The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter:
Angela Carter's work is always very odd and very beautiful – and her short stories are no different. Her prose is rich and velveteen, and she puts a wonderful feminist twist on traditional fairy tales. Her stories often require close reading and time for reflection, though this is an aspect of them I really enjoy; her haunting narrative lingers on your mind after every story, and I think that's what makes her a truly masterful writer of short stories. Some of my favourite stories from the collection include: The Bloody Chamber, The Erl-King and The Company of Wolves.
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger:J.D. Salinger's relaxed yet polished writing style, combined with his ability to craft vividly alive characters and his flair for realistic dialogue, means his writing translates really well to the short story form. Within Nine Stories there are nine different casts of varied and believable characters – and it's this fantastic characterisation that makes this short story collection worth reading. Some of my favourite stories from the collection include: A Perfect Day For Bannanafish and Just Before the War With the Eskimos.
Can you tell I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman? Because I really am. Within these three collections Gaiman's remarkable artistry seems clearer than ever. To put it simply, he just has this engaging talent for transforming the most mundane elements of reality into the fantastical. (Out of the collections, Smoke and Mirrors is, perhaps, my favourite).
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami:
After the Quake consists of six short stories 'set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence'. Though I prefer Murakami's longer work, his short stories are still endearing, enjoyable and (as any previous Murakami reader would expect) somewhat disturbing. My favourite story from this collection is Super-frog Saves Tokyo (it's the most Murakami-ish, if you know what I mean).
That Glimpse of Truth (selected by David Miller):
This collection does not feature the work of one author, but it instead boasts '100 of the finest short stories ever written'. I've included this collection for one reason: it made me fall in love with the short story form. As you dip into these 100 tales, you're exposed to such a variety of themes, writing styles and characters – and when that happens, it's inevitable you fall in love with short stories. Like I mentioned before, there's a wonderful serendipidous edge to short story collections; needless to say, this particular collection brings unexpected delight with every new tale.
Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson:
I went through a phase of loving anything and everything written by Kate Atkinson. Her slick writing style and careful characterisation had me bewitched for years (I'll likely be under her enchantment once again when she releases another book). Not the End of the World showcases the quirkier side of Atkinson's writing as it delves into magical realism and experiments with the short story form. One thing I really love about this collection is that the stories interlink in subtle ways – which is a delight for the reader. (It also helps that the stories regularly reference Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my obsession).
The Lottery & Other Stories by Shirley Jackson:
When I read the title story of this collection I was left numb with fear – my throat became dry and my fingers fumbled to turn to the next tale. It was that good. Shirley Jackson's other short stories are also insanely well-written, and this collection is brimming with suspenseful writing and ambiguous endings. My two favourite stories in this collection are The Lottery and Flower Garden.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver:Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is strangely transfixing. The stories in this collection, though very little happens within each one, never fail to maintain the reader's attention. Carver explores the human condition throughout each story, and there's something compulsively readable about the lives of Carver's characters. Despite the situations and relationships in each story seeming gritty in their realism, the experience of reading them feels more like a fantastical trance.