The best short stories for smart women

Randy Kraft Author Of Rational Women
By Randy Kraft

Who am I?

I’ve loved short stories since I was a young girl introduced to Edgar Allen Poe. There’s something especially exciting about a complete story in few words, and once I had to balance work, children, and personal relationships, stories became all the more cherished for short takes. I especially like tales about and by women, relating to our real challenges, and I review them often so other busy women discover better writers and interesting tales. There is nothing like a short story any time of day, especially in the evening, to soothe the soul. 

I wrote...

Rational Women

By Randy Kraft,

Book cover of Rational Women

What is my book about?

Short stories fit a busy woman’s clock. They inspire and educate and, in other lives, we learn something of our own. These modern women grapple with life choices, vacillating between reason and passion:

A grieving businesswoman seeks connection with a stranger. A cerebral woman marries a professor only to discover she needs more than intellect. A teacher takes her poor students’ lives into her own hands. A high-achiever questions her values. A newspaper editor confronts her biases. A white writer faces the disdain of a black critic. At court for a minor offense, a righteous woman considers her real crimes. A sculptor struggles to mold her newborn. An empty nester chooses a new path. In Paris to please her mother, a docile woman discovers a different destiny. 

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The books I picked & why

Honeydew: Stories

By Edith Pearlman,

Book cover of Honeydew: Stories

Why did I love this book?

Edith Pearlman is a gem. These 20 beautifully written and fascinating short stories delve into the moments that matter most in everyday life. Read them one at a time or all together like a mosaic for modern women. Pearlman’s characters – men women and children are all unique, and also extraordinary, in their way, and all mirror our own realities. Across the globe and across time, her tales are so true and so wise, I love reading them again and again, especially when I have little time and need a touch of literary magic.  

By Edith Pearlman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The best short story writer in the world' Susan Hill, The Times

Honeydew is the first collection from Edith Pearlman since Binocular Vision, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a 'spectacular literary revelation' (Sunday Times).

Over the last few decades, Edith Pearlman has staked her claim as one of the great practitioners of the short story. Her understanding and skill have earned her comparisons to Anton Chekhov, John Updike and Alice Munro. Her latest work, gathered in this stunning collection of twenty new stories, is an occasion for celebration.

The stories in Honeydew are unmistakably by Pearlman;…

Music for Wartime: Stories

By Rebecca Makkai,

Book cover of Music for Wartime: Stories

Why did I love this book?

Of the several great works of fiction by this National Book Award-winner, this story collection is my favorite. Every character seems like someone I might know, or would like to know, and every story rings true. She is a master of description and dialogue, and the situations are as humorous as dark. Every story of course relates in some way to music – from a violinist to composer to a wanna-be, and a contemporary character named Bach – in settings from Berlin to an unnamed country. In the end, each tale has to do with relationships, as great fiction does, and the soundtracks that define them. I just love this collection. 

By Rebecca Makkai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A short-story collection from the acclaimed author of The Great Believers

Named a must-read by the Chicago Tribune, O Magazine, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and The L Magazine

Rebecca Makkai's first two novels, The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, have established her as one of the freshest and most imaginative voices in fiction. Now, the award-winning writer, whose stories have appeared in four consecutive editions of The Best American Short Stories, returns with a highly anticipated collection bearing her signature mix of intelligence, wit, and heart.

A reality show producer manipulates two contestants into falling in love, even…

Book cover of Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance

Why did I love this book?

Everyone recognizes ZNH’s iconic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but Hurston is a master short story writer. She reminds me of the artist Van Gogh, who devoted his work to the common man as Hurston centers her stories on simple folk whose experiences exemplify the human struggle. Profound and pleasing to read, you will smell the flowers, hear the bees buzzing, and occasionally laugh out loud at these beautifully told stories of real life. Although your life may be different from these, you will be reminded of what bonds us more than what divides us. No better time to think about that. 

By Zora Neale Hurston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From 'one of the greatest writers of our time' (Toni Morrison) - the author of Their Eyes Were Watching God and Barracoon - a collection of remarkable short stories from the Harlem Renaissance With a foreword by Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

'Genius' Alice Walker

'Rigorous, convincing, dazzling' Zadie Smith on Their Eyes Were Watching God

In 1925, college student Zora Neale Hurston - the sole black student at Barnard College, New York - was living in the city, 'desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world.'

During this period, she began writing short works that captured the…

Book cover of A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories

Why did I love this book?

The one and only collection by this great novelist [and the sister of A.S. Byatt] is one of my most favorite. These short tales explore all sorts of relationships, not only marriage and friendship, but our relationships with personal identity, politics, and the culture which defines us. The writing is absolutely divine – images pop from the page and characters stay with us as if we’ve actually known them. And between the lines there is a lot of philosophical musing, which I love – just enough to make us think but never wear us down. These stories are for women who like to explore the existential. Think of them as a workout for the brain. 

By Margaret Drabble,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Margaret Drabble is one of the major literary figures of her generation. In this collection of her complete short fiction from across four decades, she examines the intense private worlds and passions of everyday people.

From one man's honeymooning epiphany in 'Hassan's Tower' to the journeying fantasies of 'A Voyage to Cythera', and from the sharp joy of 'The Merry Widow' to the bloody reality of the collection's title story, these are moving, witty and provocative tales, exploring cruel and loving relationships, social change and personal obsessions, and confirming her status as a leading practitioner of the art of the…

Book cover of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This: Stories

Why did I love this book?

Each one of these stories is a mini-novel, which are the sort of stories I love. Black never leaves you hanging, like some writers do, and you will feel like you’re right in there watching the story unfold. The writing has been called pitch-perfect and I agree. Every word is right, every moment fits and every character is trying to make sense of the world as we all do, every day. She deftly explores the emotional DNA passed from generations before and what that means for each of our lives going forward. So you get a great tale well told. and a lot to think about at the same time. Exactly what I love to read and what smart modern women are drawn to. 

By Robin Black,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Heralding the arrival of a stunning new voice in American fiction, If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This takes readers into the minds and hearts of people navigating the unsettling transitions that life presents to us all: A father struggles to forge an independent identity as his blind daughter prepares for college. A mother comes to terms with her adult daughter’s infidelity. An artist mourns the end of a romance while painting the portrait of a dying man. Brilliant, hopeful, and fearlessly honest, If I…

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