The strangest, weirdest, and most surreal short story collections

Who am I?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections, and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.


I wrote...

Strange Medicine

By Mike Russell,

Book cover of Strange Medicine

What is my book about?

Strange Medicine is a collection of surreal short stories. It has been described as ‘extremely imaginative’, ‘bizarre and enchanting’, ‘magical and thrilling’, ‘funny and charming’ and ‘totally mind-blowing’. No prescription necessary.

The books I picked & why

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The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

By Angela Carter,

Book cover of The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

Why this book?

When I first discovered that books could be more than entertainment, I saw them as a private space between authors and readers, safe from the tyranny of respectability, convention, and conformity, where truths could be told. Angela Carter occupies that space. Fairytales, fables, and folklore are deconstructed and retold by an author for whom society’s repression of the feminine is all too obvious. (Neil Jordan collaborated with the author on a magical movie adaptation of a few of these tales in A Company of Wolves). Go wild.

The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

By Angela Carter,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Bloody Chamber as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Helen Simpson. From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires and werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

The Dedalus Book of Surrealism: The Identity of Things

By Michael Richardson,

Book cover of The Dedalus Book of Surrealism: The Identity of Things

Why this book?

Some of the stories in this collection, like my own stories, use surreal metaphor, expressing poetic imagery in prose form; others are more about the thrill of absurdity. Though surrealism existed before the term or movement existed (in visual art and literature e.g. Lewis Carroll, Hieronymus Bosch, etc.), Andre Breton and his mates really went for it. Here you can read works by Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel, Louis Aragon, Leonora Carrington, and more. What I love about all of these artists is their obvious joy in discovering the surreal or poetic image, a joy I know well, and their absolute passion for the importance and potency of expressing such imagery. 

The Dedalus Book of Surrealism: The Identity of Things

By Michael Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dedalus Book of Surrealism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Comprised of works by authors from 17 countries, these volumes provide the most extensive assemblage of surrealist writing, much of which is here translated into English for the first time. "The Identity of Things" introduces surrealism's reworking of the fairy tale and the Gothic novel, its essays in the myths, desires and mysteries underlying modern reality.

"I went to fetch my car, but my chauffeur, who has no sense at all, had just buried it', writes Leonora Carrington in this captivating collection of tales from 17 languages."
The Observer

The Garden of Hermetic Dreams

By Gary Lachman,

Book cover of The Garden of Hermetic Dreams

Why this book?

This is a wonderful selection of short stories and novel extracts by early authors of strange, weird, surreal fiction; writers whose subject is the so-called supernatural and who rail against the reduction of life to rational materialism. These works would broadly now be referred to as weird fiction. They are only as weird as the world. The book also contains an excellent introduction by the editor, speaking up for the strange, weird, and surreal.

The Garden of Hermetic Dreams

By Gary Lachman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Garden of Hermetic Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

' Lachman presents a generous anthology of literary texts inspired by the weird, the supernatural and the gothic. From Beckford's Vathek to Gustav Meyrink's The Golem, there is a successful balance of the well-known, the esoteric and the curious.' Stuart Kelly in Scotland on Sunday 'The first item, from William Beckford's Vathek, indicates the feverish imaginings gathered in this "occult reader". It encompasses drugs, sacrifice, a genii and an Indian who becomes irresistibly arousing by transforming himself into a ball. ETA Hoffman's The Golden Flower Pot shows how this writer's fertile imagination can animate even everyday objects, as in his…

The Complete Cosmicomics

By Italo Calvino,

Book cover of The Complete Cosmicomics

Why this book?

If, like me, you like to wonder at the cosmos and its apparent absurdity, this is a great collection. A lot of the humour comes from juxtaposing the mundane with the cosmic and taking a simple premise to extremes, rather like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The Complete Cosmicomics

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Italo Calvino's enchanting stories about the evolution of the universe, with characters that are fashioned from mathematical formulae and cellular structures, The Complete Cosmicomics is translated by Martin McLaughlin, Tim Parks and William Weaver in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Naturally, we were all there, - dld Qfwfq said, - where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time either: what use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?'

The Cosmicomics tell the story of the history of the universe, from the big bang, through millennia and across galaxies. It is witnessed…


The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus

By Brian Wilson Aldiss (editor),

Book cover of The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus

Why this book?

This is the book I used to read with a torch under the bedcovers as a kid. It introduced me to many great science fiction writers. My copy had an excellent cover depicting an ice cream with an eyeball staring out of it. I loved entering the book’s different worlds. It inspired me to lie awake at night, speculating about the universe, only to awake the next morning wondering if this was the day when the school teacher would say, ‘OK enough of these spellings and sums, let’s talk about why life exists.’ I still don’t understand why it never happened.

The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus

By Brian Wilson Aldiss (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in surrealism, fairy tales, and ice cream?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about surrealism, fairy tales, and ice cream.

Surrealism Explore 70 books about surrealism
Fairy Tales Explore 211 books about fairy tales
Ice Cream Explore 6 books about ice cream

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like H Is for Hawk, The Lord of the Rings, and Women Who Run with the Wolves if you like this list.