The best genre-bending, literary short stories to fire your imagination

Why am I passionate about this?

I had no expectations about what the first short stories I wrote would end up being like. Although I’d read mostly realistic literary fiction before starting to write, most of my stories included fantastical elements. This set me off reading and writing stories categorised as weird, cross-genre, slipstream, magical realist, fantastic, fabulist, horror, soft sci-fi, and surreal. The thing that struck me was how slippery these categories are. But what unites them is their openness to unbounded imagination. Like a lens concentrating a fire, their strange and fantastical techniques amplify feelings and reality in unique ways, while always paying attention to language. It’s been a thrilling, exciting ride!


I wrote...

Mammals, I Think We Are Called

By Giselle Leeb,

Book cover of Mammals, I Think We Are Called

What is my book about?

Ambitious and playful, darkly humorous and exuberantly imaginative, these strikingly original, genre-bending, literary stories move effortlessly between the realistic and the fantastical as their outsider characters explore what it’s like to be human in the twenty-first century. Whether about our relationship with the environment and animals, technology, social media, loneliness, or the enormity of time, they reflect the complexities of being alive. Beautifully written and compelling, you won’t read anything else like them. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology

Giselle Leeb Why did I love this book?

I’d been writing for a few years, when I came across this book. It was an exciting discovery because it introduced me to a type of story I’d never read before, stories that did weird things I hadn’t thought possible, and included brilliant writers I hadn’t heard of, like Kelly Link and Aimee Bender. I was also excited by the inclusion of writers who were considered literary, who no one would usually put in the strange category, like George Saunders and Michael Chabon. The sheer range of stories and styles was mindblowing. It broadened my ideas about what stories could be, and what I could do in my writing. The introduction by the editors is titled "Slipstream, the Genre That Isn’t," and for me that says it all.

By James Patrick Kelly (editor), John Kessel (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Feeling Very Strange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If it is true that the test of a first-rate mind is its ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, then we live in a century when it takes a first-rate mind just to get through the day. We have unprecedented access to information; cognitive dissonance is a banner headline in our morning papers and radiates silently from our computer screens. Slipstream, poised between literature and popular culture, embraces the dissonance.

These ambitious stories of visionary strangeness defy the conventions of science fiction. Tales by Michael Chabon, Karen Joy Fowler, Jonathan Lethem, Carol Emshwiller, George Saunders, and…


Book cover of Tenth of December: Stories

Giselle Leeb Why did I love this book?

One of my top short story writers, the word ‘unique’ was invented for Saunders. Selling in the literary category, he has a vernacular style all his own. His stories comment on American society and the horrors of capitalism but never shove a message down your throat. Saunders is simply immersed in these concerns and it comes out naturally in his writing. His stories contain sci-fi and futuristic elements, and use these, as well as a deadpan surrealism, to comment on the now. The story I will never forget from this collection is "The Semplica Girl Diaries", in which ‘Semplica Girls’, women from ‘third-world’ countries, are trafficked to be used as human lawn ornaments. Saunders faces things head-on, with dark hilarity.

By George Saunders,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Tenth of December as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**ESCAPE FROM SPIDERHEAD NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX - STARRING CHRIS HEMSWORTH AND MILES TELLER** The prize-winning, New York Times bestselling short story collection from the internationally bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo 'The best book you'll read this year' New York Times 'Dazzlingly surreal stories about a failing America' Sunday Times WINNER OF THE 2014 FOLIO PRIZE AND SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 2013 George Saunders's most wryly hilarious and disturbing collection yet, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations. A family member recollects a backyard pole dressed for…


Book cover of Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature

Giselle Leeb Why did I love this book?

Published in 1983, I only recently came across this anthology. A Sunday Times review says: “As an introduction to the delights of fiction about “the impossible seeping into the possible” Black Water has not been surpassed.” This book is on my indispensable reading list. It includes seventy-two stories that span a broad range of writers, many of whom would not be considered writers of the fantastic, from D.H. Lawrence and Edith Wharton to Julio Cortázar and Ray Bradbury. An eye-opening book that demonstrates a myriad of techniques for using strangeness to illustrate reality, and is an absolute reading feast of wonder and imagination. My favourite story is "The Third Bank of the River" by João Guimarães Rosa.

