A list of short story books that will keep you entertained when you don’t have time to sit down with a long novel. This list contains some well known authors and many indie and self-published authors that you may have never heard of before. I promise there is a little something for everyone here!
List is presented in alphabetical order and will be updated as more books are found for review.
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20th Century Ghosts
Joe Hill is well known as the successor to the horror author throne. As the son of Stephen King he has proven to be a bestseller in his own right. This collection of shorts features spooky tales from the not too distant past. This collection includes The Cape which has also since been turned into a graphic novel as well as The Black Phone which has been adapted into a movie.
This short story book showcases Hill’s creativity as much as his prolific nature. His mind just does not stop producing high quality horror.
Koji Suzuki may be most famous as the author of Ring. The Ring remains one of the scariest horror movies of all time and the source material is certainly worth reading. Dark Water was also adapted into a movie but my impression based on trusted sources is that it may not be fully accurate to the story.
Dark Water is only the theme of the book. Each of these stories somehow deals with water. That may be drowning but there are so many other ways to make water scary. Suzuki finds ways to drip it through the cracks in each tale and make the reader afraid of the ocean or even their bath. The main star, however, is the characters and how they deal with the unusual circumstances they find themselves in. Dark Water is a real winner of short story books.
Entropy in Bloom
Robert Jeremy Johnson should be on your to read list. I found him through this collection and was blown away by his bold voice and gut punching mix of emotions and disgust. Entropy in Bloom has elements of horror but truly embraces shock value as a high art form. These stories will grab you and not let you look away no matter how badly you may want to.
The opening story will capture your attention with characters who take body modification to the most extreme limits not yet possible. You’ll know right away if you can stomach this short story book or not. I recommend sticking with it even if you think you can’t.
First Person Singular
Murakami is best known for his 1,000 page epics like 1Q84. Although those novels are intimidating to many readers he also has published a few short story collections for readers who are looking for less of a commitment.
This book contains all of the typical Murakami themes: magical realism, hero’s journeys, a little bit of autobiography, a love of older women, baseball, and classical music. I personally don’t care much for baseball but his writing style is always a gift. The beauty of short story books is that you can always skip one if it’s not for you!
Joe Hill actually does deserve more than one slot on this list. I think his best work is his short fiction and Full Throttle is even better than the aforementioned 20th Century Ghosts. This book contains even more stories that have been adapted into other mediums because producers just can’t help themselves. In the Tall Grass was picked up by Netflix and I wouldn’t be suprised if others followed.
That story in particular really sent the chills up and down my spine. It’s rare that horror can actually scare the audience that loves it so much. We’re all pretty jaded at this point but Hill has earned his reputation and will remind you why you love the genre.
A Series of Unrelated Events
This self published book is highly creative and takes a lot of risks. It states upfront that these tales are designed to disturb readers and will not be your happily ever after fairy tales. Author Dunn delivers on that promise and has a couple of stand out stories that are unlike anything you’ve read in the past.
It’s important to give indie books a shot. These authors are not beholden to corporate publishers and are able to write about anything and everything without censorship. That’s where the real gems are hidden.
She Shits Bricks
Author Tonauac is known for his absurdist styles and strange illustrations. She Shits Bricks is a sort of science fiction political commentary that contains roughly connected short stories from a not too distant future. His biting satire may tickle your funny bone but it is equally likely to piss you right off. He does not take a black and white approach to politics and there’s a little bit of something to disagree with for everyone.
Tonauac does not care if you agree with him. His tone is the epitome of self assured zero fucks given. Give this short story book a shot if you want something completely different, challenging, and maybe even laugh out loud funny.
Fans of The Twilight Zone are sure to feel at home with Strange Stories. Part sci fi and all weird and twisty. Everyone who reads this book seems to have a different favorite. My personal recommendation is the story titled “Rachel Rachel Rachel.” It’s a sort of groundhog’s day style story that explores a relationship through the different phases of adulthood.
Some of these stories are quite thought provoking, others are extremely disturbing, at least one is both. Dive into this book and find something unpredictable.
Tales From an Odd Mind
This short story book also features some poetry. The cryptically named author divides the book by style first starting with an inventive section of short stories that are actually first chapters to larger books that have not and may never actually be written. Each of these chapters really leaves you wanting more. It’s a fascinating exercise in dissatisfaction.
Most of the stories fall into the mystery or sci fi category but many of them cross genres or are undefinable. They are all creative and there isn’t a truly bad one in the bunch. Some may resonate more than others but you won’t want to skip the ones that don’t.
This short story book contains longer form stories that may be closer to novellas than shorts. The length allows author Acker to really dig into the characters and make the reader really feel for them. My favorite story of the 4 is the first one titled “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t” in which a family is left to grieve the loss of their son. The emotions brought on by this story hit deep and made me want to read so much more from this self published author.
Short story books can contain any length of stories under novel length. Some feature 1 page vignettes and others, like Things Happen, have stories that take more than one sitting to complete. Both have their merits and are able to fill the gaps in between longer novels on your reading list.
Please share this list with any big time reader who’s short on time