Short stories can be ideal for summertime, when you’ve got just a half hour here to a couple hours there in between vacation outings and activities, or when you want a little more variety than a single novel or nonfiction book can provide. Here are some of the best, in various genres.
For more than sixty years, the imagination of Ray Bradbury has opened doors into remarkable places, ushering us across unexplored territories of the heart and mind while leading us inexorably toward a profound understanding of ourselves and the universe we inhabit. In this landmark volume, America’s preeminent storyteller offers us one hundred treasures from alifetime of words and ideas — tales that amaze, enthrall, and horrify; breathtaking journeys backward and forward in time; classic stories with the undiminished power to tantalize, mystify, elate, and move the reader to tears. Each small gem in the master’s collection remains as dazzling as when it first appeared in print.
There is magic in these pages: the wonders of interstellar flight, a conspiracy of insects, the early bloom of love in the warmth of August. Both the world of Ray Bradbury and its people are vivid and alive, as colorfully unique as a poker chip hand-painted by a brilliant artist or as warmly familiar as the well-used settings on a family’s dining room table. In a poor man’s desire for the stars, in the twisted night games of a hateful embalmer, in a magnificent fraud perpetrated to banish despair and repair a future, in a writer’s wonderful death is the glowing proof of the timeless artistry of one of America’s greatest living bards.
The one hundred stories in this volume were chosen by Bradbury himself, and span a career that blossomed in the pulp magazines of the early 1940s and continues to flourish in the new millennium. Here are representatives of the legendary author’s finest works of short fiction, including many that have not been republished for decades, all forever fresh and vital, evocative and immensely entertaining. This is Bradbury at his very best — golden visions of tomorrow, poetic memories of yesterday, dark nightmares and glorious dreams — a grand celebration of humankind, God’s intricate yet poignantly fallible machineries of joy.
The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O’Connor’s monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O’Connor put together in her short lifetime–Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find.
O’Connor published her first story, “The Geranium,” in 1946, while she was working on her master’s degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, “Judgement Day”–sent to her publisher shortly before her death—is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of “The Geranium.” Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O’Connor’s longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux.
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author of The Shipping News and Accordion Crimes comes one of the most celebrated short-story collections of our time.
Annie Proulx’s masterful language and fierce love of Wyoming are evident in these breathtaking tales of loneliness, quick violence, and the wrong kinds of love. Each of the stunning portraits in Close Range reveals characters fiercely wrought with precision and grace.
These are stories of desperation and unlikely elation, set in a landscape both stark and magnificent — by an author writing at the peak of her craft.
In this collection of stories (and a few poems), storytellers and the act of storytelling have prominent roles. The anthropomorphized months of the year swap tales at their annual board meeting: a half-eaten man recounts how he made the acquaintance of his beloved cannibal; and even Scheherazade, surely the greatest storyteller of all, receives a tribute with a poem. The stories are by turns horrifying and fanciful, often blending the two with a little sex, violence, and humor.
An introduction offers the genesis of each selection, itself a stealthy way of initiating teens into the art of writing short stories, and to some of the important authors of the genre. Gaiman cites his influences, and readers may readily see the inflection of H. P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury in many of the tales. Horror and fantasy are forms of literature wrought with clichés, but Gaiman usually comes up with an interesting new angle.
Contained within are nine stories featuring bizarre beasties, mythological mutants, and overall “irregular creatures” – including flying cats, mermaids, Bigfoot, giant chickens, and mystic hobo hermaphrodites. Features 45,000 words of horror, fantasy, science-fiction and humor. The collection features the following nine tales:
DOG-MAN AND CAT-BIRD (A FLYING CAT STORY) – Joe’s got job woes and family problems, and it’s made all the more complicated by a cat who dies on his porch one night – or, so Joe believes. The cat is not only dead, but it appears to be some kind of improbable mutant: a cat with wings. The cat initially complicates Joe’s life as he hides it from his family, but he soon learns that more may be at stake than he realized. Little does he know, a battle for good and evil, between Heaven and Hell, is about to be fought in his garage.
A RADIOACTIVE MONKEY – That bartender you really like, well, she just whipped up a potent cocktail called a “Radioactive Monkey.” Would you drink it? (Hint: you shouldn’t.) Jonny Stoops, however, decided to take the plunge. (Hint: it doesn’t end well.)
PRODUCT PLACEMENT – Imagine one morning you wake up and you discover that the world is now home to products you don’t recognize but everyone else does. Flix candy bars? Jack Kenny whiskey? Burrito Hut? Donnie’s never heard of these brands, but those around him say such products are beloved and have been here for years. Donnie’s quest to discover the truth – and prove he’s not nuts – reveals a marketing and advertising scheme not of this dimension.
