I’ve come to notice that while there are many many more novels published compared to short story collections, the later that are published are usually high in quality. It seems that publishers have no problem filling up book shelves in bookstores with badly written novels next to excellently written ones, but for some reason, a short story collection has to be top notch. Or is this the publishers doing?
Novels or Short Stories
Publishers would rather publish novels than short story collections, yet short story collections by not well-known writers are published each year. This is because it’s easier for publishers or editors to scout literary journals and magazines for talented writers and then take a chance on them by publishing a collection of their short stories. This is nicely covered in Alan Rinzler’s blog.
I still sift carefully through a short story collection by a writer I’m not too familiar with before buying it. In the end though, I more often buy it than not. With a novel, this seldom happens. There’s a mental checklist the novel needs to rigorously pass before I buy it. I don’t feel the need to do this with a short story collection that grabs my attention… Dare I say it? It would seem that this is one of the rare moments where I trust a publisher.
I’d like to share my most recent favorite short story collections here. By most recent I mean in terms of when I’ve personally read them and not by publication date. By favorite I mean the collections that really stuck out.
I particularly enjoy reading short story collections when I like the writings of a writer I’m familiar with, but don’t necessarily feel like engaging in the depth and scope of a novel. I also enjoy them when I’m reading a new writer whose style of writing I like (I usually discover a short story of theirs in a literary journal or anthology, and then keep an eye out for a collection by the said).
The writers of the following eight titles have been a source of pleasure to read for their story-telling abilities and their mastery of the craft of this form. In no particular order (the last four I have reviewed previously on this blog, you can check the links):
1. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. Stars of the New Curfew by Ben Okri
3. After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
4. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti
6. A Stranger in this World by Kevin Canty
7. The Maples Stories by John Updike
8. Friendly Fire by Alaa Al Aswany
That would be two Nigerian authors, a Japanese, a Bengali, three Americans and an Egyptian. I mention this because I love reading world literature and make it a habit to experience the many different and talented writers currently published today.
When do you pick up a short story collection? Can you recommend me any titles?