Read Smart, Not Hard: Read more for less with these upcoming short story collections

Yes, yes, yes, we all love a novel here and there, but sometimes you want something quick and punchy that is meaningful in its economy. That’s what we love about short story collections — it’s not what’s said but what isn’t said that gets us thinking. The words that are omitted from the page give us clarity, and the implication of something greater being at play is what lingers in our minds. And, wowie, do we have some short story collections coming out this year that are sure to pack a punch.

Whether you are between novels and are looking for some in-between headspace, you want to get into reading and build some confidence, you don’t have time to commit to a longer text, or you are exclusively an avid short story reader — here’s a list of short story collections to get you in the groove.

If you want to stock your bookshop shelves with anything on this list then please reach out to your local Turnaround sales rep! Please note that some of these titles may not yet be available to pre-order for the general public.

The Springs of Affectation by Maeve Brennan

Peninsula Press, 9781913512255, p/b, £10.99, 16/02/2023

If you’re Irish you’ll have already heard of the extraordinary talent that is the late Maeve Brennan, and we are over the moon that Peninsula Press are spreading the good word in the UK with the republishing of this fantastic collection, The Springs of Affectation.

In the 21 stories that compose this scintillating collection, Maeve Brennan writes about the daily lives of three Dublin families. Brennan turns her anatomist’s eye to the resentment, rivalry, and hatred that teem beneath the surface of family life — always doing so, however, with an attention to detail that makes these unsparing stories luminous and exquisite. Brennan’s subjects are ordinary people worn down by life, its little humiliations; yet they are also dreamers, defiantly hopeful of one day stepping beyond the narrow confines of the situation in which, unaccountably, they have found themselves. These stories ache; pitting imagination against circumstance, they are at once claustrophobic and expansive. With a new introduction by acclaimed novelist Claire-Louise Bennett, these stories reveal Maeve Brennan to be one of the most innovative and important writers of the 20th century.

The Christmas Present by Grazia Deledda

Dedalus, 9781915568168, p/b, £9.99, 17/03/2023

A native of Sardinia, Grazia Deledda’s nobel-prize- winning novels are mostly set in the rugged hills around her hometown of Nuoro. Her characters reflect the difficult lives of people still constrained by ancient customs and practices. Her voice is powerful, her tone often sombre. But her wide-ranging talent has a sunnier side, revealed in many of her later works. The Christmas Present, first published in 1930, brings together a collection of folk tales, children’s stories and personal reminiscences that portray, with humour and affection, the lighter side of Sardinian life. This is a book that will charm and delight, opening a window on to the Sardinia of old and the formative influences on a future Nobel laureate.

The Queen of Darkness by Grazia Deledda

Dedalus, 9781915568151, p/b, £9.99, 17/03/2023

That’s right, it’s the year of Grazia Deledda. If it isn’t clear already, two books coming out by the same author on the very same day is the sign you need to pre-order her collections. What a time to rediscover lost voices!

The ancient traditions of Sardinia feature heavily in this early collection. The stories collected in The Queen of Darkness, published in 1902 shortly after Deledda’s marriage and move to Rome, reflect her transformation from little-known regional writer to an increasingly feted and successful mainstream author. The two miniature psycho-dramas that open the collection are followed by stories of Sardinian life in the remote hills around her home town of Nuoro. The stark but beautiful countryside is a backdrop to the passions, misadventures and injustices which shape the lives of its rugged but all too human inhabitants.

Take Six: Six Balkan Women Writers, edited by Will Firth

Dedalus, 9781915568120, p/b, £9.99, 25/03/2023

This volume brings together six unique female voices from six countries that were part of Yugoslavia until the early 1990s: Magdalena Blazevic, Tatjana Gromaca, Vesna Peric, Natali Spasova, Sonja Zivaljevic and Ana Svetel. Elements of a common history shine through in this smorgasbord of classic short stories, travel writing, diarylike accounts and stand-alone chapters from a hard-hitting novel. Despite the intervening wars and crises, the six republics of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia are ‘reunited’ — albeit briefly — in this collection.

