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.
Taking in the absurdities of life, misfortune and tragedy, Kwon Yeo-sun’s Lemon is an engaging, read-in-one-sitting novella of remarkable intensity. In some regards, it’s a crime novel, but one that turns the genre on its head to create an enigmatic emotional puzzle in which a woman warped by grief engages with the person she believes killed her sister. Back in 2002, nineteen-year-old Kim Hae-on was murdered in what became called the High School Beauty Murder. There were only ever two suspects, one of whom had an alibi, while no evidence was found to convict the second, so the case was never solved. Seventeen years later, Kim Hae-on’s younger sister, Da-on, remains utterly eaten up by the murder. Her life is on hold, her mind trapped in twisted stasis. Fixated on finding out what happened to her sister, she discovers unexpected truths that strike her to the core. Told from multiple perspectives and times, the story sparks with descriptive perfection, such as this evocation of the victim: “She was very pretty, but not in a typical way. How could I describe it? Her beauty was urgent, precarious, like the piercing wail of a speeding ambulance. I could not look away”. It also swirls with powerful undercurrents of raw emotion - desperation, regret, longing, guilt, the brutal ripples of grief. Presented in all their ludicrous complexities, such raw states are overlaid with the mundanities of everyday life. Though short, this is an intensely gripping and profound reading experience. As Lemon ponders: “Couldn’t each moment we’re living now be the meaning of life?”
Dive in and discover 19 winning short stories by some of the greats in the crime writing world. You can sink in and totally immerse yourself in the writing, or pick and choose at your leisure. The Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) was founded in 1953, and they have run their annual awards, The Daggers, since 1956. Take a look at the shortlists of each Dagger and you are set up with a beautifully meaty reading list, the Short Story Dagger is no exception. Maxim Jakubowski, the current chair, has assembled this collection and as he declares in his introduction: “Every story a winner!”. The first, Swiftwing 98 by Peter O’Donnell in 1985 was from a time when the Short Story Dagger had to submitted and include certain ingredients. He had to work in a bottle of champagne, a cryptic message on a micro computer screen, a beautiful blonde Hungarian pianist and Victoria Station, and it is fascinating to see how these feature in the story. Maxim explains that not long after, the rules changed, and the award was given to what was judged to be just the best crime short story of that year. Particular stand outs for me were the amusing intrigue of Herbert in Motion by Ian Rankin, the slicing horror of the Dummies’ Guide to Serial Killing by Danuta Reah, and the heartbreak of Martha Grace by Stella Duffy. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, Daggers Drawn is a perfect gift for any crime fiction lovers and short story aficionados out there.
An absolute little treasure! After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro finds himself on an adventure with Tiger the talking cat, to help books that desperately need saving. This incredibly quirky and beautiful novel highlights the importance of books, friendship, and self-belief. The simplicity of the story highlights the warmth, the love, and the true power of books. It also encouraged me to explore my own relationship with books. Sosuke Natsukawa painted images straight into my thoughts, simple, clear, vividly bright, they still sit in my minds eye. A shout out to the translation by Louise Heal Kawai, as I felt as though I was reading the original Japanese version. If you, like me, think of books as being more than words on paper, if you talk to them and pat them, are moved by them and have thoughts altered by them, then I recommend The Cat Who Saved Books with my heart and soul. Chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the Month, it really would make the perfect gift, either for you, or another book-lover in your life.
Super smart and a little weird (in the best possible way), Several People are Typing comes served with a huge dollop of darkly quirky, smirky humour. This novel, which comes in at under 250 pages, is all written in the workplace chat function of the app Slack. Gerald is uploaded into the Slack while working on a spreadsheet, his pleas for help initially go unanswered by his work colleagues. We use Slack at LoveReading, but you really don’t need to be aware of it in order to ‘get’ this book, anyone who uses a workplace communications channel, apps or social media will just slide into this book and within a couple of pages feel right at home. Gerald and his colleagues could be anyone, anywhere, the little darts of jealousy, humour, support, showboating, flirting, and all the other emotions that highlight office life can be found on display. In terms of characters, Slackbot is a particular favourite of mine, the horror of the situation is deftly handled with humour by Calvin Kasulke. While office politics and shenanigans are front and foremost, I really enjoyed the relationship element sneaking in to stir things up. And it really did stir things up as it also poked a thought-provoking elbow into sexual consent. Several People are Typing is a fabulously ballsy read that edges along a tightrope between provocative and humour.
