The best short story collections by women

Lesley Pratt Bannatyne Author Of Unaccustomed to Grace
By Lesley Pratt Bannatyne

Who am I?

Whenever I take on a new short story project, I read other writers to admire them, study them, and be inspired by them; it’s like talking with old friends. These five books took me through the heart and soul of what it is to be or to have a mother, to be or to have children, to love or to lose love, to maintain the rituals and magic of family or let them go. Although I believe men can write female characters and women can write males, I really appreciate the fine-tuned ear for the nuances of motherhood, womanhood, and relationships I find in collections written by women about women.

I wrote...

Unaccustomed to Grace

By Lesley Pratt Bannatyne,

Book cover of Unaccustomed to Grace

What is my book about?

The stories in Unaccustomed to Grace are often set in a slant version of reality that is ebullient, fierce, and reassuringly human. In “Waiting for Ivy” a woman grieving the loss of her infant daughter discovers a listserv of parents whose dead children have been returned, as if the tragedy were a clerical error. In “Corpse Walks Into a Bar” an indigent loner agrees to bury a reanimated corpse, not realizing what it takes to find a resting place when the dead are as self-serving as the living. Ultimately, the book plumbs the messiness we bring on ourselves with the best of intentions, and how we work our way toward redemption. The Boston Globe calls Grace “wise, warm, and wily.”

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The books I picked & why


By Lauren Groff,

Book cover of Florida

Why did I love this book?

Humidity, rain, heat, and danger saturate this book: you can feel it. In “Midnight Zone,” a young mother has to summon all her power to protect her children from the panther that lurks outside in the dark. What could be a story about one woman dealing with her own limitations becomes one about the power and danger of mother-love. Groff’s book is filled with characters like this: steely, honest, and flawed, all at once. Above all, her women and children are much stronger and more resilient than you think. 

By Lauren Groff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?




From the universally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Furies and Matrix

Florida is a "superlative" book (Boston Globe), "frequently funny" (San Francisco Chronicle), "brooding, inventive and often moving" (NPR Fresh Air) --as Groff is recognized as "Florida's unofficial poet laureate, as Joan Didion was for California." (Washington Post)

In her thrilling new book, Lauren Groff brings the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world…

Book cover of Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories

Why did I love this book?

I love anything by Alice Munro; you can see why she won the Nobel Prize. Munro's stories sweep through huge swaths of time in simple, straightforward language; one minute you find a man in a friend’s kitchen eating a ketchup sandwich; within a few pages you are a girl again, and this man a boy, your first love, maybe. Munro’s characters are complicated, sometimes black-hearted, often conflicted and yearning, and so very real that you feel like you talked with them in the grocery store just yesterday.

By Alice Munro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


In the her tenth collection (the title story of which is the basis for the new film Hateship Loveship), Alice Munro achieves new heights, creating narratives that loop and swerve like memory, and conjuring up characters as thorny and contradictory as people we know ourselves.
A tough-minded housekeeper jettisons the habits of a lifetime because of a teenager’s practical joke. A college student visiting her brassy, unconventional aunt stumbles on an astonishing secret and its meaning in her own life. An incorrigible philanderer responds with unexpected grace to his wife’s nursing-home romance.…

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

Why did I love this book?

Reading a Karen Russell short story is like riding the roller coaster at Space Mountain. Her stories are speedy, thrilling, and you’re never sure what’s coming at you. This collection, told mostly by children, amps up the thrills. Kids visit ice skating apes, wrangle alligators, hide out in oversized conch shells, search for swamp ghosts. The title story, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves,” takes a quirky premise—feral children are sent to a Jesuit school to learn etiquette—and ramps up the elements so that we can see the cruel, sad outcomes of molding young girls against their natures. St. Lucy’s is edgy, often surreal, definitely quirky, and fiercely imaginative.

By Karen Russell,

Why should I read it?

5 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…

Thunderstruck & Other Stories

By Elizabeth McCracken,

Book cover of Thunderstruck & Other Stories

Why did I love this book?

McCracken was a librarian at my local library before she was a New York Times bestseller, so I’ve always eagerly read her books, beginning with The Giant’s House. I love Thunderstruck because it’s typical McCracken – unique, funny, tragic, and smart. In spite of the fact that accidents and death are ubiquitous, that wounds don’t magically heal, and that grief haunts many of the stories, this is not a maudlin book. McCracken can make you laugh out loud. Irony, wry humor, and joy live right next to cruel tragedy throughout the book. Best of all, compassion and tenderness abound.

By Elizabeth McCracken,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thunderstruck & Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The Washington Post • San Francisco Chronicle • O: The Oprah Magazine • The Miami Herald • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

From the author of the beloved novel The Giant’s House—finalist for the National Book Award—comes a beautiful new story collection, her first in twenty years. Laced through…

How to Breathe Underwater

By Julie Orringer,

Book cover of How to Breathe Underwater

Why did I love this book?

In my very favorite story in this book full of favorites, “Pilgrims,” young children cope with adult reality in a Lord of the Flies-like atmosphere where a tragic accident is offset by the innocent gift of a lost tooth, a talisman meant to create magic in a world that can seem devoid of it. How to Breathe forefronts girls and teens struggling with guilt, peer pressure, identity, envy, sickness, death. Sounds grim, but the writing, the world Orringer creates, is as beautiful and moving as it is dark. Her characters are the kind you can live inside, remember being, feel for. I think about them a lot, still, and I read the book more than a decade ago.

By Julie Orringer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Breathe Underwater as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times notable book and winner of The Northern California Book Award for Best Short Fiction, these nine brave, wise, and spellbinding stories make up this debut. In "When She is Old and I Am Famous" a young woman confronts the inscrutable power of her cousin's beauty. In "Note to Sixth-Grade Self" a band of popular girls exert their social power over an awkward outcast. In "Isabel Fish" fourteen-year-old Maddy learns to scuba dive in order to mend her family after a terrible accident. Alive with the victories, humiliations, and tragedies of youth, How to Breathe Underwaterilluminates this…

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