Keep Moving and No Questions by James Kelman

PM Press, 9781629639673, p/b, £16.99, 11/04/2023

A sharp and original collection by Booker Prize winner James Kelman, author of How Late It Was, How Late.

James Kelman’s inimitable voice brings the stories of lost men to light in these twenty one tales of down on their luck antiheroes who wander, drink, hatch plans, ponder existence, and survive in an unwelcoming and often comic world. Keep Moving and No Questions is a collection of the finest examples of Kelman’s facility with dialogue, stream of conscious narrative, and sharp cultural observation. Class is always central in these brief glimpses of men abiding the hands they’ve been dealt. An ideal introduction to Kelman’s work and a wonderful edition for fans and Kelman completionists.

The Wishing Pool & Other Stories by Tananarive Due

Akashic Books, 9781636141053, h/b, £29.95, 18/04/2023

In her first book in seven years, Tananarive Due further cements her status as a leading innovator in Black horror and Afrofuturism. Think Get Out meets Black Mirror meets The Other Black Girl, but short stories.

American award-winning author Tananarive Due’s second collection of stories range from horror to science fiction to suspense. From the mysterious, magical town of Gracetown to the aftermath of a pandemic to the reaches of the far future, Due’s stories all share a sense of dread and fear balanced with heart and hope. In some of these stories, the monster is racism itself; others address the monster within, or other universal struggles set against the supernatural or surreal. The Wishing Pool is written with Due’s trademark attention to detail and deep characterization. In addition to previously published work, this collection contains brand-new stories, including ‘Rumpus Room,’ a supernatural horror novelette set in Florida about a woman’s struggle against both outer and inner demons.

Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories by Nancy Hale

Library of America, 9781598537482, p/b, £16.99, 11/05/2023

Where the Light Falls is a brilliant selection of quietly subversive stories focused on the interior lives of women, as selected and introduced by the bestselling author of Matrix, Lauren Groff.

Another revival of a writer for the ages, Nancy Hale was considered one of the preeminent short story artists of her era. But few readers today will recognise her name. Acclaimed author Lauren Groff has selected twenty-five of Hale’s best stories, presented here in the first career-spanning edition of this astonishingly gifted writer’s work. These stories seem ahead of their time in their depiction of women-complicated characters, sometimes fragile, possibly wicked, often remarkable in their apparent ordinariness, from an adolescent girl in Connecticut driven into delirium over her burgeoning sexuality in ‘Midsummer,’ to a twenty-something New Yorker experiencing culture shock. Haunting, vivid, and subversive, Where the Light Falls is nothing less than a major literary rediscovery.

Mothers and Dogs by Fabio Morábito

Other Press, 9781635420821, p/b, £15.99, 11/05/2023

Drawing from everyday life in Mexico and beyond, this thrilling collection is written with psychological acuity and dark humour.

The first story collection from prize-winning author Fabio Morábito available in English, Mothers and Dogs features fifteen tales that show the emotional extremes in seemingly trivial details and quotidian situations: two brothers worry more about a dog locked in an apartment who hasn’t been fed than they do about their dying mother; when the lights go out on a racetrack, a man’s evening jog turns into a savage battle between runners; a daughter learns to draft business letters as an homage to her mother. As he deftly explores feelings of loneliness and despair endemic in modern society, Morábito weaves threads of unexpected humour and lightness.

The Collapsing Frontier: Outspoken Authors by Jonathan Lethem

PM Press, 9781629634883, p/b, £10.99, 11/05/2023

From the award-winning author of The Fortress of Solitude, this collection compiles the author’s intensely personal takes on the most interesting and deplorable topics in post-postmodern America. It moves from original new fiction to insights on popular culture, cult and canonical authors, and problematic people. ‘David Bowman and the Furry-Girl School of American Fiction’ is a personal true adventure, as Lethem tries (with the help of a seeming expert) to elbow his way into literary respectability. The Collapsing Frontier is a brand-new fictional journey into an ominous, new, unmapped realm. ‘Calvino’s ‘Lightness’ and the Feral Child of History’ is an intimate encounter with a literary legend, where Calvino’s Italy and Lethem’s Brooklyn meet cute. In ‘My Year of Reading Lemmishly’ and ‘Snowden in the Labyrinth’ he explores courage, art, and the search for truth, with wildly different results. Contains vivid literary style, sardonic humour, and a deep understanding of American culture.