The latest instalment from the beloved THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series Catch up on the latest from Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and other favourites in this new instalment of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. As the temperature rises in Gaborone, Precious Ramotswe, founder of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, wonders whether the heat could be the reason that business is particularly slow. Luckily, a slower pace in life is her natural preference, unlike her colleague Mma Makutsi, who is alert to every passing observation and inclined to making snap decisions. With fewer cases to handle, Precious has time to contemplate her new neighbours, a couple who, by the sounds of it, have a rather volatile relationship . . . But then a distant cousin of Mma Ramotswe's comes to the agency with a plea for help, and the ladies decide to pursue the issue together. Armed with Mma Ramotswe's circumspection and Mma Makutsi's sharp eye, they proceed with confidence and open hearts. What, after all, could be more straightforward than a family matter? Meanwhile, their colleague Charlie is behaving oddly, borrowing Mma Ramotswe's van and returning it in an unusual condition. Digging a little deeper, the explanation is both strange and extraordinary, and takes Charlie, along with Mma Ramotswe's husband, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, on a hair-raising night-time expedition. In the end, Precious is reminded of the need to view a picture from every angle, to accept the imperfections in people and situations, and then find a solution - preferably over a delicious slice of her friend Mma Potokwani's fruit cake.
Egan’s finely tuned skill as a storyteller seduces you. Right from the opening chapter he sets up a delicious, nerve-tingling sense of foreboding, with references that range from Game of Thrones and mushroom clouds to Afghanistan, Iraq and the impending end of the world. He doesn’t so much hook you into his imagined world, as gently caress a net around you, coaxing you onto each page after the next. And what a story he tells. Plucky, thoughtful Kyle Halfpenny, year 11, lives with her Dad who is either a mad drunk or prescient seer. She sees bigger pictures and small details and has views, thoughts and fears that all speak of a profound understanding and compassion for the lot of those in her world. She communes with foxes, mourns for a lasagne that had ”shrunk in on itself, like it was trying to hide from it’s own failings” and through the absence of her mother and missing her brother, she cares for her Dad, a lasagne made mortal, who seeks sanctuary with Kyle on a island imbued with history, overrun by rabbits and the home of hope. This is a one hell of a read, for YA readers as much as for the intended adult audience. It is a cautionary tale of the corrosive effect on life of unfettered fear, the acid that eats joy. It is a sad and lyrical hymn to our responsibilities to ourselves and to each other. And, with its exquisite, magical, story-within-a story, it is an enchanting fable about the gritty beauty of life and of all lives. Unless you’re a rabbit.
A dazzling debut collection which, deftly and urgently, tells the stories of those living in the biggest and most complicated country on earth. A brother competes for gaming glory while his twin sister exposes the dark side of the Communist government on her underground blog; a worker at a government call centre is alarmed one day to find herself speaking to a former lover; a delicious new fruit arrives at the neighbourhood market and the locals find it starts to affect their lives in ways they could never have imagined; and a young woman's dreams of making it big in Shanghai are stalled when she finds herself working as a florist. These are just some of the myriad lives to be evoked in The Land of Big Numbers, a collection of stories which - sometimes playfully, sometimes darkly - draws back the curtain on the realities of modern China and unveils a cast of characters as rich and complicated as any in world literature. With virtuosic brilliance, Te-ping Chen sheds light on a country much talked about but little understood and announces the birth of a bright new star in the literary firmament.
‘Running Coyote and Fallen Star’ by Gavin Boyter is a collection of short stories created through an interesting concept. Looking for inspiration the author started to write short stories to a strict word count using three randomly generated words as prompts. ‘Running Coyote and Fallen Star’ not only contains some of these works (that have received further editing from the initial strict requirements) but other stories of a variety of length for readers to disappear into. I found all of these stories very well-written and I liked the variety of genres within the collection. Some stories address life during the pandemic, others are set in the future with a science fiction twist. There’s tales of ghosts and old friendships and without going through and describing every single one, there’s something for everyone. If you’d like a recommendation to start with, I found ‘Duet’ to be the most powerful. A great short story collection to suit any mood or available reading time. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties is a box of fireworks that crackles with characterful portraits of California’s Cambodian immigrant community, and with bittersweet, universally resonant observations and truths. Perfectly-formed, with wham-bam impact, each and every short story in this anthology gets to the heart of what makes us strive to live our version of a good life through its sharp exposition of distinct - and distinctly memorable - characters and circumstances. The stories typically teeter on that heady hi-wire between the absurd and the poignant, as in Superking Son Scores Again in which a grocery store owner and badminton coach experiences a downfall to rival that of any Shakespearean tragicomic hero. Then there are characters grappling with their identities as the children of Cambodian refugees, and with the weighty legacy of the Khmer Rouge genocide. By turns gritty and wildly funny, poignant and thought-provoking (and often all of these at once), Afterparties is an exceptional collection.
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.