Short Story Collections: A Few Favorites

Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien (1990). An astonishing collection of linked short stories of a fictional character named Tim O’Brien and his unit in Vietnam and in the post Vietnam War world. “The Things They Carried” – the title short story – is one of the finest pieces of writing I have ever read. A poignant, beautiful, painful story (and collection of stories). While this is fiction, there is a certain truthfulness to the collection.

My Mom in her way led me to Tim O’Brien’s writing. One year (OK, in 1999)  she sent me The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike and coedited by Katrina Kenison (1999). The tome is set up with a best short story per year (usually one per year)  from 1915.

For the year 1987, Updike and Kenison chose Susan Sontag’s “The Way We Live Now” and Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried.” I read O’Brien’s story and considered it to be a masterpiece. I found his book The Things They Carried, read it, and then worked my way through the entire O’Brien body of work!

I am in awe of Tim O’Brien; he is one the authors who has most influenced my writing. The Things They Carried is most highly recommended.

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008). I loved these linked short stories of the Indian (South Asian) diaspora. Lahiri’s stories are luminous, compassionate, painful, lyrical, and totally absorbing. “Unaccustomed Earth” – the title short story – is wonderful. A marvelous read. A collection to savor and return to, again and again. Lahiri is masterful. Most highly recommended.

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, by Robert Olen Butler (1992). These are stories mainly of the Vietnamese diaspora; namely, to Louisiana. I loved these stories which weave Vietnamese myth and legend, daily life in Vietnam and America – and history – into something new. Another collection to savor and return to, again and again. I particularly liked “Fairy Tale.” Highly recommended.

Black Mist and Other Japanese Futures, edited by Orson Scott Card and Keith Ferrell (1997). Short stories – and speculative fiction – about Japanese futures. I loved this. It remains one of my favorites. Recommended.

Different Seasons, by Stephen King (1983). Includes the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, a nearly perfectly crafted novella. The fine movie The Shawshank Redemption is based on this novella, and it still astonishes me that whole lines of dialogue are in both. One of my most favorite movies! The movie led me to the book. Recommended.

I’ll add to this list.

In the meantime, please write and tell me about your favorite short story collections!

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
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