Seven larger than life short story collections that open up big worlds

Seven larger than life short story collections that open up big worlds

These bite-sized tales punch well above their weight and will have you questioning why you would waste time on full-length novels.

Selected Short Stories by Anton Chekhov

To read Checkhov’s short stories is to be plunged into a completely different realm. Although written over a century ago, the characters and their emotions and struggles resonate as clearly as a church bell. Although this is not a modern collection of short stories, the emotional depth of the stories taps into the very core of what it means to be a living breathing human being. Chekhov’s short stories transcend time, place, culture – I would consider this to be a masterpiece of the short story form. 

Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood

Short tales that are loosely related to each other thematically. The stories take place in the inner wilderness (of disillusionment, the passage of time, the unpredictability of life) and outer wilderness of a setting in the Canadian landscape. In Atwood’s genius hands, the banal everyday occurrences between people are turned into extraordinary metaphors and insightful, prescient, revealing human interactions.

Some Rain Must Fall and other stories by Michel Faber

Faber’s stories always skate on the edge of darkness and take on the patina of a surreal waking nightmare. They are electrifying and inventive. Each one is dense enough to be an entire world unto itself. All of these brief stories are diverse nature and subject matter. We meet school teachers comforting traumatised children, we hang out with an advertising executive in Melbourne who takes a job in an X-rated bookstore, we endure the loneliness and hard graft of being a young Polish immigrant working in a restaurant in London. All of these stories manage to be compelling, unconventional, darkly inventive and have a beating human heart at their core.

The American Lover by Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain is better known for her historical fiction than her short stories. Such as the brilliant Restoration and Music & Silence, both set in the 17th Century. Although these stories probably don’t measure up to her better known masterpieces, The American Lover is still compulsively readable and enjoyable. There is still a sense of period and place which she does so well. Her characters recount their memories of sexual and romantic longing, embarrassing regrets and missed opportunities to connect which still haunt their souls. She uncovers a dazzling array of human experiences related to love and romantic trysts.

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Murakami produces a unique flavour of Japanese magic realism, he has pretty much created a genre all of his own. Although he isn’t really known for his short stories, this collection deserves full investigation by any self-confessed Murakami fan.

The stories are themed loosely around men who are in one way or another estranged from the women they love. We are introduced to a man whose girlfriends keep killing themselves, another man who reflects on his dead wife’s love affairs. And Kafka’s Metamorphosis gets a reboot in one of his stories, with Murakami’s interpretation of the protagonist Gregor Samsa.

Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl

Written in 1960 – there are turns of phrase that are delightfully quaint to hear but this is still absolutely a timeless book. There is pitch black humour, a strange sense of menace to the stories, long shadows and unusual characters who find themselves in absolutely outrageous and unsettling situations. You will laugh, gasp and cough up your coffee while reading this.

Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson achieved great fame for her book Life After Life. This is one of her earlier and lesser known collections of short stories. I have to admit I never got into Life After Life, so I was a bit dubious about whether or not I would like this one. However, I was absolutely transfixed by this mesmerising, delightful, dark and bizarre selection of stories. The stories duck and weave in and out of time-shifts in Ancient Greece and modern day Scotland. This is sharp, witty and urbane writing with an ancient Greek twist, it’s really enjoyable.

Have you read any of these books, or have you read any other short story collections that you can recommend to me? write them below. I hope you enjoy these ones.

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

8 thoughts on “Seven larger than life short story collections that open up big worlds

  1. While I am a fan of novels, but I don’t often have the time to read them, which makes short stories appealing, fun and often quite entertaining. Many deliver a great one two punch, without the boring detail of novels.


    1. Yeah exactly, they have a lot of emotion packed into a small package 😁 Hope you can get hold of some of these Robert I think you will like them, if you do let me know what you think


  2. Thanks for the list. I’m always on the lookout for a good collection of short stories. Here’s one that changed the way I thought about the form: “Tenth of December: Stories”, by George Saunders.
    Your mention above of Haruki Murakami reminded me of an anthology he edited: “Birthday Stories”.


    1. I haven’t read George Saunders or Birthday stories by Murakami, although with your recommendation I’m going to seek both of them out, they sound great. Thanks for these recommendations 😊


  3. I could count on one hand the short story collections I’ve read in my life. I sometimes think it’s a good idea (I’ve got a few waiting) but always opt for a novel instead. You post reminds me to give them a go, I like the sound of most of them. Read the Chekhov collections as a teenager but don’t have much memory of the details. Have read a few Neil gaiman short stories recently but that’s about it.


  4. Sometimes I find it’s easier to get through one story than a whole book, but that’s just personal preference I guess. You can’t go wrong with these ones though, they are pretty good. Did you like Neil Gaiman’s short stories? I haven’t read these ones


  5. Kiss kiss and men without women.. I’ve added them to my reading list..I love your short review of them.. They make me wanna read the books.. Reviews rarely do make me read but yours did 🥰


    1. Oh thanks so much! I am so glad it makes you want to read them. You can’t go wrong with Kiss Kiss and Men Without Women, they are both really amazing and I’m sure you will enjoy them 😁


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