A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett

Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551529134, p/b, £17.99, 18/05/2023

By the author of Little Fish and A Dream of a Woman: eleven unique short stories featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love in settings ranging from a rural Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show that growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but will never be predictable. A Safe Girl to Love, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for transgender fiction, was first published in 2014. Now back in print after a long absence, this new edition includes an insightful afterword by the author, shedding light on her experience writing the book. This poignant and memorable collection explores the beautifully messy, complicated lives of transgender women in their twenties/thirties.

Sidle Creek by Jolene McIlwain

Melville House Publishing, 9781685890414, p/b, £14.99, 18/05/2023

Set in the bruised, mined, and timbered hills of Appalachia in western Pennsylvania, Sidle Creek is a tender, truthful exploration of a small town and the people who live there, told by a brilliant new voice in fiction.

In Sidle Creek, McIlwain skillfully interrogates the myths and stereotypes of the mining, mill, and farming towns where she grew up. With stories that take place in diners and dive bars, town halls and bait shops, McIlwain’s writing explores themes of class, work, health, and trauma, and the unexpected human connections of small, close-knit communities. All the while, the wild beauty of the natural world weaves its way in, a source of the town’s livelihood — and vulnerable to natural resource exploitation. With an alchemic blend of taut prose, gorgeous imagery, and deep sensitivity for all of the living beings within its pages, Sidle Creek will sit snugly on bookshelves between Annie Proulx, Joy Williams, and Louise Erdrich.  

Seeking Fortune Elsewhere by Sindya Bhanoo

Catapult, 9781646221738, p/b, £15.99, 30/05/2023

An intimate collection of stories about South Indian immigrants and the families they left behind.

Traveling from Pittsburgh to Eastern Washington to Tamil Nadu, these stories about dislocation and dissonance see immigrants and their families confront the costs of leaving and staying, identifying sublime symmetries in lives growing apart. In ‘Malliga Homes,’ selected by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for an O. Henry Prize, a widow in a retirement community glimpses her future while waiting for her daughter to visit from America. In ‘No. 16 Model House Road,’ a woman long subordinate to her husband makes a choice of her own after she inherits a house. In ‘Nature Exchange,’ a mother grieving in the wake of a school shooting finds an unusual obsession. In ‘A Life in America,’ a professor finds himself accused of having exploited his graduate students. Sindya Bhanoo’s haunting stories show us how immigrants’ paths, and the paths of those they leave behind, are never simple. Bhanoo takes us along on their complicated journeys where regret, hope, and triumph appear in disguise. Seeking Fortune Elsewhere is attentive to the effects of immigration on those who stayed, as well as those who left.

The House of Love and Prayer by Tova Reich

Seven Stories, 9781911710028, h/b, £20.00, 22/06/2023

In this extraordinary collection of short fiction, Tova Reich dives deep into the world of Orthodox Jewry — a world that her stories embrace with respect and affection while also poking at the fault lines in its unshakeable traditions.

The nine stories collected in this volume are all populated by seekers-of holiness, illumination, liberation, meaning, love. Their journeys unfold in the U.S., Israel, Poland, China, often in the very heart of the Jewish world, and are rendered with an insider’s authority. The narrative voice bringing all this to life has been described as fearlessly satiric and subversive, with a moral but not moralizing edge, equally alive to the sacred and the profane, comically absurd to the point of tragedy. For readers who love Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Nathan Englander, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dara Horn, and rediscovered authors like Lucia Berlin.

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