Although they are quick reads, short stories are just as immersive and entertaining as novels. If you are ready to be transported to another world and torn through the highs and lows of conflict and resolution in just a short amount of time, consider picking up a contemporary collection of short stories from this list.
- The Tenth of December by George Saunders
This collection of short stories is a trip through dystopian futures and shocking modern day situations. George Saunders’ stories are imaginative scenarios which answer bizarre questions: what would happen if you entered the home of a woman who keeps her son chained up outside like a dog? What would happen if we used prisoners as test subjects for pharmaceuticals? What would an average person do if they witnessed someone being kidnapped right next door? If you’re a fan of Saunders’ work, you should also check out the movie Spiderhead on Netflix, which was adapted from the short story in this collection, “Escape from Spiderhead.”
- Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
The stories in this collection oscillate between beauty and horror. Machado, in a genre that seems to hybridize comedy, sci-fi, reverie, abstract realism and terror, constructs narratives which weave through the lives of women who are subjected to violence. Machado explores the realms of weight-loss surgery, prom dresses, plagues, and trash TV shows. Machado’s characters are women who dare to take up space in worlds which threaten to reduce them. Her collection has been described as feminist and sexually explicit. If you enjoy this book by Carmen Maria Machado, you should check out her experimental memoir, In the Dream House.
- Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg.
This collection is from the writer of the animated TV-show drama BoJack Horseman. As if Bojack Horseman was not emotionally devastating enough, Someone Who Will Love You is a snowglobe of love in all its forms. Bob-Waksberg writes heartbreaking and sentimental stories that take place in subways, theme parks, and parallel universes. His stories beg the question, how many goats would you be willing to sacrifice for the woman you love?
- The Wilds by Julia Elliot
Julia Elliot’s work often takes place in a southern gothic dystopian near future. She brings science fiction to small towns and spas and nursing homes. Her short stories answer questions that ask, what if we could implement technological brain restorations for the middle aged? And could robots fall in love? Elliot’s writing is dark and lyrical and anything she writes is worth reading simply because of the beauty of her language. If you enjoy Elliot’s short stories, you should read her dystopian future, southern-gothic themed novel, The New and Improved Romie Futch.
- The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
In this beautiful work of sorrow and longing, Adichi writes haunting narratives about cultural conflict, the human experience, and how these themes string together the lives of all of us. Adichi’s work is a meditation on the function of identity, immigration, and borders within our current era of globalization. Adichi confronts the American dream from the perspective of a young girl who moves from Nigeria to the United States, only to find that the country is nothing like what she imagined it to be. If you are a fan of Adichi’s work, consider reading her novel about the Biafran War called Half of a Yellow Sun.
Contemporary short stories contain the thought-provoking, beautiful, and often devastating moments you need to bring some excitement to your life. If you want to consume some high quality literature in your free time, consider picking up one (or all) of these collections of short stories.
Author: Jacqui Donaldson is an American writer. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.