Afictionados: The Fiction-Lover’s Shopping List

In addition to asking for titles of books on writing, my fiction-hungry students wanted a list of short story collections to read over the winter holiday. I certainly have my own favorites, but I also put out a call for suggestions from colleagues and friends. I’ve put an asterisk next to those from my original list. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to add to the list. Special thanks to Melissa Dunphy, Emilie Harting, Asa Maynard, Derek Warnick, Lisa Rivero, Sam Allingham, Joe Schuster, Mia Perry, David Poplar, Matthew Merlino, Patrick Rapa, Kathryn Maleney, Carter Johns, Lynn Selhat, Joanne Green, Joan Saverino, and Valerie Ross.

In response to my Facebook post, Valerie Ross, Director of the Critical Writing Program here at Penn, wrote, “In place of anthologies, I’d recommend studying, one by one, the collected work of the greats and then keeping up with what’s being published in the key journals and magazines. Most of the anthologies are organized for agendas that have nothing much to do with great writing.” I so agree– but with a few exceptions, which I’ll list first:

Great Esquire Fiction*: The Finest Stories from the First Fifty Years, ed. L. Rust Hills. This wonderful collection is out of print. But the good news is, you can get it for .34¢ on Amazon (plus $3.99 shipping.)

Speaking with the Angel*, ed. Nick Hornby. I bought this little collection, the proceeds of which were used to raise money for autism education, in an airport ten years ago, and have returned to it time and again.

Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short StoriesSudden Fiction (Continued), New Sudden Fiction* ed. Robert Shapard. These collections include short-shorts by established and emerging writers. There are others in this series as well.

The Best American Short Stories series.* There’s a new one, with a new guest editor, each year. You might not agree that these are always the “best” stories, but it’s a useful, diverse sampling of what’s out there. You can get back issues for pennies, used, on Amazon. There are other annual collections, also worthy of a look.

Fierce Pajamas and Disquiet Please,* collections of humor writing from The New Yorker. I’m a sucker for hilarity, so I sneak a unit of humor writing into my short fiction class, and I’ll admit it’s my favorite week of the year. I used these  two collections as prizes in class contests.

As for the collected works of the greats, as Valerie suggests above, the list could go on for hundreds of pages without even starting to feel inclusive. So I’ll just list a few top picks:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
The Jew of Home Depot and Other Stories by Max Apple
The Complete Short Stories of Isaac Asimov*
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
60 stories by Donald Barthleme*
Safe As Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino*
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black
Gryphon: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges*
The Heyday of Insensitive Bastards by Robert Boswell
My Sister’s Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
Stories by T.C. Boyle*
The Stories of Ray Bradbury*
The Matisse Stories, Elementals, and Little Black Book of Stories by A. S. Byatt*
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Cathedral, Where I’m Calling From, and Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver*
The Collected Short Stories of Anton Chekhov
Love Songs for the Quarantined by K.L. Cook
Mary and O’Neil: A Novel in Stories by Justin Cronin*
Collected Stories of Roald Dahl
The Dead Fish Museum by Charles D’Ambrosio
The Collected Short Stories of Lydia Davis*
Drown by Junot Diaz
Winter’s Tales by Isak Dineson
Stones For Ibarra by Harriet Doerr
I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek
Misreadings by Umberto Eco (satires and pastiche)
Middle Men by Jim Gavin (February 2013)
Pee on Water by Rachel Glaser*
Love of My Youth: Stories by Mary Gordon*
Airships by Barry Hannah
Twice-Told Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories*
The Pugilist at Rest: Stories by Thom Jones
Dubliners by James Joyce*
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri*
Stories by Doris Lessing*
The Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield
Ian McEwan: The Short Stories*
Mothers and Other Monsters by Maureen McHugh*
The Piazza Tales by Herman Melville
The Knife Thower and Other Stories, Dangerous Laughter, In the Penny Arcade, by Steven Millhauser*
Self-Help, Birds of America, and The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore*
Everything by Alice Munro*.
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flanney O’Connor*
The Collected Short Stories of Grace Paley*
The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake*
The Complete Short Stories of Dorothy Parker
Jayne Anne Phillips – any of her numerous books*
Do I even need to mention Poe?
All-Bright Court by Connie Rose Porter
The Collected Short Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell*
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Pastoralia, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders*
Shout Her Lovely Name by Natalie Serber
The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
Love and Hydrogen by Jim Shepard
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (13 linked stories)
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
The Collected Stories of William Trevor*
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
The Collected Short Stories of Eudora Welty*
Roman Fever and Other Stories by Edith Wharton
Honored Guest: Stories by Joy Williams*

The list is long, but so many great collections have been left off. If you have a favorite, drop me a line and I’ll add it to the list.

 


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