Want to read a story with all the depth, questions and quality of a novel, written by highly skilled writers in about 5% of the space? Short stories can be heartbreaking, mysterious and incredibly detailed; for a perfectly formed, bite-sized smorgasbord of stories, browse our Short Story recommendations here.
In this award-winning collection of cycling tales, Wilfried de Jong uncovers the true soul of cycling - why we do it, why we watch it, why we hate it, why we love it - stripped bare. With his distinctly comic and melancholic charm Wilfried ponders life, love and death on his trusted bike, chasing the essence of our existence against the backdrop of major cycling events or while roaming alone in nature. Whether he is describing being ejected from Paris-Roubaix, a terminal incident with a bird while out riding, or explaining why he is standing stark naked on Belgian cobbles with a tyre in his hand, Wilfried unlocks a sport that involves so much pain, punishment, and a high probability of failure, but that will always liberate and inspire us.
Four short novels from the author of THE FIREMAN and HORNS, ranging from creepy horror to powerful explorations of our modern society. One autumnal day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails, splinters of bright crystal that tear apart anyone who isn't safely under cover. 'Rain' explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as clouds of nails spread out across the country and the world. Amidst the chaos, a girl studying law enforcement takes it upon herself to resolve a series of almost trivial mysteries . . . apparently harmless puzzles that turn out to have lethal answers. In 'Loaded' a mall security guard heroically stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun movement. Under the hot glare of the spotlights, though, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it... 'Snapshot, 1988' tells the story of an kid in Silicon Valley who finds himself threatened by The Phoenician, a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid that can steal memories... And in 'Aloft' a young man takes to the skies to experience parachuting for the first time . . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero's island of roiling vapour that seems animated by a mind of its own.
Haunting, uplifting, beautiful: the final work from Helen Dunmore Helen Dunmore passed away in June 2017, leaving behind this remarkable collection of short stories. With her trademark imagination and gift for making history human, she explores the fragile ties between passion, love, family, friendship and grief, often through people facing turning points in their lives: A girl alone, stretching her meagre budget to feed herself, becomes aware that the young man who has come to see her may not be as friendly as he seems. Two women from very different backgrounds enjoy an unusual night out, finding solace in laughter and an unexpected friendship. A young man picks up his infant son and goes outside into a starlit night as he makes a decision that will inform the rest of his life. A woman imprisoned for her religion examines her faith in a seemingly literal and quietly original way. This brilliant collection of Helen Dunmore's short fiction, replete with her penetrating insight into the human condition, is certain to delight and move all her readers.
Brilliantly constructed speculative crime fiction A classic whodunit Dark psychological suspense Doug Johnstone returns with his most explosive and original thriller yet... Short, sharp, punchy. As a reimagined Edinburgh sits with a volcano on the doorstep, volcanologist Surtsey discovers the very dead body of her lover, and a split-second decision turns her entire world upside down. Doug Johnstone sets the pace from the very beginning, fast moving chapters kept my thoughts whirring. Surtsey is a fascinating character, living her life in the moment, her actions reverberated across the surface of the pages. I could feel her shock, her confusion, yet she didn’t allow me close enough to form a bond, consequently I found myself evaluating, sifting, perhaps even judging. It feels as though a reckoning is thundering towards Surtsey, and I sat waiting, expectantly tense, ready to view the outcome. ‘Fault Lines’ cranks up the volume on original, yet feels intensely raw, earthy, and real, for a short book, it packs a mighty wallop.
Seven captivating short stories set in the rather wonderful world of DCI Daley, which can either serve as a revealing introduction to the series, or be enjoyed by existing fans. I love a good short story, and I adore this series, so was waiting expectantly with hands outstretched for ‘One Last Dram Before Midnight’. Denzil Meyrick unveils the past, divulges more information on certain characters (we see an entertaining glimpse of Hamish in his younger days), and hands us some thoroughly tricky crimes to solve. I have a real soft spot for DS Scott, and I was on the edge of my seat during one particular situation.‘One Last Dram Before Midnight’ contains Meyrick’s trademark dark police humour and plenty of gritty cases, a few ghostly whispers also caress the pages, ensuring a gathering of gutsy, compelling tales. ~ Liz Robinson
St Andrews in the 16th century is once again brought to captivating vibrant life. With allegations of ghosts, witches, the Spanish Armada and high jinks, the year 1588 is full of life… and death. If you adore the ‘Hew Cullan Mystery’ series then you are in for an absolute treat, as in this ‘Calendar of Crime’ are five different books. They may be short, but each packs a punch as Hew uses his investigative skills in an attempt to solve 5 different mysteries. Shirley McKay sets you so completely in that time that awareness settles over you like a cloak as you read. The very different tales take place in various parts of town, and while the same core characters travel with you through the year, you also greet new ones along the way. The historical notes section and glossary at the end is an interesting read in itself. You can dip in and out of ‘1588: A Calendar of Crime’ and read it as five fascinating stories, or completely immerse yourself in it as I did, and read it one satisfying sitting.
