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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.
When Tito is a child, his grandmother teaches him how to weave magic around the ones you love in order to keep them close. She is the master and he is the pupil, exasperating Tito's put-upon mother who, although exhausted from working long hours, is usually the focus of their mischief. As Tito grows older and his grandmother's mind becomes less sound, their games take a dangerous turn. They both struggle with a particular spell, one that creates an illusion of illness to draw in love. But as the lines between magic and childish tales blur, so too do those between fantasy and reality. In this beautifully told drama of the bond between grandson and grandmother, JT Torres delicately explores the complexities of family bonds - in which love is need, and need becomes manipulation, along with the pain and difficulties of dementia and mental ill health.
A collection of four uniquely wonderful long stories, including a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestseller THE OUTSIDER. News people have a saying: 'If it bleeds, it leads'. And a bomb at Albert Macready Middle School is guaranteed to lead any bulletin. Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog - and on her own need to be more assertive - when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realises there is something not quite right about the correspondent who was first on the scene. So begins 'If It Bleeds', a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestselling THE OUTSIDER featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case - and also the riveting title story in Stephen King's brilliant new collection. Dancing alongside are three more wonderful long stories from this 'formidably versatile author' (The Sunday Times) - 'Mr Harrigan's Phone', 'The Life of Chuck' and 'Rat'. All four display the richness of King's storytelling with grace, humour, horror and breathtaking suspense. A fascinating Author's Note gives us a wonderful insight into the origin of each story and the writer's unparalleled imagination.
Short and brilliantly bittersweet, Marie Aubert’s Grown Ups packs plenty of existential trials into its 160 pages. Honest, entertaining, and poignant with it, Grown Ups shows how many of us never quite grow up through its nuanced, droll portrayal of family dynamics. Single architect Ida isn’t terribly keen on children - “other people’s children, always, everywhere” - but, at forty, as her family gather at their country cabin to celebrate her mother’s 65th birthday, she’s considering freezing her eggs for the future. Sibling tension and rivalry is succinctly and potently evoked from the outset, delivered through Ida’s engaging first-person narrative that often drifts into introspective monologues. Her younger sister Marthe is insecure, desperate to conceive, and envious of Ida. At the same time, Ida competes with Marthe (“She can’t overtake me”), sick of Tinder, and desperate for physical closeness, “to have someone come up behind me, hold me, their breath at my neck.” The cracks that come in the wake of Marthe’s big announcement widen further during their mother’s birthday meal, leaving both sisters forever changed.
Like the very best short stories, Wandeka Gayle’s Motherland and Other Stories are multi-layered, long-lingering, and delivered in a deceptively simple style - vivid vignettes of life from varied corners of the globe with lasting impact that grows over time and draws you back. Many of the tales take turns down unexpected paths - purposeful detours and changes of direction that reveal new truths. Others present intimate, intense portraits of their protagonist’s complex relationship to home (Jamaica). All of them exude elegance and insights into the human condition. In my book, that’s pretty much short story perfection. Though distinct, the twelve stories are united by the courage of their protagonists, and an exploration of what it is to be black in white worlds. In Motherland we meet compassionate Roxanne, who moved from Jamaica and works in a London care home. She encounters racism, but strikes a bond with an elderly writer resident. Then there’s Ayo in Finding Joy, who leaves Jamaica to study in Louisiana and finds agency through personal upheavals “in this foreign place.” Each story, and each woman’s experiences, had me utterly in their thrall.
All twenty-two of the short stories included in Elizabeth Walcott-Hackshaw’s stunning Caribbean-set Stick No Bills are rich in atmosphere and thought-provoking observational detail. Cutting to the core of their characters’ states and situations, lingering long, and possessing the power of a Siren’s call to draw readers back for multiple readings, these stories are masterworks of the form. Vibrant with humanity and emotional ambiguities and truths, each story is a finely drawn vignette. The author’s characterisation is first-class; her painterly observations and details of place and psychological states profoundly affecting. Take 'Killing Time', for example, in which a young Trinidadian woman coins the term “lostfulness” to describe her uncertain state of being and relinquishes her dream of becoming a writer - the ending made my heart flip. Some of the stories are only a few paragraphs long, and yet these too bear tremendous power. 82, for example, unpacks an entire existence in its chain of 82 words. In these shortest pieces, Walcott-Hackshaw conveys the feeling of existing within particular moments with brilliant dynamism - fleeting flashes of thought, or poignant reflection, or anticipation of what will come next. The eponymous story, 'Stick No Bills', is an exquisite example of this, capturing as it does the cycle of life and motherhood as a woman ponders the imminent departures of her daughter and mother with heart-aching precision, and all prompted by observing a “stick no bills” notice on an ice factory she first saw during her childhood. While the stories exude multiple moods, together they form an exquisite whole, united by finely-threaded themes of family, loss, the passing of time, ponderings on the past, and possible futures.
