The best short story collections

From the gothic horror of Edgar Allan Poe to the literary brilliance of Dima Alzayat, here is our edit of the best short story collections.

20/07/2021
4 minutes to read

There are so many reasons to love short stories; not least their ability to immerse us in new worlds in the time it takes to commute to work, or the common themes that weave through anthologies to create a thought-provoking whole. Here, we’ve collated our edit of the best short story collections. From spine-chilling tales and funny short stories to literary masterpieces, these are simply not to be missed.

Objects of Desire

by Clare Sestanovich

Book cover for 9781529053555

In these eleven short stories, thrilling desire and melancholic yearning animate women’s lives – from the brink of adulthood, to the labyrinthine path between twenty and thirty, to middle age, when certain possibilities quietly elapse. With powerful observation and mordant humour, Clare Sestanovich opens up a fictional world where intimate and uncomfortable truths lie hidden in plain sight.

Objects of Desire is a book pulsing with subtle drama, rich with unforgettable scenes and alive with moments of recognition, each more startling than the last – a spellbinding, brilliant debut.

The Office of Historical Corrections

by Danielle Evans

Book cover for 9781529059441

Described by Roxane Gay as the 'finest short story writer working today,' Danielle Evans packs a powerful punch with each of the stories included in this remarkable collection. Across six short stories, as well as an eye-opening titular novella, she magnifies pivotal moments in her character's lives or relationships that allow for a wider blistering exploration of race, culture and history. 

You Will Never Be Forgotten

by Mary South

Book cover for 9781529041460

Mary South's bitingly funny debut collection explores how technology can both ruin relationships and provide new opportunities for genuine connection. The ten stories contained in this book are darkly absurdist and saveagely critical of our current cultural climates, while at the same time finding hope in moments of tenderness and fleeting interactions. Mary South is a perceptive, distinctive new voice in fiction. 

Stories of Your Life and Others

by Ted Chiang

Book cover for 9781529039436

In this masterful collection, Ted Chiang deftly blends human emotion and scientific rationalism in eight remarkably diverse stories. 'Story of Your Life' was adapted into the blockbuster Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, and each of the seven other stories included in this book are just as gripping. Chiang spent years working on these science-fiction short stories creating epic worlds that are beyond the imagination.

Alligator and Other Stories

by Dima Alzayat

Book cover for 9781529029895

Alligator and Other Stories explores the many ways of feeling displaced: as a Syrian, as an Arab, as an immigrant, as a woman. Each of these rich, relatable stories highlights the moment when unusual circumstances mark us as ‘other’ – different from our neighbours. Each of these stories is startling and real, delivering an emotional punch which lingers long after reading.

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth

by Daniel Mason

Book cover for 9781529038491

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth is a funny, irreverent and moving collection of short stories from the award-winning author Daniel Mason. On a fated flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever, a telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the depth of the Amazon, and a bare-knuckle fighter prepres to face his most fearsome opponent. In these interlacing tales, men and women face the mysteries and magic of the world.

Exhalation

by Ted Chiang

Book cover for 9781529014488

This groundbreaking collection by Ted Chiang, acclaimed author of Stories of Your Life and Others, contains nine startlingly original, provocative and moving short stories. Wrestling with the oldest questions on earth – What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of the universe? – this is truly thoughtful and complex science fiction.

Salt Slow

by Julia Armfield

Book cover for 9781529012569

This dazzling collection of short stories about women and their experiences in society is sure to shock and delight. Characters experience isolation, obsession and love in uncanny worlds where women become insects, men turn to stone and a city becomes insomniac. Blending the mythic and the gothic, this is an extraordinary collection. 

Sweet Home

by Wendy Erskine

Book cover for 9781529017069

This highly anticipated collection of short stories is the first from the talented Wendy Erskine. Set in her native Northern Ireland, this collection features eleven short stories about the struggles of everyday people to lead ordered, simple lives in a world where tragedy can be just around the corner.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

by Helen Oyeyemi

Book cover for 9781447299394

The stories collected in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours are linked by more than the exquisitely winding prose of their creator: Helen Oyeyemi's ensemble cast of characters slip from the pages of their own stories only to surface in another.

''Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea' invites us into a 'house of locks' where doors can be closed only with a key.

'Boudicca doesn’t care how big or pretty her fellow fish are; if they come to her manor she will obliterate them.'

