The best speculative, strange, and magical short story collections written by women

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer working in multiple genres (I published two books of poetry before my debut story collection, A Manual for How to Love Us, and also write nonfiction), I’ve always been interested in bridging the ethereal gaps between forms and styles of writing. In college, I loved authors like Neil Gaiman and Ray Bradbury who portrayed fantastical worlds in a literary way. Later, I discovered great fiction in this same vein written by women, stories exploring the visceral, grotesque, and glorious from a distinctly female perspective. These became some of my favorite books, my favorite writers, and undeniably influenced the stories in A Manual for How to Love Us. 

I wrote...

A Manual for How to Love Us

By Erin Slaughter,

Book cover of A Manual for How to Love Us

What is my book about?

An interlinked collection of short stories exploring the primal nature of women’s grief—offering insight into the profound experience of loss and the absurd ways in which we seek control in an unruly world.

In each story, grieving women embrace their wildest impulses as they attempt to master their lives; suffering messy breaks, whispering secrets to the ghosts tangled in the knots of their hair, eating raw meat to commune with their inner wolves, and building deadly MLM schemes along the Gulf Coast. Set across oft-overlooked towns in the American South, varying from the genre-bending and speculative to the blazingly real, A Manual for How to Love Us spotlights women who are living on the brink and clinging to its precipitous edge.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Erin Slaughter Why did I love this book?

If Machado’s debut story collection didn’t itself begin the niche of “genre-crossing books viscerally portraying the experience of living in a female body through the weirdest and most wonderful story premises,” it certainly kicked off a renaissance.

Her Body and Other Parties was a foundational text for my own growth as a young writer, and is a book I recommend to others and return to again and again.

One story, “The Husband Stitch” rewrites an urban legend to question whose perspectives we choose to believe and why, while another infuses the form of Law and Order: SVU episodes with ghostly, gutting, new storylines. Machado’s writing is searing and powerful all the way through. 

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Her Body and Other Parties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Brilliantly inventive and blazingly smart' Garth Greenwell

'Impossible, imperfect, unforgettable' Roxane Gay

'A wild thing ... covered in sequins and scales, blazing with the influence of fabulists from Angela Carter to Kelly Link and Helen Oyeyemi' New York Times

In her provocative debut, Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Startling narratives map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited on their bodies, both in myth and in practice.


Book cover of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Erin Slaughter Why did I love this book?

Every story in this collection is packed with haunting beauty.

The opening story, “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” became the jumping-off point for Russell’s later novel, Swamplandia!, but it shines all the same as a gem of a stand-alone piece.

In every creative writing class I teach, I try to work it onto the syllabus; it’s not only gorgeously written, but a prime example of how magical realism can be skillfully used to create an unreliable narrator, and how that narration opens up a universe of mysterious possibility for the reader.  

By Karen Russell,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charting loss, love, and the difficult art of growing up, these stories unfurl with wicked humour and insight. Two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab; a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to 'Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers' (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Insomniacs; Cabin 3, Somnambulists. . . ); a Minotaur leads his family on the trail out West, and finally, in the collection's poignant and hilarious title story, fifteen girls raised by wolves are painstakingly re-civilised by…

Book cover of Out There: Stories

Erin Slaughter Why did I love this book?

The eerie forces in Folk’s debut story collection aren’t so much mystical as they are technological.

Each story in this book could be its own episode of Black Mirror, and readers come away understanding how the messiest human impulses are eternal, no matter the advances we make as a society.

Folk’s characters are people trying (and often failing) to find love, meaning, and purpose while their lives are marked by encounters with artificial intelligence and imminent apocalypse. 

By Kate Folk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Extraordinary . . . Folk is a dazzling talent' Karen Joy Fowler

'Wonderfully weird' Daily Mail

A woman uses dating apps to find a partner, despite the threat posed by 'blots', artificial men more interested in stealing data than dating. A sculptor, trapped in a skyscraper restaurant when a violent coup erupts below, creates a perfect model of the town as it is destroyed. A curtain of void obliterates the world at a steady pace, leaving one woman to decide with whom she wants to spend eternity.

Haunting and darkly inventive, the stories in Out There deftly combine science fiction…

Book cover of Fen: Stories

Erin Slaughter Why did I love this book?

Fen is another book I picked up early in my writing career, and has made me a lifelong Daisy Johnson fan.

This is a collection of linked stories set in one small English town, where a harem of vampires lure their prey with dating apps, a narrator tries to save her sister from her anorexia transforming her into an eel, and a fox’s consciousness bleeds together with that of its hunters. 

By Daisy Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize.

Daisy Johnson's Fen is a liminal land. Real people live their lives here. They wrestle with familiar instincts, with sex and desire, with everyday routine. But the wild is always close at hand, ready to erupt. This is a place where animals and people commingle and fuse, where curious metamorphoses take place, where myth and dark magic still linger. So here a teenager may starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl. A woman might give birth to a - well what?…

Book cover of Sarahland

Erin Slaughter Why did I love this book?

I read an excerpt of Sarahland’s titular story online, and immediately knew I needed this book; I’ve never clicked an “order” button so fast, and when it arrived in my mailbox, it exceeded expectations.

The most obvious element that connects these stories are girls and women named Sarah (or Sara, or Sari), and each Sarah is struggling through an intense hunger and desperation to understand herself in relation to others and her strange, strange world.

These stories are delightfully queer, and bend gender as well as genre. 

By Sam Cohen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In SARAHLAND, Sam Cohen brilliantly and often hilariously explores the ways in which traditional stories have failed us, both demanding and thrillingly providing for its cast of Sarahs new origin stories, new ways to love the planet and those inhabiting it, and new possibilities for life itself. In one story, a Jewish college Sarah passively consents to a form-life in pursuit of an MRS degree and is swept into a culture of normalized sexual violence. Another reveals a version of Sarah finding pleasure-and a new set of problems-by playing dead for a wealthy necrophiliac. A Buffy-loving Sarah uses fan fiction…

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Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

Book cover of Magical Disinformation

Lachlan Page Author Of Magical Disinformation

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Latin America for six years, working as a red cross volunteer, a volcano hiking guide, a teacher, and an extra in a Russian TV series (in Panama). Having travelled throughout the region and returning regularly, I’m endlessly fascinated by the culture, history, politics, languages, and geography. Parallel to this, I enjoy reading and writing about the world of international espionage. Combining the two, and based on my own experience, I wrote my novel, Magical Disinformation, a spy novel set in Colombia. While there is not a huge depth of spy novels set in Latin America, I’ve chosen five of my favourites spy books set in the region.

Lachlan's book list on spy books set in Latin America

What is my book about?

This book is a spy novel with a satirical edge which will take you on a heart-pumping journey through the streets, mountains, jungles, and beaches of Colombia. Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

What is this book about?

In the era of ‘fake news’ in the land of magical realism, fiction can be just as dangerous as the truth... Discover Lachlan Page’s Magical Disinformation: a spy novel with a satirical edge set amongst the Colombian peace process. Described by one reviewer as “Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.”

Oliver Jardine is a spy in Colombia, enamoured with local woman Veronica Velasco.

As the Colombian government signs a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, Her Majesty’s Government decides a transfer is in order to focus on more pertinent theatres of operation.

In a desperate attempt…

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