summer reading II: story collections

IMG_0951With the intention of reading a story a night, a reader asked yesterday about story collections. I love that idea. No brand new collections to suggest, I’m afraid, but here are three great oldies:

Women & Fiction, edited by Susan Cahill, published in 1975. “Short stories by and about women.” Doris Lessing’s “To Room 19,” Jean Stubbs’ “Cousin Lewis,” Virginia Woolf’s “The New Dress,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation,” Carson McCuller’s “Wunderkind”….Try to avoid the very pink 2002 Signet Classic edition.

You’ve Got to Read This, edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, published in 1994. “Contemporary American writers introduce stories that held them in awe.” There’s a great story in here by Paul Bowles, “A Distant Episode,” chosen by John L’Heureux. Also, Annie Dillard chooses a James Agee story. Bobbie Ann Mason chooses a Tim O’Brien story. Lorrie Moore chooses a John Updike story….This is a good, solid book.

The Story Behind the Story, edited by Peter Turchi and Andrea Barrett, published in 2004. “26 stories by contemporary writers and how they work.” I was fascinated by Stephen Dobyns’ explanation of how he wrote his story, “Part of the Story.” He was inspired by Raymond Carver’s method. “…the first sentence had come into his mind and he just followed it.” Also, stories by Margot Livesey, Charles Baxter, Andrea Barrett, Robert Boswell….

Others worth mentioning:

  1. Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike
  2. Best American Short Stories 2008, edited by Salman Rushdie

Then there’s The New Yorker and One Story.

As far as the initial question, I assumed anthologies, but here are two new single author collections:IMG_0978

  1. My Father’s Tears by John Updike, out today and reviewed in WSJ book review mentioned yesterday.
  2. Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson, out June 9th. Loved her collection, Who Do You Love. Also reviewed in WSJ book review mentioned yesterday.

Of the single author collections I’ve read in the last couple of years, I would recommend:

  1. Don’t Cry by Mary Gaitskill
  2. Last Night by James Salter
  3. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  4. Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti

So many good stories, apparently I could go on and on…

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2 thoughts on “summer reading II: story collections

  1. Oh yay. You just reminded me of some of my favorite anthologies. You’ve Got to Read This is wonderful (though kind of heavy for lugging to the beach), and I always love collections in which writers write about other writers. The Story Behind the Story—-isn’t that the one from Warren Wilson’s MFA program? If I remember that collection correctly, I was disappointed and thought perhaps it was just a bunch of stories that the faculty had published here because they didn’t want to send it out. 🙂

    In any case, thanks so much for reminding me about Best American. I just started the O Henry’s from last year, but I’ll have to pick up Best American for the beach.

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    • The Story Behind the Story is the Warren Wilson one. I think its strength lies in looking at each story with what the author writes about writing it. So for readers who are also writers, I think it’s a valuable read in terms of process.

      You know, have you read Ellen Gilchrist? I love all of her stories. Maybe pick up Nora Jane: A Life in Stories for the beach? I had already read each of the stories as they came out, but I loved reading them all in one place. And the paperback is the perfect size and weight for the beach.

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