By Alberto Manguel (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Short stories by authors including Julio Cortazar, Saki, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ray Bradbury deal with hauntings, time warps, prophetic dreams, strange creatures, and bizarre occurrences


Book cover of Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

Giselle Leeb Why did I love this book?

I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a year in 1988, five years after the last military dictatorship ended. I remember seeing the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo holding vigils in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace for los desaparecidos, their children who 'disappeared' during the last dictatorship. Enriquez creates strange, dense worlds of horror in these stories, with dark, unexplained, and sometimes magical undercurrents. The stories are not directly about the events, but reference them obliquely, only adding to the terror. Enriquez’s writing style blew me away, and her stories defy easy categorisation.

By Mariana Enriquez,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Things We Lost in the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A portrait of a world in fragments, a mirrorball made of razor blades' Guardian

Sleep-deprived fathers conjuring phantoms; sharp-toothed children and stolen skulls; persecuted young women drawn to self-immolation. Organized crime sits side-by-side with the occult in Buenos Aires - a place where reality and the preternatural fuse into strange, new shapes. These stories follow the wayward and downtrodden, revealing the scars of Argentina's dictatorship and the ghosts and traumas that have settled in the minds of its people. Provocative, brutal and uncanny, Things We Lost in the Fire is a paragon of contemporary Gothic from a writer of singular…


Book cover of Magic for Beginners

Giselle Leeb Why did I love this book?

After discovering Kelly Link in the Slipstream Anthology through her story, "The Specialist’s Hat", I wanted to read more. Magic for Beginners, her first collection, did not disappoint. Links’s imagination knows no bounds. She uses fantastical, sometimes whimsical, always surprising elements that mix fantasy with reality, and just when you think she’s reached the limits of imagination, she goes effortlessly forward to invent even more incredible layers. Her writing is wonderfully playful, with a sense of imaginative joy and a deeply knowledgeable foundation in fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary American culture.

By Kelly Link, Shelley Jackson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Magic for Beginners as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best of the Decade: Salon, The A.V. Club "If I had to pick the most powerfully original voice in fantasy today, it would be Kelly Link. Her stories begin in a world very much like our own, but then, following some mysterious alien geometry, they twist themselves into something fantastic and, frequently, horrific. You won't come out the same person you went in."-Lev Grossman, The Week "Highly original."-Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Dazzling."-Entertainment Weekly (grade: A, Editor's Choice) "Darkly playful."-Michael Chabon Best of the Year: Time Magazine, Salon, Boldtype, PopMatters. Kelly Link's engaging and funny stories riff on haunted convenience stores,…


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The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

Book cover of The Last Bird of Paradise

Clifford Garstang Author Of Oliver's Travels

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Fiction writer Globalist Lawyer Philosopher Seeker

Clifford's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Two women, a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives after leaving their homelands. Arriving in tropical Singapore, they find romance, but also find they haven’t left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.

Haunted by the specter of terrorism after 9/11, Aislinn Givens leaves her New York career and joins her husband in Southeast Asia when he takes a job there. She acquires several paintings by a colonial-era British artist that she believes are a warning.

The artist, Elizabeth Pennington, tells her own tumultuous story through diary entries that end when World War I reaches the colony with catastrophic results. In the present, Aislinn and her husband learn that terrorism takes many shapes when they are ensnared by local political upheaval and corruption.

The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

What is this book about?

"Aislinn Givens leaves a settled life in Manhattan for an unsettled life in Singapore. That painting radiates mystery and longing. So does Clifford Garstang's vivid and simmering novel, The Last Bird of Paradise." –John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake and The Inverted Forest

Two women, nearly a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives when they reluctantly leave their homelands. Arriving in Singapore, they find romance in a tropical paradise, but also find they haven't left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and haunted by the specter of terrorism, Aislinn Givens leaves her…


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