10 Short Story Books We Love

You’re a devoted reader but might not always have the time to commit to a sprawling novel. These collections will allow you to go at your own pace—read one story a day, skip around or devour them all in a single sitting

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'Spectacle' by Susan Steinberg

The women Steinberg portrays are dealing with grave situations like domestic violence, a parent on life support (and the decision whether to take him off), and the death of a close friend. Her lyrical writing style effectively underscores their suffering.

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'Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri

This collection, which snagged a Pulitzer Prize for Lahiri, is an intimate look at complex relationships between married couples and family members, most of them Indian-American. In “This Blessed House,” a Hindu husband and wife have conflicting feelings when they discover statues of Biblical figures strewn throughout their brand-new home. Lahiri’s prose is as beautiful as it is challenging.

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'Dear Life' by Alice Munro

Munro’s latest book deals largely with female characters breaking free from patriarchal convention.  Drawing on her own life as a young wife aspiring to become a writer, she delivers a collection that resonates deeply with women of an age to relate to her experience. 

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'Drinking Coffee Elsewhere' by ZZ Packer

Packer’s skill in relaying contemporary African-American experience is impressive and powerful. There are black Girl Scouts battling racism at camp and a young woman grappling with life as a freshman at a very white Yale. In each tale, Packer lures you with her authenticity and candor. 

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'Vampires in the Lemon Grove' by Karen Russell

Russell takes us on a journey through her rich imagination, giving us deceased presidents who are reincarnated as horses, women who produce silk from their bodies and married vampires who quench their thirst for blood with lemon juice. Bursting with unpredictable ideas and images, this book keeps you glued to its pages.  


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'Break it Down' by Lydia Davis

In this emotional collection, Davis meditates on unrequited love, divorce, motherhood and more. The title story is told via stream of consciousness by a man reviewing the intricate details of his failed relationship. Heralded as a master storyteller, Davis can be brilliant even when brief—her shortest piece is a single paragraph.

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'We Are Taking Only What We Need' by Stephanie Powell Watts

Black southerners are the focus of Watts’s debut book, with special attention to female characters who have been profoundly affected by their relationships with men. One story centers on a young, motherless girl who forgives her father for killing her beloved dog. Watts is adept at illuminating human struggle, as well as our ability to rise out of misfortune.


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'Aerogrammes' by Tania James

James’s multi-layered characters shine a light on our insecurities, fears and desires—all of our shared humanity. In “What to Do With Henry,” a woman adopts the African girl her husband fathered (and abandoned) outside of their marriage. “Light & Luminous” is the story of an Indian dancer living in the U.S. who bleaches her skin before a big performance. These stories will ring true for anyone who’s ever felt displaced, whether in a new land or in their own home. 

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'If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This' by Robin Black

Opening with “The Guide,” in which a father takes his blind teenage daughter to pick up her first guide dog, Black wastes no time seizing the reader’s emotions. She tackles tragedy, guilt, infidelity, parenthood and marriage, and seamlessly melds these themes into cohesive narratives. 

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'Shout Her Lovely Name' by Natalie Serber

Most of the stories in this collection revolve around a mother-daughter relationship, with Serber homing in on eating disorders, loneliness, missing fathers and matters of identity. She is keen on the nuances of maternal bonds, and highlights them with an undeniable accuracy. 

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Next: 19 Books You Won't Put Down


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