Reader’s (summer) diary: dipping into short stories

IMG_0086Short stories are a little like pornography: You know them when you read them, but they’re hard to define.  Style, length, subject matter–all up for grabs.  O. Henry’s short stories are a world apart from, say, George Saunders’s stories, but they coexist in the same universe.

Here’s a list (in no particular order) of just a few of the writers who have tackled the short story with success. Some are equally or better known for novels, but not all.  Alice Munro, for instance, is primarily a short story writer, while you’d probably say that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a novelist who wrote short stories. You’ll notice right away that the list comprises writers from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and many of them are North American. My bias. Sorry.  Send me your favorites too, please, in the Comments.

  • Alice Munro
  • William Trevor
  • James Joyce
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • James Baldwin
  • W. Somerset Maugham
  • Sandra Cisneros
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Lorrie Moore
  • John O’Hara
  • Alix Ohlin
  • Irwin Shaw
  • Maile Meloy
  • Jessica Francis Kane
  • J.D. Salinger
  • Junot Diaz
  • Jennifer Egan
  • Raymond Carver
  • Shirley Jackson
  • Annie Proulx
  • Sherwood Anderson
  • Haruki Murakami
  • John Cheever
  • Sherman Alexie
  • Eudora Welty
  • Tessa Hadley
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Tobias Wolff
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Andre Dubus
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Katherine Mansfield
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Grace Paley
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • T.C. Boyle
  • Ann Beattie
  • James Salter
  • Colm Tóibín
  • Amy Bloom
  • Anaïs Nin
  • Gabriel García Márquez
  • E.L. Doctorow
  • Joan Wickersham
  • Mavis Gallant
  • Susan Minot
  • Truman Capote
  • Ray Bradbury
  • Junichiro Tanizaki
  • Toni Cade Bambara
  • Jane Bowles
  • Angela Carter

And don’t overlook the major short story anthologies, some of which come out each year; they’re great for an overview of the short story world past and present. Here’s a selection:

  • PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories
  • The Best American Short Stories
  • The Best American Short Stories of the Century
  • The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories
  • The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories
  • The Oxford Book of American Short Stories

Confessions of a short story devotee: Alice Munro is my favorite short story writer, but E.L. Doctorow’s story called “The Writer in the Family” is my favorite short story. If you’re a writer (and even if you’re not) you’ll want to read that one.



 FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Out West Books, Grand Junction, CO

Maple Street Book Shop, New Orleans, LA

Jack & Allie’s, Vernon, CT



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