Looking for shortish bedtime reading.
September 22, 2015 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Recommend me your favorite collections of short stories please.

I'm in graduate school and I like to wind down in bed at night with non-school reading. I've always been an avid novel reader, but I've found that because I don't always have a lot of attention/energy/etc. at the end of the day, coupled with the fact that I don't get to read at night every night, it's a little harder for me to really sustain reading longer works. I'd like to switch to being able to read a whole short story in bed at night.

I'd prefer collections of stories, either by author or theme. But I'm not married to the idea if you have one off suggestions. I'd be into getting them from the library or amazon (paper or kindle).

I'm not super well read in short stories, but collections I've enjoyed have been: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, all of David Foster Wallace, Raymond Carver, Shirley Jackson.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Lutoslawski to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Roald Dahl.
posted by St. Hubbins at 6:39 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Here's a varied list of my favorites:

The original Grimm's Brothers Fairy Tales! Have you read them as an adult? Super creepy and short.
Also, Donald Barthelme is a wonderful subtle hard hitter of ideas while making you laugh at absurd things.
Short stories by Isaac Asimov, sci fi.
Angela Carter, re-told fairy tales for adults. I specifically like "The Bloody Chamber and other Stories".

posted by Arachnophile at 6:42 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you haven't read a Dorothy Parker collection you've got to. Also seconding Roald Dahl, although if you're easily disturbed it might not be great bedtime reading...
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:43 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small (and his other books) is functionally a collection of short stories where each story is a single veterinary case. There's a loose structure to the book where he settles in to Yorkshire and meets his future wife, but it only pops up time to time and it's just a framing device for the veterinary stories. It helps to have a strong stomach for the graphic yet hilarious misadventures of a man up to his shoulder in cow uterus.

I read these for middle-of-the-night feedings when I was breastfeeding and could not follow a plot too well, and they were perfect -- just the right length for a short read, and satisfying shorts each on their own. Plus it's super-interesting to read about the period of veterinary medicine right between when it became a science and when antibiotics became available ... it involves a surprising amount of men taking off their clothes to get up close and personal with sheep. I had not realized one reason the profession was male-dominated for so long as that you had to strip most of your clothes off to work with large animals.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:46 PM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Anything by Lorrie Moore: Anagrams, Self-Help, Like Life, Birds of North America, Bark.

Anagrams is my personal favorite. It's a collection of short stories featuring the same characters but in different stories, with one longer novella at the end featuring those same characters. I find it wonderful and brilliant and hilarious every time I read it. It's wonderful.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:48 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

I second Angela Carter - she's amazing. I would also recommend Kelly Link. She has several short story collections, including one that just came out in February of this year. My favorite is Pretty Monsters.
posted by yeahyeahrealcute at 6:49 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also: Flannery O'Connor. (Although the Southern Gothic thing doesn't always make for the best bedtime reading, because many of her characters and stories are quite disturbing when you get right down to it. Compelling, though!)
posted by mudpuppie at 6:50 PM on September 22, 2015

(MeFi's own!) Kelly Link is just an absolute brilliant, fantastical, uneasy, strange, incredible writer. She may not be your cup of tea - she's really nothing like the classic authors in your list. Stranger Things Happen is my favorite, but she has other collections.

In a more traditional vein, Tobias Wolff writes wonderful, spare, melancholy short stories. His collection The Night In Question is a good one. There's not a ton of "plot" in these stories -- they're mostly meditations on character, and are surprisingly deep for how simple his prose is.
posted by missmary6 at 6:50 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

George Saunders and Alice Munro. Opposite ends of the spectrum but both wonderful.
posted by vunder at 7:00 PM on September 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Eudora Welty.

My fave story of hers is "Why I Live at the P.O."
posted by harrietthespy at 7:01 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's for kids, but The Devil's Storybook (and its sequel), by Natalie Babbitt, is completely delightful. I reread it every couple of years.

I also love Kevin Brockmeier.

Arthur C. Clarke.

