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Best Short Story Collections

Updated on August 10, 2016

Here are some great short story collections from the finest short story writers ever. These collections are literary, entertaining, and complete mini-worlds of their own. They're also great value.

There's something here for all fans of reading and especially short story aficionados.

The Complete Saki

This volume has every Saki short story, and as a bonus, 3 short novels and 3 short plays (who knew?). All of the favorites are here, including: The Reticence of Lady Anne, Tobermory, The Hounds of Fate, The Open Window, Sredni Vashtar, and The Interlopers, along with 130 more.

If you like clever lines and twist endings, this is the collection for you. Saki stories have more witticisms and clever turns of phrase than those of anyone else. Not all of the stories have twist endings, but some of the ones that do are among the most famous ever.

Incidentally, if your main experience with Saki is The Interlopers, you’re missing out on most of his charm. While well known for its surprise ending, it’s uncharacteristically serious for Saki, even dull, outside of the last few sentences.

Experience everything Saki has to offer with this amazing, almost too good to be true collection.

On punishing children

"It was her habit, whenever one of the children fell from grace, to improvise something of a festival nature from which the offender would be rigorously debarred; if all the children sinned collectively they were suddenly informed of a circus in a neighboring town, a circus of unrivaled merit and uncounted elephants, to which, but for their depravity, they would have been taken that very day."

-Saki (The Lumber-Room)

100 Selected Stories | O. Henry

If you’ve read one, or only a few of O. Henry’s short stories, there’s lots more enjoyment to be had. This collection has most of O. Henry’s best known works, such as The Gift of the Magi, The Cop and the Anthem, A Retrieved Reformation, Conscience in Art, The Third Ingredient, The Last Leaf, The Duplicity of Hargraves, and The Furnished Room.

Most, if not all, the stories in this volume are set in New York, and demonstrate O. Henry’s wit, compassion, and knack for twist endings.

There are enough stories in this volume to give you many hours of entertainment and satisfaction (similar to Saki).

"In the case of human beings, friendship is a transitory art, subject to discontinuance without further notice."

- O.Henry (Telemachus, Friend)

The Complete Stories | Flannery O'Connor

O’Connor is considered one of the best short story writers ever, and this volume leaves no doubt as to why. All 31 of her stories are in this single volume, including some that weren’t collected in her previous books.

She’s probably best known for A Good Man is Hard to Find, Good Country People, Everything That Rises Must Converge, The Lame Shall Enter First, and Revelation, but all of the stories here are worth reading carefully.

They’re set in the Southern U.S. (often called Southern Gothic) and feature realistic, flawed characters (often called grotesque), and often contain undercurrents of race, Catholicism (divine grace), and morality.

Short stories can sometimes be a bit light on action, but in O'Connor's stories something physical often happens, and the tension leading to it is riveting.

Some of the highlights include:

  • An escaped convict, The Misfit, is loose in A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • A traveling Bible salesman visits a farm and is invited to stay for dinner because he’s Good Country People
  • A juvenile delinquent proves a greater challenge than his benefactor thought in The Lame Shall Enter First
  • A loud, opinionated woman gets a jolt in Revelation
  • An elderly white man talks to a black man in New York the way he would talk in the South, but is unprepared for the consequences in Judgement Day

Her eyes fixed like two drills on Mrs. Turpin. This time there was no mistaking that there was something urgent behind them.

— Flannery O'Connor (Revelation)

Dubliners | James Joyce

The 15 stories in Dubliners are realistic depictions of early 19th century, middle class Irish life. The stories span the lives of children, teenagers, and the middle-aged. Among them are two of the best short stories ever – Araby and The Dead.

This collection shows Joyce at his best, before he became impossible to understand. The plots are realistic, not dazzling, favoring the “epiphany” ending, making them great choices for thoughtful reading.

On longing for someone

"What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days... I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play."

-James Joyce (Araby)

Collected Stories- Raymond Carver

This volume from Library of America has all of Carver's short stories from his collections Will You Please Be Quite, Please?, Furious Seasons, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Fires, Cathedral, Where I'm Calling From, and other fiction.

It also contains the manuscript version of seventeen stories from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, so you can compare them to the published versions.

Carver is one of the most renowned short story writers, known for his spare, pared-down style (minimalism), and realistic scenes of loneliness and sorrow.

The Library of America edition is a compact, hard cover book with a quality binding. It shows the full range of Carver's abilities and is required reading for lovers of the short story.

In the movies the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.

— Raymond Carver (Cathedral)

Tales of the Unexpected- Roald Dahl

This Roald Dahl collection has twenty-four stories, all of them with a twist. The twists cover the range from subtle to startling. Even better, each story is interesting before the twist. You don't have to slog through page after page wondering when the story's going to pay off.

Dahl is amusing, clever, and frightening, sometimes all in one story. Some of the highlights include:

  • A seemingly perfect but eerily quiet bed and breakfast in The Landlady
  • An old, down-on-his-luck man with a valuable tattoo on his back in Skin
  • A wine connoisseur who wants his host to wager his daughter in a bet in Taste
  • A perfect murder in Lamb to the Slaughter
  • A wife pushed to the breaking point by her inconsiderate husband in The Way Up to Heaven
  • A dying man considers keeping his brain alive in a basin in William and Mary

Dahl has a clear, easy to read style, making every page of this book a delight. These are plot-driven stories that will have you constantly wondering what happens next.

Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half-minute's wait before the door opens. But this dame was like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell – and out she popped! It made him jump.

— Roald Dahl (The Landlady)
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