The best short story books that blend science fiction, horror, magical realism, and surrealism into one tidy package

Who am I?

I’ve been a lifelong lover of short fiction, novels, and comic books since I can remember. Ideas were always king, leading me to a career in the creative arts as a graphic designer with years of experience in the world of advertising. Much of the core of what I did for advertising—crafting brief tales to engage with an audience in a creative/unique way—translated over well to when I began writing my own short stories. And all of the book recommendations here directly inspired me to write White Space.


I wrote...

White Space: Short Fictions

By Matt Durand,

Book cover of White Space: Short Fictions

What is my book about?

In the not-so-distant future, design and technology collide In this collection of ten short fictions. The lines of reality blur and bend, where logo projects go haywire, selfies change more than your social status, gods upgrade to the internet age, and photoshoots open doors that are better left closed. Fall into the darker depths of creative minds as they struggle to find order amongst the chaos in an ever-pixelating world.

The books I picked & why

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Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

Why this book?

I love this collection of short stories for their pure creativity and diversity of the themes and genres explored. Each story exudes the unique and elegant style that has set Neil Gaiman in a class of his own. The story "We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" is one of my favorite short stories ever written. It’s a dark comedy that displays a masterclass in condensed fiction. This book opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of how creative a writer can be.

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smoke and Mirrors as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

***This short fiction collection includes 'Chivalry', this year's Radio 4 Neil Gaiman Christmas Day special, starring Glenda Jackson and Kit Harington. This is the story of Mrs Whitaker, who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop.***

Open your mind to one of the brightest, most brilliant writers of our generation...

'Gaiman is god in the universe of story' - Stephen Fry

'There's no one quite like Neil Gaiman' - George R. R. Martin

An elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat. A stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unwary…


Full Throttle

By Joe Hill,

Book cover of Full Throttle

Why this book?

If you’re looking for a darker, more violent set of short stories, look no further. Another running theme in this collection I loved is the cleverness that goes into the plots, many of which deal with revenge and murder in unique ways. I liked how the things doing the killing were varied and utilized in unexpected styles. Whether that was a truck driver seeking revenge on a gang of bikers or carousel horses coming to life to terrorize teens, or a faun doling out justice to a group of hunters, these stories left me unsettled yet creatively satisfied. 

Full Throttle

By Joe Hill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Full Throttle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this masterful collection of short fiction, Joe Hill dissects timeless human struggles in thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including "In The Tall Grass," one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.

A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in "Faun." A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in "Late Returns." In "By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain," two young friends stumble on the…


Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

By Kevin Wilson,

Book cover of Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

Why this book?

I loved this collection of short stories primarily for the characters that Kevin Wilson created. The humanity and eclectic traits that he puts into them connected with me on a personal level. It’s almost as if the characters could live in a Wes Anderson film. While the people shine in these stories, the plots still have that inventive odd twist that left me smiling. And the story from which the collection takes its name was a melancholic surreal tale that left me thinking about its layers of meaning long after I finished reading it.

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

By Kevin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tunneling to the Center of the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A debut short story collection in the tradition of writers like Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, and George Saunders—strange, imaginative, and refreshingly original—now back in print as part of Ecco’s “Art of the Story” Series, and with a new introduction from the author


Kevin Wilson’s characters inhabit a world that moves seamlessly between the real and the imagined, the mundane and the fantastic. “Grand Stand-In” is narrated by an employee of the Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider—a company that supplies “stand-ins” for families with deceased, ill, or just plain mean grandparents. And in “Blowing Up On the Spot,” a story singled out…


Man V. Nature

By Diane Cook,

Book cover of Man V. Nature

Why this book?

This collection of short stories left me a bit depressed but in a good way. Cook writes with pure beauty and poetry. The ideas of this collection were, at times, odd and uncomfortable, but they succeeded in making me consider the darker elements that exist within all of us as humans. These stories kept me engaged through their balance of settings as well. Some stories felt present, while others crafted bleak futures that were all too believable. A few of the stories had some racy elements too, so if you’re into that kind of thing, you won’t be disappointed.

Man V. Nature

By Diane Cook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man V. Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*SHORTLISTED FOR THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD 2015*

SHORTLISTED FOR THE LA TIMES BOOKS PRIZE 2015

A SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE NOTABLE BOOK OF 2014

A BOSTON GLOBE BEST FICTION OF 2014

ROXANE GAY'S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2014

AN AMAZON BEST SHORT STORY COLLECTION OF 2014

AN iBOOK BEST OF 2014

Perfectly pitched and gorgeously penned, this astonishingly bold collection of stories explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized. Pitting human beings against the extremes of nature, Diane Cook surgically peels back the layers of civilization to lay bare our vulnerabilities and the ease with which our darker,…


The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World

By Harlan Ellison,

Book cover of The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World

Why this book?

Post-apocalypse and gritty science fiction doesn’t get any better than this collection. Harlan Ellison writes in a rough and unflinching style that, to me, was like watching a classic 80s action/sci-fi movie. And the novella in this book, A Boy and His Dog, is another favorite of mine. It’s bloody and raw and felt ahead of its time for its prose and structure. After reading it, I saw this was published over fifty years ago, yet it still resonated as something fresh and new.

The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World

By Harlan Ellison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in surrealism, magical realism, and film?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about surrealism, magical realism, and film.

Surrealism Explore 78 books about surrealism
Magical Realism Explore 115 books about magical realism
Film Explore 147 books about film

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Zoom, In Watermelon Sugar, and Killing Commendatore if you like this list.