10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

July 17, 2018 Book Lists 17

Short Story Collections and Novellas for first time short fiction readers


Prior to starting this blog, I never read short fiction…in any form. Actually, I preferred doorstop novels (I hadn’t yet wrapped my head around the concept of opportunity cost…the fact that each doorstop novel I read meant losing out on multiple other books). But now, I appreciate a something short every now and then. A short story collection or a very short novel / novella can feel like a break or palate cleanser amid heavier reading.

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself being much more open to short story collections and even rated two collections 5 stars (unheard of for me a few years ago). And, I always get excited about a super short novel! So, I’m excited to share short story collections and novellas for first time short fiction readers…the ones that originally attracted me to the genre!

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Linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers

Conventional Short Story Collections

Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler (my review)
Set in rural Wisconsin, many of these stories focus on the bond of old friends. Beneath the Bonfire is the first short story collection I’ve ever liked, let alone loved. It’s reminiscent of Shotgun Lovesongs, Butler’s debut novel (and one of my favorite books of 2014).

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Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo (my review)
On the surface, these stories are about mundane daily life…a harmless middle school prank, a child’s toy, spending time with your mother after some bad news…but, they have a darkness simmering just underneath. This combination makes them incredibly relatable, yet still eye-opening and unique.

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You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld (my review)
The stories in You Think It, I’ll Say It are mostly about otherwise normal relationships that have a hidden element of unconventionality or an awkward incident. They’re normal situations that end up taking unexpected turns…they’re relatable, yet surprising. If you’ve been hesitant to try short stories, You Think It, I’ll Say It is a perfect first collection!

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Interconnected / Linked Short Story Collections

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
This subtle book grew on me the farther I read and I loved the theme of small-town life with threads of darkness running just beneath the surface. Though it’s technically short stories, it feels like a novel told from different characters’ perspectives and would be a perfect choice for readers that are new to short stories.

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The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (my review)
Like Anything is Possible, this one’s linked nature makes it feel more like a novel told from different perspectives and time periods. The way Marra used characters and events to link each story perfectly rode the line of being brilliantly intricate, yet not too confusing to follow.

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Short Novels / Novellas

I did a little research on what exactly a novella is and came up with so many different answers that I ended up making my own rule of thumb: a novel that’s under 200 pages long is a novella in my book!

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (my review)
Though this story is about a sad and serious topic, it has a lightness to it and is amusing at times. The story is told through the main character’s journal entries that read like little vignettes, a format that worked for me in this case because I absolutely adored her endearing, witty, real, and relatable voice.

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Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (my review)
It’s a quiet, gorgeously written story about the evolution of a woman (Jane) from the Mothering Sunday tryst with her illicit lover to late in her life. The story is unique, yet not weird and I could say the same about Swift’s writing style.

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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (my review)
I expected a story focusing on Lucy’s relationship with her mother, and it certainly covers this territory, but it felt much more about Lucy’s own life: her childhood, what it was like to grow up poor and never quite fit in, and her adult life.

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (my review)
Our Souls at Night is a sweet, calm, and uncomplicated novel about two older people (Louis and Addie) who stopped caring what everyone else thought and did what they needed to do to be happy.

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The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (my review)
Helen Phillips’ debut novel is a tiny ball of weirdness…reminiscent of a demented “Office Space”…that had me on the edge of my seat.

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I know many people have a hard time with short fiction. How do you feel about it?

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17 Responses to “10 Short Story Collections and Novellas for First Time Short Fiction Readers”

  1. Ann Marie

    I’ve still not read The Czar of Love and Techno though it’s been in my TBR forever. I’m not much of a short fiction reader. I should be more open to it! I did enjoy Fredrik Backman’s And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

  2. RK

    I read The Beautiful Bureaucrat a while ago based on your recommendation and loved it! I really enjoyed Goodbye, Vitamin as well.

  3. Torrie

    It seems like collections of stories and essays is becoming an increasingly popular genre (or maybe I’ve just started noticing it more!). I’ve read both of the Strout ones on here, but the short story collection that’s stayed with me most was when I actually read several years ago called How to Breathe Underwater. I don’t remember ALL the stories from it, but a few were so powerful and memorable that I STILL have details from them in my head, even now (probably 5 or 6 years later). Good short fiction is like that!

    Can’t wait to look up some of the other titles on this list.

    • Dotty

      I read that Julie Orringer wrote How to Breathe Underwater. I read her novel, The Invisible Bridge. It was wonderful. Now, I have something else to read by Ms. Orringer! It has been quite a while since both books were published, and I keep checking to see if she is coming out with a new book. She is an excellent writer.

  4. Naomi

    I love novellas, and I like reading short stories when life is busy and I don’t know how much reading time I’ve got. Interconnected short stories are my favourite, but I consider them almost as much of a page-turner as a novel.
    From your list I’ve read Goodbye Vitamin and Our Souls at Night – loved them both!
    Recently, I’ve been making my way through Alistair MacLeod’s short stories. And a novella I’d recommend to anyone is Malagash by Joey Comeau.

    • Sarah Dickinson

      I agree! Great choice for when you don’t have tons of reading time!

  5. LuAnn Braley

    I don’t think I’ve searched out short story collections since my school days, but have been getting the urge recently, and of course, have no clue as to where to start! Thanks for this concise and informative list! I enjoyed your mini-reviews as well. Pinned to my “Book Lists” board and shared via Tailwind.

  6. CurlyGeek

    I loved Anything is Possible so now I need to look up Love and Techno! I also loved Our Souls at Night, and Hello Vitamin and The Beautiful Bureaucrat were also great reads. A few short story collections I included were Interpreter of Maladies, The Things They Carried, and The Martian Chronicles.

  7. gmail login

    I read The Beautiful Bureaucrat a while ago based on your recommendation and loved it! I really enjoyed Goodbye, Vitamin as well.

  8. Madeline

    I liked Beneath the Bonfire but it was no where as good as Shotgun Lovesongs. (Tough though because that was such a great book.)

    Years ago Marly Swick (who seems to have disappeared) wrote two fabulous short story collections: The Summer Before the Summer of Love, and Monogamy. 20 years later I still have them on my shelf.

    Short stories aren’t generally my genre so I approach them with care!

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