The best short story collections that could change your life

Why am I passionate about this?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.


I wrote...

Even Greater Mistakes

By Charlie Jane Anders,

Book cover of Even Greater Mistakes

What is my book about?

Even Greater Mistakes is a collection of 19 short stories that straddle the line between speculative fiction and literary fiction. These stories explore the saving power of love, friendship, and community in the face of total absurdity and weirdness. In "Six Months, Three Days," two people who can see the future enter into a relationship they know is doomed. In "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue," a trans woman is trapped in a nightmarish facility with her former best friend. In "The Bookstore at the End of America," the United States has broken into two separate countries, with a tiny bookstore straddling the new border.

These stories have won the Hugo, Locus, and Sturgeon awards.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of A House Is a Body: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Why did I love this book?

A really great short story collection can sweep you off your feet and take you to a lot of different places, in a way that novels can't quite manage. And Swamy's debut collection is haunting in the best possible way. These dreamlike stories feature characters who are lost and dislocated, carried along by other people's desires, and the best of them have something to say about art as well as relationships. In one story, an artist who is descending into alcoholism gets into a relationship with the god Krishna, and in another, a "laughter artist" has perfected her laughter to the point where all laughter seems artificial. Swamy conveys the feeling of being lost but seen, in a really beautiful, arresting way.

By Shruti Swamy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A House Is a Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In "A Simple Composition," a husband's professional crisis leads to his wife's discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy. And in the title story, an exhausted mother watches, hypnotised by fear, as a California wildfire approaches her home. Immersive and assured, provocative and probing, these are stories written with the edge and precision of a knife blade. Set in the United States and India, they reveal small but intense moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.


Book cover of Get in Trouble: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Why did I love this book?

Kelly Link is the one of the most potent storytellers alive, and a master of the short-story form. And this 2015 collection is Link at her most hilarious and gloriously weird — it's full of superheroes, demon lovers, ghost boyfriends, and a woman with two shadows. Some of these stories deal with fame and celebrity culture, while others deal with strange relationships and teenagers who are trying to find their own way in the world. Every one of these stories is a perfect experience unto itself, and some of them feel like the best kind of magic trick: Link shows us a bunch of clues and hints, and then in a moment of startling realization, everything suddenly falls into place and we find ourselves someplace new.

By Kelly Link,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Get in Trouble as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Fantastic, fantastical and utterly incomparable, Kelly Link's new collection explores everything from the essence of ghosts to the nature of love. And hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, The Wizard of Oz, superheroes, the pyramids . . .

With each story she weaves, Link takes readers deep into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed universe. Strange, dark and wry, Get in Trouble reveals Kelly Link at the height of her creative powers and stretches the boundaries of what fiction can do.


Book cover of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Why did I love this book?

This story collection is mind-blowing in the best way. As its name suggests, a lot of the stories in this book deal with immigrants, including Chinese people who've immigrated to the United States, but also rural people who've migrated to cities. Chai's characters are struggling to balance traditional Confucian values with postmodern urban existence, and a lot of these stories feature tensions between different generations in a single-family. The best story is probably the award-winning "Fish Boy," in which a boy moves from the Chinese countryside to the big city and ends up working at a seafood restaurant whose offerings sound pretty unappetizing. Chai is brilliant at picking up on the subtle nuances of damaged families, and every one of these stories hits home.

By May-Lee Chai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the title story of this timely and innovative collection, a young woman wearing a Prada coat attempts to redeem a coupon for plastic storage bins while her in-laws are at home watching the Chinese news and taking her private phone calls. It is the lively and wise juxtaposition of cultures, generations, and emotions that characterize May-lee Chai's amazing stories. Within them, readers will find a complex blend of cultures spanning China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and finally, the world at large.

With luminous prose and sharp-eyed observations, Chai reveals her characters' hopes and fears, and our own: a…


Book cover of Homesick: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Why did I love this book?

