The Short Story Box: A Short Story A Day, Randomized

When I was in my early twenties, I read a lot of short stories, but then somewhere between then and now, I fell out of the habit.

Last year, I picked up Neil Gaiman’s short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors, and remembered how much pleasure a well-crafted short story can bring to me as a reader. I decided back then that I wanted to read more short stories (yes, it was about a year ago – I procrastinate quite well).

Fast forward to now. Since that time last year, I have, rather unconsciously, been collecting short story collections and anthologies. Last week, I took a look around at my bookshelves, both physical and digital, and realized I’d amassed quite the collection.

I also realized something else. I don’t reach for a book of short stories the way I reach for a novel.  With a novel, I get these squiggly bookish feelings of anticipation and when these come, I naturally reach for whichever novel it is, and start reading.

This doesn’t happen with short stories. Have you noticed how short story collections are often great big thick books? I find they make me feel a little wary.

But I still have this desire to start reading more short stories.

So I decided, if the idea of a big collection of short stories is off-putting, why not have some fun with things instead?

Fun, as in surprising myself with a different short story every day!

Here is my Short Story box:

short story box

I made up a list in my Bullet Journal, giving each short story collection or anthology a letter. Then I cut up a bunch of paper from the paper recycling box. I began going through each of the books, jotting down the title of the short story (and the page number, for print books) on a small slip of paper, which I then tossed into my Short Story box.

My plan is to pick a short story from the box every day. No more resistance to those thick short story anthologies. No more trying to decide what genre I want to read. It will always be a surprise!

If this works out, I’ll simply keep adding more books to my collection, and more short story titles to my Short Story box. If this doesn’t work out, well, I’ve been having a great time writing down titles, and marvelling at how imaginative some of them are are.

Here are the short story collections/anthologies I’ve gone through so far (I have many more, plus ones I’ve saved to Pocket from various places like the New Yorker magazine):

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)

he Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: 20th Annual Collection

M is for Magic (Neil Gaiman)

Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries, vol. 9

The O’Henry Prize Stories, 2013

Best American Mystery Stories, 2011

Come Along with Me (Shirley Jackson)

Best Horror of the Year, vol 6

Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24

Others still to be added include short story collections from Flannery O’Connor and Ray Bradbury, as well as a lot more anthologies in the mystery, horror, thriller, science fiction and fantasy genres. I’m going for an eclectic mix, and will be keeping my eye out for new anthologies to add to my collection.

It feels like a lot of fun to me, and if I can stick with a short story a day, by this time next year I will have read 365 short stories! I like the sound of that.

Do you like to read short stories? If yes, do you have a collection/anthology that you would highly recommend? A favourite short story author?

13 thoughts on “The Short Story Box: A Short Story A Day, Randomized

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking, Kathy. A few weeks ago I read a Stephen King short story posted at New Yorker, and it was so good, and I have all these short story collections and anthologies lying around, it just seemed I should get cracking on reading more short stories. Keeping my fingers crossed that this will work for me!

      Reply
  1. Vasilly

    A short story a day definitely sounds doable! My short story collections have been lingering on my shelves for years now. Happy reading.

    Reply
    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Same here! I have some old anthologies which I did read back when I was reading more short stories – The Dark Descent is one – and there are ones that I still remember to this day, because they were so powerful.

      Reply
  2. Random Michelle

    I love and adore short stories! They’re satisfying when I don’t have the time to start a huge novel that I won’t want to put down. I can read a short story when I have a short break, and won’t feel deprived when I have to get back to real life.

    Some of my favorite short story authors are Charles de Lint, who writes marvelous female characters. He covers very dark subjects sometimes, yet I (almost) always feel uplifted by his stories. His Newford collections are my favorites, but I love anything he writes, really.

    Nina Kiriki Hoffman also is very good at writing short stories, although I like some of her tales better than others.

    Any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is almost certain to be one where I’ll love the majority of the stories. (I don’t pick up an anthology assuming I’ll love every story, but their anthologies come very close.) I especially love their young adult collections. (Charles de Lint makes several appearances in those, which is how I first discovered him.)

    For authors who usually write longer books, Carrie Vaughn, Ilona Andrews, and Patricia Briggs write consistently good short stories.

    Ian Rankin’s collection “A Good Hanging” is a good introduction to his Inspector Rebus. And of course my favorite authors of short mystery stories are Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. :)

    Reply
    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Thank you!! These are great recommendations. I was at the Book Outlet site (my anthology collection has expanded in large part because of that site) and I saw one of Charles De Lint’s Newford short story collections. I’ll have to add this to my next order with them. And the rest of your recommendations look good, too. I have a few anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow, and will definitely add more. I haven’t added any of the Christie short stories because I have them all in audio and have reread them a lot, but I’d forgotten about Sherlock Holmes! I have a collection of all the Sherlock stories, so they will definitely be going in the Short Story Box.

      Reply
  3. Charlie

    This is an excellent idea! And what a good point about appreciating the titles. Where it’s easy to read several stories in one sitting, it’s easy to not give them much thought.

    I like short stories but I didn’t used to. Nothing against them, I just preferred novels, but since blogging I’ve seen the value in them.

    Reply
  4. james b chester

    I’m doing something very simiar for the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge. Assign one story to each card in a deck of cards, draw cards from a shuffled deck and read the stories for each.

    I’m having so much fun with it that I plan on doing a second deck later this fall.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Deal Me In – Week 32 Wrap Up | Bibliophilopolis

  6. Jay

    Hello! Wow, you have a lot of great anthologies and collections there! I particularly enjoyed Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (the stories “The Ice Man,” “Chance Traveler,” and “New York Mining Disaster” are al among my all-time favorites.

    I recently discovered the corner of my local library that contains many years worth of the O. Henry prize winners collections.

    I’d recommend the anthology “The Weird” edited by Jeff VanderMeer. I’ve read many of them for my own short story challenge. I also like the “Best American Short Stories of ” volumes, which always introduce me to great,new to me authors.

    I love the picture of your short story box too. :-) if you ever decide to throttle back on your one per day pace, you’d be welcome to join our “Deal Me In” short story challenge, which I’ll be hosting again next year.

    Jay

    Reply
  7. Susan

    I love this idea, Belle. I have so many short story collections and anthologies now. I am forever picking one up, reading a story or two in it, then putting it back down to something else. I can definitely do something like this! I love it, and the short stories are random, and eventually you get to read more of the short stories you have!! Thanks so much for sharing this! When I decide how I will do mine, I will link my post back here :-)

    Reply

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