Civilwarland in Bad Decline

by George Saunders

Book cover for Civilwarland in Bad Decline

Civilwarland is the first collection of short stories from the 2017 Man Booker Prize winner, George Saunders. In these stories, he takes a bleak but comic look at America in the not-so-distant future. Saunders is regarded as a master of the short story, making this collection simply unmissable.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

by Edgar Allan Poe

Book cover for 9781509826698

A master of the gothic and macabre; mysterious illnesses, insanity, murder and the supernatural abound in Poe’s short stories. This collection brings together some of his most famous tales, from The Tell-Tale Heart to The Fall of the House of Usher, with lesser-known gems.

Swimmer Among the Stars

by Kanishk Tharoor

Book cover for 9781509822201

Furiously inventive, beautifully crafted short stories from a strikingly original voice. The stories in this collection reveal an extraordinary young storyteller, whose tales of lonely elephants, fabled cooks and doomed villages emerge from a tradition that includes Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges and Angela Carter.

The story from which the collection takes its name takes the form of an interview with the last speaker of a language.

'With nobody to speak her language to, she began talking with objects, the pots and pans, a creaking door, the sharp corner of a table.’


A Manual for Cleaning Women

by Lucia Berlin

Book cover for 9781447294894

It is only after her death that the incredible works of Lucia Berlin are truly getting the attention they deserve. In this collection of 43 short stories, she gives an intimate insight into her chaotic yet beautiful life. This collection is introduced by Lydia Davis.

The Bloody Chamber

by Angela Carter

Book cover for The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter is perhaps the Queen of Magic Realism. In this astounding collection, she takes classic fairy-tales we all know and love - Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast - and turns them upside down, creating dark, sensual stories that you’ll need to be brave to read at bedtime.

How to Love a Jamaican

by Alexia Arthurs

Book cover for 9781509883592

In her debut collection, Alexia Arthurs’ extraordinary short stories explore the lives and experiences of Jamaican immigrants and the families they leave behind. Her moving stories, including ‘Light Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands’, ‘Mermaid River’ and ‘Bad Behaviour’, are sure to leave a lasting impact.

The Not-Dead and The Saved and Other Stories

by Kate Clanchy

Book cover for 9780330535267

Kate Clanchy, past winner of the BBC National Short Story Award, lays bare raw emotion in this moving collection of short stories about love and loss. Just as powerful as her poetry, this collection highlights Clanchy’s enormous talent.

Beneath the Bonfire

by Nickolas Butler

Book cover for 9781447238232

In these ten stories, Nickolas Butler demonstrates his talent for portraying a place and its people with unparalleled tenderness, evoking an American landscape that will be instantly recognizable to readers enchanted by his debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs.

In 'Rainwater' a grandfather raises his grandson after his mother disappears without a trace.

'He drank the remainder of the rainwater and began rocking them with more vigor. He hugged the child fiercely, felt his own lips meeting the top of the boy’s head.'

Men Without Women

by Haruki Murakami

Book cover for Men Without Women

In the seven short stories that make up this collection, Haruki Murakami depicts the lives of men who for various reasons have found themselves alone. Fans of his work will recognise his wry humour on every page and for new readers, this collection serves as the perfect introduction to one of today’s most renowned writers.

The Fat Artist and Other Stories

by Benjamin Hale

Book cover for 9781509830312

Benjamin Hale's fiction abounds with a love of language and a wild joy for storytelling. Occasionally nightmarish and often absurd, the seven stories in this collection introduce us to a company of indelible characters reeling with love, jealousy, megalomania, and despair.

'Don't Worry Baby' tells the story of 1960s political radicals on the run from the law and a flight that descends into the worst of trips, in both senses of the word.

‘When they became outlaws they gave themselves new names.’

The Happy Prince & Other Stories

by Oscar Wilde

Book cover for 9781509827824

Part of the beautiful Macmillan Collector’s Library series, The Happy Prince & Other Stories is a charming collection of short stories written by Oscar Wilde between 1887 and 1891. The stories are fantastical, magical and sparkling with Wilde’s unique wit and personality. Beautifully illustrated, this collection is a great gift for friends and family.

Kiss Kiss

by Roald Dahl

Book cover for Kiss Kiss

Roald Dahl’s stories for children are delightful and fantastical, with just the right pinch of deviousness thrown in. But in this collection of short stories for adults, things get a lot darker. . . Introduce yourself to a new side of one of Britain’s most beloved authors.

Legoland

by Gerard Woodward

Book cover for 9781447288695

Many of Legoland's fifteen stories begin with Gerard Woodward's sharp and unflinching eye alighting upon an apparently everyday detail or situation, but then a sudden twist takes them to an unsettling place where life's normal rules no longer apply.

In Woodward's brilliant story 'The Family Whistle', shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, a woman's husband returns home from war, only to discover his wife thinks he's been back for years because another man has already claimed his place.

‘What’s wrong, Florian? Don’t you recognize your own husband?’