Armchair BEA: Short Stories

Another day at Armchair BEA! Today we talk about short stories and novellas. For the longest time, short stories were just that random section of required reading in high school, but recently I came to love short stories. A well-compiled anthology can be so refreshing. I especially like reading short story collections during busy rotations or exams, because I can read a story in between study sessions without feeling like I’m losing track of the story line.

Three of my favourite single short stories:

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson – if you’ve read this horrifying tale, you probably think I’m a psychopath for having this on my list. Truth: this was the first short story that ever gripped me. It showed me the power of a short. If you’ve never read a short story that made you gasp for air, this is a good one to try.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – I read this because Christine had a post about artworks her kids did for class. It’s the only Kafka I’ve read so far, but I’ll be reading more. If you like analysing a story for underlying meanings, and a little bit of twistedness, try this one.

Barcarole for Paper and Bones by M.T. Anderson – this was in a collection of short stories to benefit ProLiteracy, Shelf Life. I’m seeing a trend here in terms of favourite shorts: they’re really disturbing! This one is pretty morbid and weird – as stories about old ships and sailors are wont to be. I loved it though.



Some Favourite Anthologies

Some of these are not really meant to be short stories, but they read like short stories. Vignettes, or sketches, or whatever: they’re short.

It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet by James Herriot – some of the funniest stories I’ve read. Real proper British humour, and animals of course.

Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa’s Past by Lauren Beukes – shorts about some fantastic (and often controversial) South African women. These are so colourfully told that you would probably love it even if you knew nothing of South Africa.

A History of the Present Illness by Louise Aronson – great shorts from a young family physician

The Radiation Sonnets by Jane Yolen – not short stories, but sonnets. Uniquely heart-wrenching. Pass the tissues.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – I absolutely devoured these vignettes of the lives of modern Indian life, be it in India or expats. Well-deserving of the Pulitzer Prize.

Touch: Stories of Contact by Karina Szczurek – short stories around the topic of “touch” by South African authors. Royalties from this anthology are in aid of AIDS, so there’s that too.

The Backwash of War by Ellen N. La Motte – click for my recent review.
backwash quote


And then, some anthologies I am currently reading:

I take my time and leisurely go from one collection to another.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – given to me by a Latin-American friend who was adopted as a baby and is seeking her birth parents.

The Penguin Book of International Women’s Stories by Kate Figes- because women’s stories matter

Fish Eats Lion by Jason Eric Lundberg- short stories from Singapore

Selected Myanmar Short Stories by Ma Thanegi – short stories from Burma/Myanmar, with full colour illustrations

I’d love to hear some of your favourite short stories/anthologies! Leave some suggestions in the comments!


  1. *waves* I love short stories. I usually write them in between my novels. They are a great way for my readers to remain actively engaged with my writing in between my novels.

    1. That sounds like a good technique! I like to write them too. I feel they require a lot of skill but not quite as my perseverance… I’ve never been able to write very many words on a single story.

  2. I saw Louise Aronson speak at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia when her book first came out. Awesome!

    Where do you find all the time to read? I think you read more in a year than I have in my life.

    1. Whaaat, that’s so cool! Lucky! I still want to go to the Mutter Museum one day.
      Uhm… I don’t know where I find the time. I guess I don’t really have the time. So, yeah, there’s that. For what it’s worth I’ve read a LOT less this year than usual.

  3. I want to go to Prague next year, so I definitely need to read some Kafka!

    1. Hah, oh, Prague sounds like a great place to visit!

  4. Hehehe, you’re the third blogger who’s mentioned Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery; it’s a popular choice today! 🙂 (I haven’t read it yet but now I want to) Great list of recommendations 🙂

    My Day 3

    1. Aaah, you should read it, it’s really quick but really – well – awful in a “good” sense?! I don’t know how to describe it really!

  5. jnbarber13 says:

    I read a bunch of short stories in high school and as an English major in college, but I haven’t really taken the plunge to see what else is out there that’s more contemporary. I did really like The Metamorphosis by Kafka though. Thanks for all your recs!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! On a tangent, I would have loved to Major in English. Must have been fantastic!

  6. Danielle says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard that quote by Ali Smithand I totally love it. It is tense and true.

    1. It’s great right! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I’m going to have to check out some of these anthologies, especially It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet! I love animals and humor, so it sounds like a winner. Plus, your taste in short stories is awesome! I feel like I’ve read The Lottery because it sounds familiar, but I might not have. I’ll have to see. Great post!

    1. It’s a great collection, I hope you’ll enjoy it!

  8. Between this and a couple of other blogs I have some seriously great short story lists going. Thanks! Lottery is an all time favorite of mine…and….and!…can you believe I have never read anything Kafka? Hope you are enjoying Armchair BEA!

    1. Thanks! Hope you’ll enjoy reading some of them. Well, I’ve only read one Kafka, so don’t feel too bad 🙂

  9. harveylisam says:

    I legit haven’t read any short stories since high school. Terrible. But some of these sound really wonderful. 🙂

    1. Haha! Well, if you ever feel like reading something but you don’t have time to get into a book, short stories are a great option 🙂

  10. charoo iyer says:

    How do you do it ? How do you read so may books , write fantastic reviews replete with beautiful quotes , author thought provoking posts and meanwhile also keep up with coursework ?

    1. Mmmh… I don’t know. Honestly I probably spend too much time reading which is why I’m not an A+ student. But… I’m fine with it.

  11. Brona says:

    I was delighted to see the Vet stories feature in this article. I read them all in my late teens – I adored them.
    Since then I have devoured shorts by Katharine Mansfield (NZ), Alice Munro (Canadian) & William Trevor (Irish) in particular as well Lahiri.

    Great post – glad to have found you during Armchair BEA 🙂

    1. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone else who also read James Herriot! I haven’t read the others you’ve mentioned but I really want to read Alice Munro! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s