The best short story collections

Who am I?

I grew up reading short stories in the annual Reader’s Digest books my parents collected, so I’ve always liked the short form. Perhaps that is why I pursued it in college, wanting to know what made them work. So I took a lot of classes in college to do just that, to dissect stories to see what made them resonate with readers. And although I’ve been trying to push myself to write longer fiction, I’ll never be able to fully abandon the short fiction. I love a story you can read in a day and think about all night.

I wrote...

Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

By Kenneth W. Cain,

Book cover of Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

What is my book about?

In his youth, Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There's a little something for every reader.

These 25 short speculative stories represent the smoldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain's soul. In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown.

The books I picked & why

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20th Century Ghosts

By Joe Hill,

Book cover of 20th Century Ghosts

Why this book?

Besides the fact that Joe Hill is one of my favorite writers at the moment, this collection is 100% solid writing. Also, one of my favorite stories, “Pop Art,” is included in the book. To me, the sense of ambiguity, of using one otherworldly concept to stand for something so plain and simple, addressing current issues through your fiction are all present in that story.

After the People Lights Have Gone Off

By Stephen Graham Jones,

Book cover of After the People Lights Have Gone Off

Why this book?

SGJ has such a unique voice, it’s hard to deny this collection its props. Here you have a wide range of themes and unique characterization, and I think there’s a lot to be learned from a collection such as this. Dialogue, character building, tension; this is like a guide to writing good fiction.

The Lottery and Other Stories

By Shirley Jackson,

Book cover of The Lottery and Other Stories

Why this book?

I mean, come on. We’ve all read The Lottery. This is a collection of works from a master of fiction. We dissected that story in nearly every literature class I took in college, and it never got old. That ability to exploit the darkness in the very mundane has always been a staple of horror, and no one does that better than Jackson. And while the subject matter for many of her stories may not have always been hot topics at the time, they're quite relevant now in the clarity of their message.

Full Dark, No Stars

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Full Dark, No Stars

Why this book?

This is classic King at its best. Once again, we have a wide range of themes, but King delivers his prose with grace and ease like no other. This collection inspired so many ideas for my own work, it’s hard not to include it. What I love about a good King collection is that you never really know where he’s going to take you on a mind voyage, so it’s always an interesting trip. “Expect the unexpected” has been a big play for my own writing, often epitomized in King’s writing. 

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

By Ken Liu,

Book cover of The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Why this book?

I love, love, love "The Paper Menagerie". It’s one of my favorites. In fact, I’ve not come across one story by Liu yet that failed to take me to another place. His work has appeared in numerous pro markets and featured in the Netflix series, Love, Death, & Robots. Now you can get the wealth of it in one place, and I’m thankful for it. Liu is a fantastic writer with unique and diverse ideas and world-building. 

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