THIS GUY – “Every day, I catch him before he makes it to the China Skillet… I drag him into the alleyway, and I beat him with a tire iron. Sometimes, I stab him with a kitchen knife. I do this every day. I think it’s starting to affect me.” Every day is the same for the protagonist: get up, drive to work, and on the way there, beat some zombie to death. Next day? Zombie’s back. It would take a toll on one’s sanity, wouldn’t it?
MISTER MHU’S PUSSY SHOW – Nolan seeks untold pleasures, but never finds them: not until now, when he becomes swiftly obsessed with Tasanee, a Bangkok dancer at a hole-in-the-wall club. He is driven to pursue her at any cost, but what he finds at the end of his obsession is not pleasure, but pain.
LETHE AND MNEMOSYNE – Old age wreaks havoc on the body and mind, and in this flash fiction that has been never more apparent than when a senile old man’s children exhort him to remember the means by which he controlled the giant chicken wreaking havoc back home.
THE AUCTION – Benjamin’s father shows his son the secret behind his job: he is a buyer and seller of very forbidden things, magical things, objects of a fantastical purview. He takes his son to “The Auction,” a place where anything can be bought and sold: mythological creatures, insane machines, haunted and horrific artifacts. Benjamin is lead astray by a religious man with pious words but sinister intent. When Benjamin encounters a sickly mermaid on the auction block, can the boy step in and avert disaster?
BEWARE OF OWNER – A short story of how father teaches son: Dad teaches the boy that you don’t need to beware of a dog, but you damn well better beware of owner.
DO-OVERS AND TAKE-BACKS – Taye and Beau are two characters from two different worlds: the first a boy in the city projects, the second a rich man with a hollow life and an estranged family. But a bizarre figure steps in as catalyst – an inhuman “Rag-Man” appears and draws connections between the two characters that could not have existed before.
Robert A. Heinlein’s brilliance and diverse talents are on display in this collection of five short stories that range from mind-twisters (“All You Zombies—”), paranoia and surprise (“They—”), hilarious engineering conundrums (“—And They Built a Crooked House”), fantasies (“Our Fair City), and the beautiful, heart-breaking “The Man Who Travelled in Elephants”.
“Not only America’s premier writer of speculative fiction, but the greatest writer of such fiction in the world … [Heinlein] remains today as a sort of trademark for all that is finest in American imaginative fiction.”
- Stephen King
“There is no other writer whose work has exhilarated me as often and to such an extent as Heinlein.”
- Dean Koontz
“One of the most influential writers in American Literature.”
- The New York Times Book Review
“Heinlein wears imagination as though it were his private suit of clothes.”
- The New York Times
“Heinlein… has the ability to see technologies just around the bend. That, combined with his outstanding skill as a writer and engineer-inventor, produces books that are often years ahead of their time.”
- The Philadelphia Inquirer
“One of the grand masters of science fiction.”
- The Wall Street Journal
The acclaimed #1 New York Times and undisputed King of Horror Stephen King delivers five unforgettable short works, two of which will soon be adapted for film, and which Booklist called “raw looks at the limits of greed, revenge, and self-deception.” Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring hit films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.
“I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger…” writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up “1922,” the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife Arlette proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness.
In “Big Driver,” soon to be a major Lifetime movie starring Maria Bello, a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger is along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face to face with another stranger: the one inside herself.
“Fair Extension,” the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the nastiest and certainly the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Harry Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment.
In the last of the tales, soon to be a major motion picture, Darcy Anderson’s husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips and his unsuspecting wife looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends “A Good Marriage.”
In the her tenth collection (the title story of which is the basis for the new film Hateship Loveship), Alice Munro achieves new heights, creating narratives that loop and swerve like memory, and conjuring up characters as thorny and contradictory as people we know ourselves.
A tough-minded housekeeper jettisons the habits of a lifetime because of a teenager’s practical joke. A college student visiting her brassy, unconventional aunt stumbles on an astonishing secret and its meaning in her own life. An incorrigible philanderer responds with unexpected grace to his wife’s nursing-home romance.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is Munro at her best, tirelessly observant, serenely free of illusion, deeply and gloriously humane.
When The Stories of John Cheever was originally published, it became an immediate national bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize. In the years since, it has become a classic. Vintage Books is proud to reintroduce this magnificent collection.
Here are sixty-one stories that chronicle the lives of what has been called “the greatest generation.” From the early wonder and disillusionment of city life in “The Enormous Radio” to the surprising discoveries and common mysteries of suburbia in “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill” and “The Swimmer,” Cheever tells us everything we need to know about “the pain and sweetness of life.”
The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind.
The Best American Short Stories 2012 includes:
Nathan Englander, Mary Gaitskill, Roxane Gay, Jennifer Haigh, Steven Millhauser, Alice Munro, Lawrence Osborne, Eric Puchner, George Saunders, Kate Walbert, and others.