Nthing Roald Dahl, Isaac Asimov, George Saunders, Kelly Link.
posted by the_blizz at 7:12 PM on September 22, 2015

Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri. I could not stop reading them even though I thought I only had time for one short story every so often. And I cried, I was moved, they are so beautiful. I want to read them all right now, again, just thinking about them.
posted by anya32 at 7:18 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by gemutlichkeit at 7:29 PM on September 22, 2015

Seconding the hell out of Lorrie Moore, although I find her most recent work significantly less satisfying.
posted by mykescipark at 7:48 PM on September 22, 2015

2nd Barthelme and Asimov. Alice Munro is a master of the form - you could try Too Much Happiness, for a start (can't go wrong anywhere with her, though, really)

Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines is a collection of absurdist flash true crime stories, informed by Parisian headlines at the turn of the last century. Brilliant and bleak AF.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:57 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also love Alice Munro and recommend her collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:17 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ursula K. LeGuin's Changing Planes is one of my favorite anthologies. The stories are all fairly short and cover a range of different moods.
posted by irisclara at 8:47 PM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

My daughter likes Struwwelpeter. She's seven. It's in the public domain.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:52 PM on September 22, 2015

Stanislaw Lem. "The Star Diaries" is fun. "A Perfect Vacuum" and "Imaginary Magnitude" too.
posted by Gotanda at 9:10 PM on September 22, 2015

Collections I've read and enjoyed recently:

I Knew You'd Be Lovely, by Alethea Black
Hellgoing, by Lynn Coady
Dear Life, by Alice Munro
Good Bones, by Margaret Atwood
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:16 AM on September 23, 2015

posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:52 AM on September 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind creepiness, China Miéville's short story collections Looking for Jake and Three Moments of an Explosion are both quite good. I also enjoyed Junot Díaz's This Is How You Lose Her and Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House. For something a bit strange and different, Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey is a collection of retellings of the Odysseus story. If you're interested in short non-fiction, Mary Roach's My Planet is light reading, and David Grann's The Devil and Sherlock Holmes is very good.
posted by neushoorn at 4:18 AM on September 23, 2015

The Birthday of the World by Ursula LeGuin

The River of Time by David Brin
Otherness by David Brin

Cyberabad Days by Ian MacDonald

And for a book of childrens/YA, almost-fairytales, The Door in the Air and other stories, by Margaret Mahy.
posted by Elysum at 4:19 AM on September 23, 2015

Fairly recent and very good:

10th of December by George Saunders
The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo
posted by Lyme Drop at 5:04 AM on September 23, 2015

David Sedaris put together a wonderful compilation of his own favorites a while back: Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. Can't recommend it highly enough.

I also recommend the Best American Short Stories series (along with everything in the Best American series), which are yearly anthologies. You can often pick up used past editions very cheap and it is a great way to discover new authors.

Other possibilities: Myths and fairy tales are a great way to unwind and Edith Hamilton's Mythology is often by my bedside. And if you like poetry, The Rattle Bag is a great collection.
posted by veery at 5:41 AM on September 23, 2015

Nabokov. My wife is reading his collected stories at bedtime now and finds them perfect for the purpose. (She loves good prose and doesn't want to have to worry about something gruesome popping out at her.)
posted by languagehat at 8:56 AM on September 23, 2015

These are all fantastic suggestions, thank you!
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:36 PM on September 23, 2015

If you like brain candy, Keith Laumer's Retief books are light and fun. Laumer was no slouch at harder SF with the Bolo collection and some stand-alone works - yet the Retief collection is the perfect James-Bond-meets-the-bureaucracy conceit.
posted by jet_silver at 9:58 PM on September 23, 2015

Bernard Malamud. An indication of being a good short-story writer is having an award for short stories named after you. I'd start with the volume of selected stories. If that's not enough, you can get the much larger complete collection.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:15 AM on September 24, 2015

I love John Collier's Fancies and Goodnights.
posted by salix at 7:38 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lydia Davis writes short stories that often redefine the concept of short stories. Sometimes only a page long. I find her writing to be the most meditative thing to read, and believe it would be great for your bedtime reading.
posted by dogwalker at 9:42 PM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

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