In the bedazzling world of adventure sports, many would say (me included) that Anna McNuff burns the brightest. The title for her latest book, Bedtime Adventure Stories for Grown-Ups, may surprise many of her following who don’t regard Anna as especially grown-up and may also be surprised at the implication that she ever sleeps! There’s a laugh on every page of this compilation of some of the author’s "mini-adventures” over the years - although what’s mini for Anna might be mega for most... Close to home and abroad, on wheels and on foot, at all times of the day and night … Anna’s appetite for adventure is insatiable and her talent for wordplay and punchlines ensures that the stories are lively, colourful and likely to turn up your lust for living. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about these dreamy adventurous bedtime tales… is that they are actually, really, true. I mean, who climbs over their backyard gate to be sent all over Europe by the public egging her on with daily votes on where to head to next? Answer: This gal. ~ Greg Hackett Find our full list of recommended adventure reads for the London Mountain Film Festival Bookfest 2021.
A wonderfully engaging blended mix of spy turned PI novel set in the USA during the 1960’s. When ex CIA spy Vera’s girlfriend leaves her and on the same day she is sacked, Vera decides to turn private investigator. Her first case involves a lost child and a Caribbean Island under authoritarian rule. I haven’t read the first in the series Who is Vera Kelly, yet felt incredibly comfortable stepping midway into the story. Though I have to say that the various mentions of the first book where she was stranded in Argentina during a coup, ensured I wanted to go back and meet her at the start. Vera is very much the star of this story, she survives on instinct and smarts, her vulnerabilities adding an edge. Rosalie Knecht creates a beautifully balanced story, with go-getter Vera marching through the interesting plot and her life during a time of political upheaval and action for LGBTQ rights. The ending arrived at unexpected speed, leaving me wanting to know more about this private investigator. Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery is a short, smart, rewarding detective novel with real heart.
Meet eleven fabulous short stories by China’s number one science fiction writer. This is the first time they have been published in English, originally written between 1999 and 2017, a number of different translators have ensured that an exquisite reading feast awaits. Cixin Liu’s foreword ensured a few raised eyebrows and smiles on my part. It is absolutely fascinating to read these stories, that: “inevitably have a strong Chinese flavour, imbued with the culture, history, and present reality of China” as well as explore the universe beyond our understanding. These are stories that are set on an epic scale, yet focus on the intimate and essential meaning of being human. I particularly enjoyed The Village Teacher, a story that pivots on an apparently small, individually brave act. This would be the perfect introduction to science fiction for anyone who has not yet dipped a toe. For lovers of sci-fi, there is plenty here to fall into and enjoy. Hold Up The Sky is a cracking collection of stories that allows your mind to look within as well as well as travel into the unknown.
‘Love Stories for Hectic People’ is a collection of short stories exploring aspects of love that aren’t necessarily the ones that are focused on most often, the sides that aren’t “happy ever after”. Each flash fiction piece is distinct and the collection can be read from cover to cover or picked up and enjoyed in whichever order takes your fancy. The author’s writing helps to create an entire world in a few deceptively simple stories, each one felt thought through and complete to me, with the reader left at the end pondering about next steps and unspoken meaning. The perfect way to be left after a flash fiction piece in my opinion. Covering a number of aspects of relationships and sex, from the joy of it to deeper and darker issues of affairs, abortions and miscarriage. I highlight this to demonstrate the variety within these stories (as I’ve said, each have their own unique tale, setting and atmosphere) and also to mention in case any potential reader is sensitive to a particular topic. Quick to read through with plenty to come back to and contemplate, I think that this is a great collection of flash fiction.
‘Beyond Oblivion’ is a collection of science fiction short stories. Each story looks at an aspect of life that we may recognise, with a futuristic twist. In ‘The Mortgage’ I liked that nostalgia and romanticisation of the past doesn’t change even in the author’s futuristic world, It made me smile although I did quite see the twists of this story coming. The emotions of ‘The Year of the Pig’ resonate strongly with me considering our pandemic present. The themes of vaccinations and the health risks connected with low immunity and immune systems, although given an environmental and sci-fi twist, appeared pertinent. There’s also the subtle inclusion of social media posts replacing “real” news. Each of the seven stories vary in length and there’s plenty of elements from our present-day world critiqued within each I found ‘Beyond Oblivion’ an interesting collection and I can see how it could pave the way for different discussions about how we live now. As I read I was eager to see what happened within each mini-universe while also wanting to know which part of our world would be the focus next.
A collection of short stories, ‘Ekleipsis’ contains five different stories that all focus on what happens when the characters turn their back on their humanity. The tension builds through each story builds, with gaps in information intriguing and encouraging the reader to complete the story and discover what happens. There’s a moment of grim realisation in the stories, where you know the horrifying twist that’s coming, but you can’t tear your eyes away from the pages as the dramatic twists suddenly unfold. I found each of the stories were perfectly sized - long enough to immerse you in the scene and surroundings, developing the characters and the setting well while also being succinct enough for you to read the whole story in a short sitting. This is a book you can dip in and out of, or, as I did, read the book from cover to cover, eager to know what the author has in store for you next. Each story is self-contained and covers a number of different themes and topics, from affairs and PTSD to much darker themes that would be too much of a spoiler to mention. A great read for fans of darker themed books, tension building thrillers and horror. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
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.