Thursday, May 15, 2008

Short fiction recommendations

Last night at book group, we discussed Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. It was good, and pretty interesting to read a short story collection: the first I've read in my many years of being in book groups.

I read short fiction avidly, probably because I'm a big sci-fi/fantasy fan. That seems to be the genre where the short story is still alive and well. In fact, if it doesn't out me as too much a geek, I'll admit I even have a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I love it!

So, in honor of our book group, I'll list my favorite short story collections in no particular order:

  • Stories by T. C. Boyle. I love most everything by Boyle, but short stories are by far his best. This is a HUGE, MASSIVE book (wow, 704 pages!) that contains 4 of his previous short story collections. The stories in here range from pretty good to truly outstanding. Most are a bit odd, somewhat funny, and kind of skewed. He's a fiction writer, with a slight sci fi tinge every once in a while.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. Autobiographical short humor pieces that actually made me laugh out loud. I know most people have either heard him read these pieces on NPR or have read his books, but if you've somehow missed it, this is one of the funniest books I've ever read.
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is another author I'm completely in love with, but I also think he truly excels at short fiction. He's a fantasy author, and if you haven't read his Sandman comics, well, you've missed out on some of the most imaginative, fantastic writing (and art). Anyway, back to Smoke and Mirrors: a very strong showing, with only one story that I didn't enjoy.
  • Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood. Another author who excels in the short story form (although in her case, I must admit I like her novels better). Her sarcasm and healthy feminist streak comes through loud and clear in this collection.
  • The Borderlands series edited by Thomas Monteleone. Oh, this is a shame: I just checked on amazon and this series apparently has gone out of print. I found it to be a great collection of horror stories by many big and small name authors. And, while you can't judge a book by its cover, having artwork by Dave McKean is a pretty big draw for me! If you happen to enjoy horror, and happen to stumble upon any of the books in this series at a used book store, grab them right up!
  • Different Seasons by Stephen King. Okay, these are novellas, but hell, even a normal length novel would practically be a short story for Stephen King. "The Body" is probably my favorite story by King (it's the story Stand By Me is based on. As much as I love that movie, the story is even better). Also contained in this collection is "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption", which was also made into a great movie, and "Apt Pupil", which was made into a movie I never saw. Liked the story, though. Additionally there is a disturbing story called "Breathing Lessons", which I'd suggest any pregnant women avoid.
  • Maps in A Mirror by Orson Scott Card. Another HUGE collection, bringing together a number of previous books of short fiction. There are some phenomenal stories, some good stories, and some weak stories here, but overall, a great collection.
  • Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut. Genius. Lovely.
Well, that's all I can think of off the top of my head. Feel free to add your own short story collection favorites. I've (mostly) left anthologies off the list...maybe I'll add another post of those some day. Or not. We'll see what I'm feeling like.

Random unrelated thought: I really should be writing, and not on my blog. I have an article due for the Mother of Twins club newsletter today, and of course I'm procrastinating in celebration of my boys actually napping. Back to "work"!

1 comment:

KCRSummertime said...

I agree on the Sedaris! I love all of his collections.

I am generally not a huge short story fan, because I find them ultimately unsatisfying, from a character perspective.

I will say, though, that I read & re-read Roald Dahl's short stories for grownups. They're nasty & hilarious & have great twists. And I also really like Shirley Jackson's short stories, and her collection of essays about parenthood, called LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES, is one of the best & funniest collections ever.