An utterly compelling read giving an insight into the wars in Iraq, written with a frank, decisive and convincing hand. Once you start reading, you quite simply don't want to stop, it’s an often uncomfortable read but there is a feeling of needing to know and wanting to empathise with these characters. It feels as though you have been permission to have direct access to their minds, their memories, the confusion of going from a war zone to a home town, of being in combat. Although there are 12 short stories revealed here, it almost seems as though you are listening to one solider and yet all of them at the same time. Unless from a military background you may need to have a device handy to look up the acronyms used here. This is a commanding collection of short stories, one that will demand your attention throughout and clamour at your consciousness long after.~ Liz Robinson
A brilliant, bruising depiction of the dark side of 1950s Hollywood, from the author of In Love. At a Hollywood party, a screenwriter rescues an aspiring actress from a drunken suicide attempt. He is married, disillusioned; she is young, seemingly wise to the world and its slights. They slide into a casual relationship together, but as they become ever more entangled, he realises that his actions may have more serious consequences than he could ever have suspected. Hayes' exquisite novella, written in his cool, inimitable style, holds a revealing light to the hollowness of the Hollywood dream and exposes the untruths we tell ourselves, even when we think we have left illusions behind.
Deceptively clever and utterly compelling, this beautifully written little book will continue to haunt your thoughts long after you've finished it. Set in Montreal, the world of Bilodo the postman is a simple one, but he regularly sneaks a peek into other peoples worlds by reading their handwritten letters; events take a darker turn as he deviates from voyeur into an obsessive usurper. The author uses Japanese haiku and tanka poetry to allow Bilodo to converse with the woman of his dreams; exquisite clusters of words will snag your attention and demand that you re-read them. This is essentially a book of love, of what might have been and of what could still come… One of our Books of the Year 2014. Selected as a BBC Radio 2 Book Club title in September 2014.
Offered as a Hammer novella, you may well expect a substantial amount of supernatural horror, however a more rational yet none the less uncomfortable and captivating read awaits. The story is told from Muna’s viewpoint, held as a slave, abused and kept in the dark, she still has a cunning intelligence and quietly bides her time. The simplicity of the writing reveals a truly complicated and at times distressing subject matter. The ending is left on a note of uncertainty, your thoughts scrabble for purchase as they are pushed off a cliff of understanding. The author writes with a true level of compassion without hiding the cruelty explored in this creatively taut, original and chilling read.
Explore in ‘Chance Developments’ five charming and poignant short stories. I absolutely adore the premise for this little book and the cover just invites you in. Alexander McCall Smith has imagined a background tale to the five black and white photos that appear at the beginning of each short story. The photos are eloquent and moving, the stories delve deeply into possibilities, love and friendship, joy and melancholy. From Sister Flora to a circus performer, each story is a small snapshot of what might have been, and as I read, I found myself drawn back to the photo, to look again and ponder. Alexander McCall Smith has transformed five forgotten photos into a discovery of delight. ~ Liz Robinson May 2017 Book of the Month. Click here to read an exclusive interview with Alexander McCall Smith by Mary Hogarth. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'If you come across an old photograph what do you think about the people staring back out at you? Maybe that they are just anonymous people from another age, as if from another planet. Or do you, like McCall Smith, hear their voices, know their names, sense their hopes and dreams and imagine how their lives might have turned out.Blessed with a wonderful, humane imagination, McCall Smith brilliantly constructs paths for these forgotten people - some joyous, others bumpy and winding, all with unexpected twists and turns. An astonishing achievement: original and moving.' ~ Neville Moir, Editor of Chance Developments
'Katherine Heiny's work does something magical: elevates the mundane so that it has the stakes of a mystery novel, gives women's interior lives the gravity they so richly deserve - and makes you laugh along the way' Lena Dunham In the title story, we meet Maya, who is torn between her wryly funny boyfriend and the allure of her veterinarian. In Andorra, a woman's lover calls her every Thursday as he drives to meet his wife at marriage counselling. How to Give the Wrong Impression shows us a woman pining for her roommate, a man who will hold her hand but then tell her that her palm is sweaty. In The Dive Bar a girl agrees to have a drink with her married lover's wife. Revisiting Maya in several stories, chronicling her various states of love, this is a collection about how we are unfaithful to each other, both wilfully and unwittingly. Populated with unwelcome house guests, disastrous birthday parties, needy but loyal friends, and flirtatious older men, the stories are emotionally astute, sexy, and disarming-and they introduce us to a tart, and marvellous, new voice.
If you are an intrepid reader and delight in the creatively eerie, startling and spine-chilling, then some distinctive and perfectly crafted short stories await. Of course there are 13 tales, however there is nothing about the obvious here, as they range in length from one page to a novella, then float through history, fantasy and reality. ‘Night Music’ has the ability to encourage the imagination to go into overdrive, so it felt as though John Connolly was wielding a sharpened and potentially double-edged pen when I found further books, some alive with malice, lurking within the pages. I particularly enjoyed ‘The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository’ which will remain vibrantly alive and functioning within my mind. So from the strangely weird and wonderful, through to bitterly sorrowful, and grimly formidable, here have gathered, waiting to provoke your imagination, some wonderfully readable tales of the supernatural. One of our Books of the Year 2015.
Everything. In Short.
There is a real skill in being able to conjure a whole life in just a few pages, to be able to leave a reader with an enduring feeling in just a short time. Here you will find lasting stories about life the universe and everything, from authors you already know as novelists and some that will be knew and welcome friends. We love a good short story, not just because they provide great reading in bite-size chunks - perfect for the trip to work, or a moment when you just want a small piece of brilliance in your life – but also because they are (if they are good) a perfect piece of art, capturing the human condition in a snapshot that stays with the reader for much longer than it took to write. As Graham Greene put it; “a novel can seldom have the sense of perfection which you find in Chekhov’s story, The Lady with the Dog.” From Chekhov to Julian Barnes via a whole host of other perfectionists, we have hand-picked the very best of short story collections for readers of all tastes.
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