What Are Some of The Best Short Story Compilations That You Have Ever Read?
Posted on 3rd of April, 2019

Answers

To me the king (pun fully intended) of short stories will forever and always be Stephen King. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it when he knocks out a huge novel, but it is his short stories where I think he manages to do his best work. While I totally recommend that you read all of them, I will give you a list of my all-time favorites to get you started.

1. Night Shift (1978) Night Shift was his first short story compilation and what a great one it is too. Stop me if any of these titles sound familiar to you, "Children of the Corn," "Graveyard Shift," "The Lawnmower Man," "Sometimes They Come Back." The list just goes on and on, and these were all based on short stories that can be found in this book. Out of the twenty stories in this book, my favorite is "Gray Matter" which is about a man who drank some contaminated beer and begins to transform into a monster.

2. Skeleton Crew (1985) Skeleton Crew contains 19 more short stories from King along with two poems and a novella, The Mist, which has been turned into a movie as well as television series. There are plenty of other good short stories in this collection, but the one that haunted me the longest after reading it was "Survivor Type." It is about a surgeon who is marooned on a small island after a cruise ship accident. The story is written in the form of a diary, which the surgeon keeps using the lifeboat logbook he has with him, but it reveals how his sanity is slowly slipping away due to the hunger and isolation he is facing. He was also in the process of smuggling drugs when the ship went down and wastes no time using it, which causes further mental decay. I won't spoil anything about the lengths he goes to in order to try and survive, but even King himself admitted that he probably went too far with the story.

3. Four Past Midnight (1990) I don't know if this strictly would count as a short story collection as it features four long, novella style stories. Both "The Langoliers" and "Secret Window, Secret Garden" have been turned into films, but the book also features "The Sun Dog" and "The Library Policeman." My favorite one is The Sun Dog, which is about a Polaroid camera that only produces pictures of an evil looking black dog. Each picture features the dog getting closer and closer, so I am sure you can imagine what happens at the end.

4. Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993) This book features 24 more great short stories from the king of horror and once again produced a number of films, short films and television episodes. The best short story in this book in my opinion is "Home Delivery," which is a nice twist on the zombie horror genre.

5. Everything's Eventual (2002) This book contains "14 dark tales" and they are in King's own words a selection of "literary stories and all-out screamers." This collection will always hold a special place for me as one of the stories, The Little Sisters of Eluria" is actually what got me hooked on The Dark Tower series. Needless to say, plenty of these stories also became movies, such as 1408 and Riding The Bullet. My favorite story in this collection is "The Road Virus Heads North," which is about a creepy painting that a man buys at a yard sale while driving home. In addition to being ultra creepy, this painting also appears to have changed each time he looks at it, which unnerves him enough that he tries to abandon it at a rest stop. Too bad for him the painting has no intention of being left behind!

I hope that these collections are enough to get you started. King has written many others, but if I had to list them all it would probably be longer than a short story in itself!
Short stories is what has kept me reading despite having very little time these days. Since I've become a mother to two very active boys my days of binge reading entire books in one sitting are now sadly a thing of the past. I've been a huge reader since my school days, so it was kind of sad for me to neglect this hobby, but after my husband saw my plight he went and bought me a book that was filled with short stories. These gave me the reading fix that I needed, but I could also put down the book and handle whatever crisis that needed dealing with and come back without having to skip back to chapters just to remember what I was reading. I am now the proud owner of a kindle that is filled to the brim with short story compilations, so if you would like to read a few of my favorites here goes:

1. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd - Confession time, I'm a big nerd at heart and before my boys took over my life I could flaunt my pop culture references and meme knowledge with the best of them. I also loved young adult books when I had the time to read them, so Geektastic is a match made in literary heaven to me. It is a great collection of geeky stories that were written by a nice selection of hotshot young adult authors. I would say that even if you are not much of a geek, these stories are still charming enough to hold your attention. OK, I won't lie, the first couple of stories requires that you at least know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek, but on the whole this is such a good compilation. The drawings are delightful as well!

2. After. Once again, it might just be the young adult loving side of me that adores this book, but I think it is really good. If names like Garth Nix, Carry Ryan, Jane Yolen, Susan Beth Pfeeffer and Gregory Maguire mean nothing to you and you don't like post apocalyptic stories, then you will probably not miss anything by skipping this book. BUT, if you like the genre then do not miss your chance to read this book. Instead of focusing on the disasters, the short stories in this book deals with the lives of the teenagers affected by them. Some of the stories take place just after what catastrophe caused the end of the world while others are set far in the future. They all have one thing in common, they are really, really good.

3. Firebirds Rising. It pains me to say it, but even in the best short story collections you are going to find a few that you don't like. It is inevitable and just how these things go. To me it is like buying a big pack of assorted chocolates and then complaining that amongst all the delicious ones there are a few hard toffees. Anyway, back to the book. There are some really, really good science fiction and fantasy stories in this book and then there are also a few that are not so good. That's what’s cool about anthologies though, you can skip the ones you don’t like and get straight back to the good ones. I'm not going to try and describe all the stories in this book, but I will say that I liked the ones by Kelly Link, Ellen Kages and Kara Dalkey a lot.
We live in a golden age of short story compilations and it makes sense because of the way reading habits have changed. Think about it, if you see a wall of text on social media you just keep on scrolling, but will happily waste time reading all the comments on a short article because you find them interesting. To me short story compilations are like that. After reading so many books that end in cliffhangers and require me to read the next twenty volumes to get the full story I'm enjoying short stories that are short and to the point. I don't necessarily know if these are the best, but these two are the ones that I have read recently that gave me the most enjoyment.

1. My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. Yes, I'm a sucker for love stories and yes, I love the holidays, so I'm not going to apologize for loving this book. The editor for this book was Stephanie Perkins and I think she did a marvelous job with it. I loved nearly all of the stories in this book apart from, I think, one or two that just did not feel like they were the same quality as the rest. I'm not going to name any names because I know other people might like these authors, but the rest of the good stories more than made up for the couple of duds.

2. Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers - Edited by Judy Blume. If the name Judy Blume doesn't sound familiar you may still recognize her from her book, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. You might also know that she achieved infamy for including content in her books that was considered to be highly taboo. Although she hasn't written a short story for this book, it does include plenty of stories by other others who have faced some form of censorship in regards to their books. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories and, as an added extra, the authors actually include their thoughts on the censorship that they faced and how it impacted them after each story.

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