Writing short stories is no easy task. Within a short number of pages, you have to create an entire world, characters to inhabit it, a compelling story, and more importantly, a reason for anyone to give a damn. The following are five short story collections that deserve a good deal of praise because they do precisely that: they make you care. They suck you in. They stick to you.
1. Leaf Storm by Gabriel García Márquez
Chances are, you know Gabriel García Márquez as the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude or possibly Love in the Time of Cholera, but for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read his novels — but harbor a love for magical realism and atmospheric writing — Leaf Storm is a fantastic introduction to García Márquez. Like much of his writing, Leaf Storm captures the reader without warning, asking us to consider themes such as death, solitude and isolation, and family.
2. Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut
It’s hard to go wrong with Vonnegut, and it’s impossible to go wrong with this collection of sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking short stories. “Harrison Bergeron” will forever remain my favorite short work, and each time I return to it I find it more and more applicable to the darker parts of our social and political climate. Vonnegut would likely have been appalled but not particularly surprised.
3. The Collected Works of Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter: you probably know her for — wait. Do you know her? If not, hie thee to a library or bookshop or online purveyor of books and check out this amazing Pulitzer Prize-winning writer from Texas whose frequently dark stories were almost as tragic as Porter’s own life. Be sure to check out “Flowering Judas” in particular.
4. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke
Famous for the Hugo Award-winning fantasy/alternative history novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories is set in the same magical world of Clarke’s creation. Clarke’s Austenesque style, wit, and immersive settings make her one of the finest contemporary fantasy writers, and from the collection I strongly recommend “Mr. Simonelli, or The Fairy Widower.”
5. Drown by Junot Díaz
Author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” Junot Díaz is also a professor at MIT. Impressive. Drown is a collection of short stories which focuses around immigrant culture and an outside perspective of America. If you’re looking for a short story collection from a writer with a strong voice and a lot to say, Drown is it.