Arthur Conan Doyle’s unique mysteries are cleverly written and entertaining. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (comprised of twelve short stories) was a tremendous re-read for me.
For similar titles, check out our list of Classic Tales of Mystery & Suspense.
In 2012, Marina Keegan’s final essay in the Yale Daily News went viral after her sudden tragic death five days after graduation. In The Opposite of Loneliness, her teachers and family compiled a selection of her writings, both fiction and nonfiction.
I enjoyed listening to Emily Woo Zeller’s narration – she captures the wry humor in Keegan’s writing. The title essay – “The Opposite of Loneliness” – is powerful, relatable, moving. “Against the Grain,” which tracked her life with celiac disease, brought tears to my eyes. And while I particularly enjoyed her nonfiction work, her short stories were lovely as well.
Check out a review from The New York Times.
Well known from his years writing, co-producing, and acting on The Office (US), B. J. Novak has finally brought his comedic genius to the printed page with his first book, One More Thing. In this collection, Novak showcases his fiction in the form of both short stories and flash fiction (pieces under 1000 words), which covers a wide variety of topics and genres. This book includes a lot of clever wordplay, some quick twists, and many engaging characters, a few of which appear multiple times in interconnected stories.
Perhaps my favorite piece in this collection was “The Best Thing in the World Awards,” where an awards show hosted by Neil Patrick Harris seeks to rank the best things in the world. Love always wins, but this year is threatened when Nothing becomes a front runner. Novak has a lot of wonderful wordplay in this section, asking questions like if Love wins, does that just mean Love is better than Nothing? and is saying Nothing is Better than Love really a win for Love?
Another favorite is “Sophia,” where a man orders a sex robot that develops intelligence and falls in love with him. Finally, “The Something by John Grisham”—a story about how John Grisham’s newest book accidentally makes it to the public with a working title—was hilarious and would certainly appeal to readers familiar with Grisham’s work (though it should be noted that this piece is not actually written by Grisham, but rather about him).
The audio production of this book is a lot of fun and brings quite a bit of star power to it. Novak himself reads the vast majority of the collection, with help from well-known actors, actresses, and musicians. Among these are Rainn Wilson (The Office), Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project), Julianne Moore, Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, and Katy Perry.
I don’t usually read short stories, but Tenth of December by George Saunders got such excellent reviews, I had to see for myself. I was not disappointed – Saunders is a master with language, creating scenarios where authority figures of one kind or another seek to control, either overtly or covertly, the emotions and responses of various characters including high school students, a recently returned veteran, a dying man, and an ill-fated family.
Despite the often dark subjects that include mind control, abduction, objectification, and simmering violence, Saunders’ stories also contain elements of absurdist humor and love and he manages to suggest that there is hope for humanity despite it all.
Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2010)
This Pulitzer Prize winning book is more of a collection of short stories than a novel with each chapter focusing on a particular time in a character’s life. Written in a non linear format the book spans from the 1970s punk rock scene to the distant future of 2020. The American music scene is the focus for the diverse cast of characters that includes Sasha, a troubled young kleptomaniac and Bennie, an aging music producer. Throughout the book, the characters’ lives intersect each other and in the end everyone is connected to one another to some degree. Egan’s unique writing style allows the reader to see the characters at different points in their lives and understand how time has changed them.
This is an intriguing and engaging novel that explores memory and the passing of time in our lives.
Check out this candid interview with the author about her book.
Tabloid Dreams by Robert Olen Butler (1996)
Tabloid Dreams provides refreshing tales of ordinary people in their ordinary lives when the quirky and unusual comes knocking at the door. I’d recommend this for anyone who wants something a little different from the rest.
Read the reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author’s website.
Twisted by Jeffery Deaver (2003)
I don’t usually like short stories, but decided to read this book based on a patron’s enthusiastic recommendation. I really loved it. Within a few pages, Deaver is able to develop each story with captivating characters in stimulating situations. And, each has a twisted or surprise ending. For those who like to, or are only able to read in short spurts, this is a great find!! I’m also planning to read the follow-up, titled More Twisted.
View the author’s website, preview the book, and read reviews at Amazon.com.
Great Dream of Heaven by Sam Shepard (2002)
Sam Shepard, a world-renowned playwright, is also an excellent short story author. His collection, Great Dream of Heaven, is innovative, refreshing, fast moving, and brilliant. I found myself reading some of the stories out loud to my friends and family. Great Dream of Heaven is a must read.
Read an excerpt from “The Remedy Man” at Random House’s website. See what the reviews say at Amazon.com.
Livability by Jon Raymond (2009)
This short story collection is set in and around Portland, Oregon, and follows characters at transition points in life. Two of the nine stories have been adapted into independent feature films directed by Kelly Reichardt.
Listen to the author read from Livability and check out the Amazon.com reviews.
The Blue Religion edited by Michael Connelly (2008)
Mystery fans will love this collection of short stories put together by the Mystery Writers of America. It features crime/mystery stories presented by 19 different authors, designed to keep you up reading into the wee hours of the morning. A great addition to the collection!
Find out more about Connelly and read reviews.