Not a fan of the short story? Instead of shunning it, try reading these linked story collections. Otherwise known as novels-in-stories, they unite independent story plots through interconnected narratives, transcendent themes and shared geographies. These books possess the heft and depth of a novel while offering a satisfying conclusion at the end of each story.
Here’s a must-read list to get you started:
1. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Newspaper reporter George Willard is the eyes and ears of a small mid-western town where residents are often their own worst enemies. Originally published in 1919, Winesburg, Ohio is a classic of the genre.
2. Later, at the Bar by Rebecca Barry
Lucy’s Tavern in upstate New York serves as a watering hole and confessional in 10 incomparable stories. Tavern-owner Lucy Beech dispenses advice, pours drinks and attempts to cure her customers’ loneliness.
3. Troublemaker and Other Saints by Christina Chiu
In 11 raw, original stories exploring ruination and redemption, this collection centers around three Chinese families as they face premature death, suicide and judgment from an interracial marriage.
4. God Is Dead by Ron Currie, Jr.
What if God is a Dinka woman who perishes in war-torn Sudan, leaving all of humanity to exist without her? In this absorbing collection, God’s demise sets off a chain of catastrophic events all over the world.
5. The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day
From 1884 to 1939, three generations of circus performers alter the fabric of small-town Lima, Indiana. This is a must read for fans of Sara Gruen’s novel Water for Elephants.
6. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
The mishaps of Yunior, a serial boyfriend seeking a lasting relationship, abound in these nine fresh, humorous stories from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
7. What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang
At the edge of Washington D.C.’s Chinatown, the tenements of Nanking Mansion struggle with poverty, grief, artistic pursuits and love in this nuanced collection.
8. Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
The unnamed character at the heart of this book seeks salvation in substance abuse and selfishness. Despite his flaws, you can’t help but root for him as he hovers at rock-bottom.
9. Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones
Fourteen arresting stories comprise this collection, which takes place during the 1960s and ‘70s in the African-American neighborhoods of Washington D.C. Here, faith and the enduring spirit trump poverty and despair.
10. Dubliners by James Joyce
If you had trouble getting through Ulysses or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, try Joyce in smaller doses with this 15-story collection exploring Irish middle-class life.
11. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
Tragedy ensues when a group of Moroccans attempts to illegally immigrate to Spain on an inflatable raft. This riveting collection explores the circumstances preceding their failed voyage across the Strait of Gibraltar.
12. Normal People Don’t Live Like This by Dylan Landis
Teenaged Leah Levinson confronts bullies, betrayal and the blossoming of her own sexuality in these 10 startling tales.
13. Bodies in Motion by Mary Anne Mohanraj
In this ambitious 20-story collection spanning 50 years, Mohanraj brilliantly chronicles the scholarly, spiritual and sensual pursuits of the Sri Lankan diaspora through the lives of two families.
14. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
In this eight-story finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction, Mueenuddin explores the socio-economic strata of contemporary Pakistani society, from servants to socialites, farmers to politicians.
15. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009, Olive Kitteridge features a jaded teacher, wife and mother, who, despite her hardened exterior, exudes humor and hope.