was quite depressing but I'm sure the book's far better. I feel like that with most books. Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson is my favorite. Agree about Drown—Junot Díaz is up there for me.
Books of Blood by Clive Barker is worth mentioning. Not all of the stories are scary, but certainly memorable.
This is How You Lose Her is on another level, for sure. You also got to look at Chuck Palahniuk's short story collections lol. Another major player I would recommend, eventhough it's technically a novel or novella, is Scott F. Fitzergerald's Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The original story is so short, concise and just a powerful, mute point. I truly enjoyed it.
The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight In Heaven by Sherman Alexie is another good one!
Raymond Carver's Cathedral
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
Love Haruki Murakami but not as a short story writer. If you read Spanish, I preferred Julio Cortazar to Borges.
Tiptree is sci-fi but of "literary" quality. Munro's stories are REALLY long and took a while to get into but there's a reason she won a Nobel Prize...
J.C. Oates, Annie Proulx, TC Boyle, Flannery O'Connor & Ray Bradbury all have multiple short story collections that are available which I would advocate.
Hey, if you are still interested in suggestions:
This Angel on My Chest by Leslie Pietrzyk. Disclaimer: I do know her. Each story has a unique format and voice. It's literary.
I second the Knockemstiff recommendation.
Finally got around to Flannery O'Connor. Definitely a master of the form. She was described to me as the pinnacle of Southern Gothic and I can't really disagree.
I hear Alice Munro is supposed to be pretty amazing as well. There is a lot and I'm not sure where to start.
Kurt Vonnegut's short stories are a lot of fun.
Also discovered Miranda July! Her first collection, No Belongs Here More Than You is pretty fabulous.
Here are a few of my favorite collections to add to the many great recommendations:
I like all of Laird Barron's collections. His current 'Swift to Chase' is great.
China Mieville's '3 Moments of an Explosion' is also great
From These Ashes by Frederic Brown. He was a prolific writer of science fiction & mysteries. All the stories in From These Ashes are SF. I wish there were a collection of his mystery stories.
The Neon Wilderness by Nelson Algren.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
We Live In Water by Jess Walter
Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill
Childhood and Other Neighborhoods by Stuart Dybek
Algren and O'Brien are must reads. The others are also outstanding.
Oh hell, I can't not comment on Dybek, this guy is magical.
"North American Lake Monsters: Stories" by Nathan Balingrud is a wonderful collection of Weird Horror fiction with lots of literary credibility.