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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.
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.
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.
As the acknowledged 'Queen of Crime', P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a special short story for Christmas. Four of the best of these have been drawn from the archives and published here. P. D. James' prose illuminates each of these perfectly formed stories, making them ideal reading for the darkest days of the year. While she delights in the secrets that lurk beneath the surface at family gatherings, her Christmas stories also provide tantalizing puzzles to keep the reader guessing. P. D. James embraces the challenge of the short-story form, and ingeniously weaves the strands of plot, setting, characterisation and surprise to create a satisfying whole within only a few thousand words.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. October 2016 Book of the Month. Three years ago Cardiff born Ellie moved into a small block of twelve flats in Kensal Rise, London. Her life is dull. She does tele-ad sales for a trade mag and then suddenly she gets postcards from Greece addressed to a S. Ibbotson at her address. They are from an “A” in Greece as he travels round the country. She loves them and sticks them to her flat wall. After a few months she is inspired to go there herself. As she leaves for the airport she picks up a small package from her post pigeon hole. It contains a notebook in “A”’s handwriting. So we learn the man, Anthony, was expecting his love to join him for a fortnight’s holiday though she never came. He was in Greece researching a book and has the advance which will last a year if he is careful. Dejected and in despair he goes travelling to forget, escape, lose himself … all those things Greece can offer, plus fantastic scenery and sunshine. As he is alone the locals embrace him and many tell him tales. There follows a series of short stories as he moves from village square to village square and listens. They are gentle, poignant, very Greek and quite charming. Some have religious undertones, some touch on mythology, quite a few are just human drama tales of love, deception, loss and sadness, although many do have happy endings. The most horrific is The Honeymoon, the sweetest Air on a G String. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Gosh, this is absolutely and completely enchanting. The moment I laid eyes on ‘The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow’ I knew I had fallen in love, I hugged the book before even opening the pages. I felt like a child again, it’s beautifully sized, it’s big, the cover stunning, it just invites you to pick it up. The story began when Jackie Morris created Christmas cards, one a year for Help Musicians UK, the words, while there all along, arrived later, in the creating of this book. The illustrations speak so eloquently and beautifully they brought a tear to my eye and goose bumps magically appeared on my arms. This is a book where you just sink into the pages, drift away on the words, and it feels like a half remembered dream. I whole heartedly recommend ‘The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow’, it would make a perfect gift (even for yourself), and is a fairy tale delight of a read. ~ Liz Robinson A message from the author, Jackie Morris: Between the covers of this book there is a gathering, of images* and stories. The words tell only a small part of what can be found in the images. These stories ask more questions than they answer. Look at the paintings and find within them more answers. The book is a harbour in which to rest, a catalyst for the imagination, and the stories are a series of lullabies for grown-ups. My hope is that the threads of stories will wrap around the dreams of others and spin fine gold threads to catch the imagination. * - The illustrations were originally commissioned Christmas card designs for the charity Help Musicians. The brief was always the same: anything, so long as there were musical instruments or musicians in it. A message from Jon Boden, singer, composer and musician: A tantalising glimpse into an enigmatic, free-flowing world with music at its heart... Music, painting and words have long been close acquaintances, but in The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow Morris has discovered a way of bringing the three art forms together in a truly organic, intuitive amalgam. Click here to read more about Jackie's inspiration for this title and also a word from Jon Boden.
The ominously significant title of ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ slashes through the delicate vibrancy of the cover, summing up the contents beautifully. 18 short stories and two poems, steaming with life, death, passion, regret and the occasional gnashing of twisted, gnarly fangs. I absolutely loved Stephen King’s short introductions to each tale, almost as much as the stories themselves. The story behind the story reveals snippets of information, of reasoning, the why and how. This is a wonderfully diverse collection from full on fantasy, to possibilities and practicalities, and yet there are links to be discovered. Some tales made me shiver, others raise a smirking eyebrow, they all though, set my mind pondering and questing, and personal favourites were Afterlife and The Little Green God of Agony. These are knowing, crafty, sharp stories, ready to catch you unaware and to give your imagination a hammering - in other words, they are fabulous. ~ Liz Robinson
Ransom Riggs’s spine-tingling fantasy novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is now a film directed by – who else? - Tim Burton, and this extremely handsome book purports to be a collection of favourite peculiar folktales. Anthologist Millard Nullings, himself a peculiar, exhorts readers to enjoy the Tales ‘before a crackling fire on a chilly night, ideally, a snoring grimbear at your feet’ which would indeed be the ideal setting for these curious, occasionally macabre but often gently comic stories of cannibals, shape shifters and other outsiders. Each story begins with a beautiful illustration by Andrew Davidson created from his wood engravings. You don't need to be a fan of the original series to enjoy this book, but Miss Peregrine devotees will find lots of references hidden in its pages. ~ Andrea Reece
First came a sinister warning to Poirot not to eat any plum pudding...then the discovery of a corpse in a chest...next, an overheard quarrel that led to murder...the strange case of the dead man who altered his eating habits...and the puzzle of the victim who dreamt his own suicide.
Alison Moore is an exceptional author whose writing explores the dark, unsettling and unsafe areas of everyday life. With this collection of short stories, as with her Man Booker shortlisted The Lighthouse, don’t expect cheerful redemption and sugar coated happy endings - rather powerful, affecting vignettes of other people’s lives and situations that will make you think.
This eclectic mix explores love and loss across the dividing lines of culture, race and ethnicity. Love is celebrated, broken and forgotten; is embraced and remembered, in this collection of stories of heartbreak and resilience. "The Whole Kahani" (The Complete Story), is a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin. The group was formed in 2011 to provide a creative perspective that straddles cultures and boundaries both emotional and geographical. Its aim is to give a new voice to old stories and increase the visibility of South Asian writers in Britain. Members of The Whole Kahani are: Kavita A. Jindal, Dimmi Khan, Reshma Ruia, Mona Dash, Radhika Kapur, Rohan Kar, C.G. Menon, Farrah Yusuf, Iman Qureshi and Shibani Lal.
Highly Recommended. Horror is about taking us to scary places, and this collection of six tales from one of the key names in contemporary American literature takes us to the most scary places of all – inside our own hearts and minds. The horror here is psychological and is very much rooted inside the events and concerns that shadow the everyday of the contemporary world. Fans of A. L. Kennedy as much as fans of Joe Hill will understand what Oates is about with this stories. Her narrators and characters reveal themselves to the reader through measured and, to them, reasoned dialogue. Their words are clear and usually calm but as each tale unwinds things go out of kilter and with no tricks, no subterfuge we find that Oates has led us into a very dark place indeed. The prose is wonderfully clear and calm and because it avoids fireworks is even more effective. Whether telling the story of a boy pursuing a lonely and increasingly twisted obsession with dolls or putting us inside the head of a man accused of shooting a black teenager The Doll Master never tips into sensationalism. Instead it calmly dissects how our thoughts and emotions can become skewed and dangerous. Horror often acts as a cautionary tale and Joyce Carol Oates is telling us to be careful about the experiences that alienate people from the world. The true terror here is that people includes us.
This is an expedition to Mars goes terribly wrong. A seaside pier collapses. A thirty-stone man is confined to his living room. One woman is abandoned on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. Another woman is saved from drowning. Two boys discover a gun in a shoe box. A group of explorers find a cave of unimaginable size deep in the Amazon jungle. A man shoots a stranger in the chest on Christmas Eve.
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.