This book of speculative short fiction includes some of the best queer representation I've seen in ages. "A Silly Love Story" includes a gender-fluid character named Merion, and "Before We Disperse Like Star Stuff" includes a trans grad student named Min. Cipri manages to combine the surreal and illogical with a pervasive sense of warmth and humanity, which is a nearly impossible feat, and they make it look easy. Each story will leave you wondering what happens next, but the characters will also live on in your imagination long after you've turned the page.

By Nino Cipri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shirley Jackson Award finalist

World Fantasy Award finalist

Dark, irreverent, and truly innovative, the speculative stories in Homesick meditate on the theme of home and our estrangement from it, and what happens when the familiar suddenly shifts into the uncanny. In stories that foreground queer relationships and transgender or nonbinary characters, Cipri delivers the origin story for a superhero team comprised of murdered girls; a housecleaner discovering an impossible ocean in her least-favorite clients' house; a man haunted by keys that appear suddenly in his throat; and a team of scientists and activists discovering the remains of a long-extinct species…


Book cover of Never Have I Ever: Stories

Charlie Jane Anders Why did I love this book?

Yap's debut collection is full of brilliant moments and haunting images. She wraps together Filipino folklore with characters who are endlessly rich and fascinating, and the result is sometimes terrifying, sometimes weird and unsettling, and always gorgeous. This book will leave you feeling as if uncanny worlds are waiting for you to discover them, just out of view. Many of these stories go to dark places, but then you stumble on a sweet tale like "A Spell For Foolish Hearts," involving a gay magician, a love potion, and a complicated relationship. You'll wish you could read this book for the first time more than once.

By Isabel Yap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Have I Ever as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Am I dead?" Mebuyen sighs.
She was hoping the girl would not ask.

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap's debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, "A Spell for Foolish Hearts" to the terrifying tension of the urban legend "Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez."


You might also like...

The Birthright of Sons: Stories

By Jefferey Spivey,

Book cover of The Birthright of Sons: Stories

Jefferey Spivey Author Of The Birthright of Sons: Stories

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an avid reader of queer literary fiction not only because I write it but because I’m looking to see my life experience captured on the page. As a gay man, a father of two young boys, and one-half of an interracial married couple, I know the complexity of modern queer living firsthand. In recent years, I’ve been astounded by the breadth of great LGBTQ+ books that examine queerness fully and empathetically. I seek out these books, I read them feverishly, and I become a champion for the best ones. In an era of intense book banning, it’s so important to me to elevate these books and their authors.

Jefferey's book list on capturing the complexity of the queer experience

What is my book about?

The Birthright of Sons is a collection of stories centered around the experiences of marginalized people, namely Black and LGBTQ+ men. Although the stories borrow elements from various genres (horror, suspense, romance, magical realism, etc.), they are linked by an exploration of identity and the ways personhood is shaped through interactions with the people, places, and belief systems around us.

In each of these stories, the protagonists grapple with their understanding of who they are, who and how they love, and what is ultimately most important to them. In almost every case, however, the quest to know or protect oneself is challenged by an external force, resulting in violence, crisis, or confusion, among other outcomes.

The Birthright of Sons: Stories

By Jefferey Spivey,

What is this book about?

The Birthright of Sons is a collection of stories centered around the experiences of marginalized people, namely Black and LGBTQ+ men. Though the stories borrow elements from various genres (horror, suspense, romance, magical realism, etc.), they're linked by an exploration of identity and the ways personhood is shaped through interactions with the people, places, and belief systems around us.

Underpinning the project is a core belief - self-definition is fluid, but conflict arises because society often fails to keep pace with personal evolution. In each of these stories, the protagonists grapple with their understanding of who they are, who and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in magical realism, alcoholism, and urban legend?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about magical realism, alcoholism, and urban legend.

Magical Realism Explore 415 books about magical realism
Alcoholism Explore 98 books about alcoholism
Urban Legend Explore 8 books about urban legend