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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.
An incredible collection of short crime stories chosen by Sophie Hannah (of whom I’m a massive fan). This book is spectacularly enormous, with 1077 pages it needs to be seen to be believed. It feels as though you are about to open a treasure trove, and inside are tales from a huge variety of women writers, from across the ages to bang up to date. As I read the list of authors I was like a kid in a sweet shop, to pick out just a couple almost feels wrong as there is some major talent on offer here. Sophie Hannah introduces her collection with the confession that she is a mystery addict, and that puzzles sit centre stage in the stories. I was initially drawn to the tales by authors I recognised, but also delighted in making new acquaintances. Within ‘Deadlier’ there is something to suit every crime lover, this is a book to sit on a shelf close by, to pick up and immerse yourself in again and again, I quite simply love it. ~ Liz Robinson
Three short stories with the link the Cornish village of Pendruggan. Fern has used characters from her previous Cornish novels so those familiar with her work will feel at home. Those new to her work are not left to flounder for sufficient back story is given. The first, A Cornish Carol, is a modern day Christmas Carol, this is followed by The Beach Cabin where a London married couple sort out their lives and The Stolen Weekend closes the book. It tells us of a couple of female friends escaping to London but missing the events of the village. Warm, funny and engaging the collection is perfect with on a cold winter evening, to be transported to the sun, golden beaches and a lovely welcoming group of individuals.
If you are familiar with Eugenides’ work then these, his first collection of short stories, are probably what you would expect, i.e. not happy. They are about love, envy, regret, desire, illness and death. Only one, Baster, has any humour, albeit black. The rest are about people falling towards ruin or tragedy. Some have intriguing twists but most you must enjoy largely for the fine writing, great atmosphere and deep emotions. One, Air Mail, which has a description of the protagonist’s life slipping away is stunning and very sad. He is a much praised, prize-winning author and these certainly show his ability. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
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.
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
September 2017 Book of the Month A heart-warming stand-alone novel about a group of passengers on an Edinburgh to London train. They have one thing in common - they have all been in love. Poignant stories full of warmth, romance and charm. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'McCall Smith possesses an amazing gift to be able to write about love. He does it with warmth and great perception, whilst avoiding the pitfalls of sentimentality. It takes great skill to be able to write this well, and great humanity; qualities he has in abundance.' - Neville Moir, Birlinn Ltd
A captivating collection of short fiction by one of the most beloved writers of our time Eva Luna is a young woman whose powers as a storyteller bring her friendship and love. Lying in bed with her European lover, refugee and journalist Rolf Carle, Eva answers his request for a story 'you have never told anyone before' with these twenty-three samples of her vibrant artistry.
She is running and becoming smaller, running and becoming smaller, running in the light of the reddening sun, the red of her hair and her coat falling, the red of her fur and her body loosening. Running. Holding behind her a sudden, brazen object, white-tipped. Her yellow scarf trails in the briar. All vestiges shed. Sarah Hall is an exquisite chronicler of landscapes - rural, industrial, psychological - and these haunting stories reveal a writer at the peak of her powers. Rich in the mythic symbolism of wilderness and wasteland, these tales blur the natural and urban, mundane and surreal, human and animal. Written in Hall's lyrical prose, this uncannily disturbing collection glitters with poetic and erotic imagery. Marked by a fascination with the intimacy of nature - and the nature of intimacy - Madame Zero is a stunning new collection from an author twice nominated for the Booker Prize.
The nation's favourite annual guide to the short story, now in its seventh year. Best British Short Stories invites you to judge a book by its cover - or more accurately, by its title.
Among the less-traveled mountains and plains of Central Europe, a little east of Austria perhaps and north of Slovenia, lies the old kingdom of Orsinia. A land of forests and quiet farmlands and towns, with its capital city Krasnoy on the broad Molsen River, Orsinia has always found itself, like all the countries of Europe, subject to forces beyond its borders. Yet, cast as they are in the shadow of tyrannies both Western and Eastern, the lives and dreams of its free people are no less important than the great arguments of Europe's emperors and dictators. Here then are those lives: in tales of romance and blood-lust, hope and fear, freedom and tyranny, passion and despair.
'My favourite debut of 2017 ...as funny as it is poignant' Lena Dunham When Nell Stevens was given the opportunity to spend three months in a location of her choice in order to write her novel, she was determined to rid herself of all distractions. So Nell decided to travel to Bleaker Island (official population: two) in the Falklands where she would write 2,500 words a day. But Bleaker House is not that novel. Instead this is a book about a young woman realising that the way to writing fiction doesn't necessarily lie in total solitude and a clear plan. Nor does it lie in a daily ration of 1085 calories, no means of contacting the outside world and a slow descent towards something that feels worryingly like madness ...
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.