Short stories are the perfect pit-stop between long-form books.
When you need a break from ridiculously dense nonfiction or a safer option for your bedtime routine, you need a short story. They are beautifully brief escapes, a perfect snack between literary meals. So give that growing pile of long-form novels and essays a break and sink your teeth into these delectable short story snacks.
We’re making it easier for you to find your next sweet fix by sharing the 10 best short story collection books you must read in 2021. Below you’ll find an eccentric collection of short story books, each dabbling in all sorts of mischief. From kafkaesque underworlds to risque carnal appetites. And with a helluva lot of immersive storytelling, these short stories will surely satisfy any bibliophile’s palate.
Kink Stories by Garth Greenwell and R. O. Kwon
Kink is an anthology of selected works that delve into human carnal appetites, featuring a star-studded lineup of modern and fresh literary greats. Oh, and plenty of delightful fetishes and sexualities. Curated and edited by Garth Greenwell and R. O. Kwon – which also includes their own kinky short story each – this naughty short story collection will have you tugging at your collar and thinking, “Oh my lord, what would happen if these people around me knew what I was actually reading?”
The Moons Of Jupiter by Alice Munro
Nobel Prize winner and literary great Alice Munro published this collection in the early 1980s, but its subjects are as loud as ever, even today. Her skills in moulding together defining characters is well-known in her short story collection, The Moons Of Jupiter. As it weaves through the sprawling range of human emotion, this must-read book will have you swimming between polar opposites, as each female character traverses the harsh realm of social connections.
First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami
When you need a fantastical escape from this mundane world, Haruki Murakami is your man. This collection of stories delve between the weird and the remarkably nostalgic, with some feeling almost too real to be fiction. Expect a reverie on The Beatles, an encounter with a talking monkey, an invented jazz album and an ardent love for baseball. Introspective and mysterious, First Person Singular will draw you in and play around with your imagination – exactly what you need to read in 2021.
The Office Of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
Set within the modern-day – with an insightful view of American history – The Office Of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans explores the complexities of humanity. Danielle uses her x-ray vision to hone in on fundamental insights around race, culture and history – all with a focus on relationships. In one particular story, a white college student regains herself following a leaked photo of her in a confederate flag bikini; in another, a photojournalist confronts her past during a friend’s wedding.
Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado made her mark in the literary world with this insanely genreless collection of short stories, Her Body & Other Parties. This book is so genreless that they all sway between categories; horror and comedy, realism and fantasy, all with her own unique voice. Each female character faces a dilemma: a wife refuses to let her husband remove a green ribbon across her neck; a lady recounts her sex life as a plague ravishes humanity; and a shop assistant makes a horrifying discovery within the store’s prom dresses.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
It would be silly to curate a list of the best short story collections and avoid Raymond Carver – he’s the king of short stories! In his most defining assembly, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond takes us on a haunting meditation through love, loss, companionship, and finding one’s way through the dark. It’s deeply disturbing and yet insanely fascinating, so much so that you will wonder why you like these stories when they’re so raw and gloomy.
In The Event Of Contact by Ethel Rohan
In The Event Of Contact by Ethel Rohan is an award-winning, recently published collection of short stories that aims to understand the truths around physical connection – or lack thereof. Its short fictions include a teenager’s desire to be Sherlock Holmes, hauntings of past disappearances and celebrations from being run over by a truck, among others. This quirky short story troupe seeks hope in recovery, humanity, and the remains of wonder.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez
Smoking in bed is a dangerous activity, not least because you could set the bed on fire. But Mariana Enriquez’s short story collection is not about smoking in bed – that’s just a euphemism. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is a gothic enterprise, filled with death and tragedy. It weaves through revenge, witchcraft, kinks, and the overall urban madness that overcomes the desperate city of Buenos Aires and ravishes the mortal humans that dwell within its walls.
The Low Desert by Tod Goldberg
Across the sprawling land of the United States of America lies an underbelly of fictional gangster short stories, narrated with the notorious wit of Tod Goldberg. And it powerfully blurs the boundaries between good and evil. What makes a good criminal? How can you spot a bad citizen? Under the umbrella of Tod Goldberg’s critically acclaimed Gangsterland, we meet a sheriff skirting corruption, an itchy-feet cocktail waitress hurting with loss, and a plethora of low-grade thugs, drifters and drug pushers.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Following on from her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has returned to show us how short stories should be done. Every story in The Thing Around Your Neck focuses on complex human emotions – all raw and full of wisdom. And they evoke humanity. Between religion, politics, race and relations, Adichie’s collection swings through violent riots, family secrets, devastating love triangles – each showcasing the collision between two cultures and the struggle to reconcile.
Needing something else to read? Start with these 10 Best Australian Books You Must Add To Your 2021 Reading List. Or, to romance yourself, here are 10 Modern Must-Read Romantic Novels and Poetry Books for 2021.