On Our Shelves: 45 Favorite Short Story Collections

February 22, 2008 | 1 book mentioned 24 2 min read

To wrap up Short Story Week here at The Millions, we conducted an informal poll of our contributors, asking them to name their favorite English-language short story collections. The results form a kind of subjective bibliography, a personal pantheon of 45 favorite collections. We’ve added links to our blurbs and reviews where appropriate. We hope this list will be useful, or at least interesting; feel free to add your own picks, and blurbs, in the comments box below.

The List:

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.


  1. Thanks for the great list! The recent Hollywood writer's strike, brought up 'back' to the Library…it's always better to have a good book then a TV remote.

  2. I have very fond memories of reading short story collections when I was a kid. Thanks for the list and reminding me about this great literary form.

  3. I second some recommendations here! But I hated the ZZ Packer collection, except perhaps for "Brownies"…

  4. Great list, but missing my two favorites:
    — "We're in Trouble" by Christopher Coake
    — "Dead Fish Museum" by Charles D'Ambrosio


  5. The list is pretty solid, especially with the great add of the horribly undervalued Susan Straight. She's an amazing amazing writer.

  6. I am with the Hemingway fans. He is my favorite short story writer. His tight, short wonders have delighted me since I first read them as a teenager. "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and "Up in Michigan" are perfect examples of great short stories. I have also discovered through my two annual short story contests that the form is getting more and more attention and, judging by the recent entries to the "Warren Adler Short Story Contest," I have become convinced that there are many extremely talented short story practitioners out there just waiting for a larger market to open up. I have always loved the form and my fifth collection New York Echoes has just been released.


  7. Don't forget The Collected Stories of Richard Yates and First Love and Other Sorrows, Harold Brodkey. Also, Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich. And the wonderful Andre Dubus.

  8. Love the list, but I would add a few more titles, like “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami, who writes in his own, unique style. I alsko liked “Windowjumpers” by Joel Strivewell and Chuck Palahniuk’s “Haunted”, which isn’t exactly a short story collection by definition, but rather 23 stories combained in a novel – something like a modern day “Decameron”

  9. Why is Barry Hannah’s “Airships” never included on these lists? Probably the most under appreciated collection from the 20th century.

  10. T.C. Boyle! I pick up his Stories Volumes 1 &2 whenever I can’t pick between the billion books I want to read. They never disappoint! Often stunning, memorable, perfect. I’ve read a few of the oldest stories recently – amazing.

    Other omissions: Flannery O’ Connor, Adam Johnson’s Emporium, Karen Russell

    I know this is an old list, but I recently enjoyed Kelly Link’s ‘Get In Trouble’ so I imagine the other collections are worth picking up. SO many to choose… I might have to pick that Boyle Stories collection back up again.

  11. Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones (glad to see Aunt Hagar here), agree re: FOC. The China Factory by Mary Costello and Dinosaurs on Other Planets, just published in Ireland last month and coming stateside next year.

    Hawthorne! De Mapaussant! Collette! Mary Lavin!

    I would also make a case for some really great anthologies– the Oxford Book of Short Stories edited by VS Pritchett got me hooked on the short story as a teenager. Pritchett’s story Many Are Disappointed, AE Coppard’s story The Mustard Field and Mary Lavin’s MY Vocation among many many others.

  12. oh yes, Mansfield. So so many. And Charles Baxter’s story Gryphon just kills me. Salinger. Also very fond of Wilde’s stories for children– Selfish Giant etc, if you would consider including them here. Seán ´O’Faoláin, Frank O’Connor, Think I may prefer Updike’s short stories to his novels, actually– but not adequately well read with him to make a case for this. Bradbury, Wolff, Dubus, yes. Shepard. Baldwin.

  13. still obsessing. Chabon’s short stories are splendid– Son of the Wolfman and House Hunting are two of my most beloved. I really liked The Whore’s Child by Richard Russo, too.

  14. Some not mentioned that figure in my own pantheon of stellar examples:

    Vladimir Nabokov (“The Vane Sisters,” “Signs and Symbols,” “Spring In Fialta,” “Perfection,” etc.)

    Flannery O’Connor (“Good Country People, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “Parker’s Back”)

    William Trevor (“A Complicated Nature,” “The Day We Got Drunk on Cake,” “Mrs. Silly”)

    Shirley Jackson (“The Daemon Lover,” “The Lottery,” “Flower Garden,” “The Summer People)

    Isaac Bashevis Singer (“Gimpel the Fool”), Herman Melville (“Bartleby, the Scrivener”), William Faulkner (“A Rose for Emily”) Henry James (“A Beast in the Jungle”), Philip Roth (“Eli, the Fanatic”) Thomas Mann (“Death in Venice”) and Leo Tolstoy (“The Death of Ivan Ilyich.”)

    Favorite Lost Cause: A Visit from the Footbinder and Other Stories by Emily Prager

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