10 Really Great Short Stories For A Satisfying Read

This week Kristen Roupenian, author of the New Yorker’s viral Cat Person, releases her first book, a tome of short stories. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up our favourite collections of modern essays and miniature musings. Perfect for your commute, or a quick read before bed…

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian

From the creator of Cat Person – the first short story to go viral – comes You Know You Want This, a compulsive collection about sex, dating and modern life. These are stories of women’s lives now. They also happen to be horror stories. In some, women endure the horror; in others, they inflict it. We witness women at work, at home, on dates, at the doctor’s and with their families and friends, as they grapple with desire, punishment, guilt and anger. This collection shows why Kristen Roupenian is the hottest new voice in American fiction. Funny, furious, sly and explicit, she takes a long, hard look at the messed-up power dynamic between men and women – and messes it up further.

Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl

Did you know that the worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda also wrote scores of short stories for adults? In Kiss Kiss you’ll find 11 shocking reads. What could go wrong when a wife pawns the mink coat that her lover gave her as a parting gift? What happens when a priceless piece of furniture is the subject of a deceitful bargain? Can a wronged woman take revenge on her dead husband? In these dark, disturbing stories Dahl explores the sinister side of human nature: the cunning, sly, selfish part of each of us that leads us into the territory of the unexpected and unsettling. Stylish, macabre and haunting, these tales will leave you with a delicious feeling of unease.

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women is a 2014 collection of short stories by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, translated and published in English in 2017. Across seven tales, Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all. Marked by the same wry humour that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic, this time in bite-sized form.

Florida by Lauren Groff

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Groff has returned with a new book as bold and consuming as her novel Fates and Furies. A collection of short stories, Groff brings to life a world in which storms, snakes and sinkholes lurk at the edge of everyday life, but the greater threats and mysteries are of a human, emotional and psychological nature. Among those navigating it all are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple; a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable recurring character – a steely and conflicted wife and mother. Need more reason to check it out? It was also one of Barack Obama’s cultural highlights last year.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Miranda July is a filmmaker, artist and writer who wrote, directed and starred in The Future and Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. In No One Belongs Here More Than You – her third book – July reveals how a single moment can change everything. Whether writing about a middle-aged woman's obsession with Prince William or an aging bachelor who has never been in love, the result is startling, tender and sexy by turns. One of the most acclaimed short-story collections (it won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and has been published in 23 countries), this body of work uncovers the remarkable stories of seemingly ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

Way before he wrote Atonement, A Child In Time, Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan published First Love, Last Rites, a collection of short stories which went on to achieve both critical acclaim and an initial backlash, due to the shocking behaviour of some of its protagonists. Taut, brooding and densely atmospheric, these stories show us the ways in which murder can arise out of boredom, perversity can result from adolescent curiosity, and sheer evil might be the solution to unbearable loneliness. Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award in 1975, First Love, Last Rites cemented McEwan’s place as one of the UK’s finest contemporary writers.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a collection of short fiction by British writer Angela Carter. It was first published in the UK in 1979 and went on to win the Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize. The stories share a theme of being closely based upon fairy tales or folk tales. From familiar characters and legends – think Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves – Carter created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories, all with a feminist retelling.

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

You Think It, I’ll Say It is a collection of ten short stories from Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Orange prize-nominated Prep and American Wife. The fact that one of them, Do-Over, was shortlisted for the 2018 Sunday Times EFG Short Story award ahead of its publication date set expectations high when the collection was released last year. Among the series of character studies, Sittenfeld’s protagonists span an academic who sleeps with her taxi driver through to Hillary Clinton on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. It’s a striking read.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the elder sister's marriage. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realise when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. From a girls' fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbours conform, compete, and spy on each other, Roxane Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America. Gay’s other collections Not That Bad, Hunger and Bad Feminist are also more than worthy reads.

The Most of Nora Ephron by Nora Ephron

This collection is a celebration of the work of the late Nora Ephron, one of America's most acute writers, famous for her brilliant takes on life. Everything you could possibly want from Ephron is here: from her writings on journalism, feminism, and being a woman; her best-selling novel, Heartburn, written in the wake of her devastating divorce from Carl Bernstein; her hilarious and touching screenplay for the film When Harry Met Sally; her pithy blogs on politics; plus her moving meditations on aging (I Feel Bad About My Neck) and dying. Cited as an inspiration by everyone from Dolly Alderton and India Knight to Lena Dunham, this is an absolute must read.

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