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:
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?