12 Days of Short Stories for the Holidays

  • Shanna Wilson
  • December 20, 2013

Put down the tinsel and settle back with a short story.

12 Days of Short Stories for the Holidays

From the craziness of gift-buying to the frantic planning of the perfect New Year’s Eve, the holidays are exhausting. So decompress with the literary gift of brevity—the short story. When you’ve had too much eggnog to digest the latest from Thomas Pynchon or Donna Tartt, soothe your addled attention span with a not-too-lengthy gem from one of these collections:

Speaking with the Angel edited by Nick Hornby. Because it’s got Zadie Smith, Irvine Welsh, Melissa Bank, and Roddy Doyle all under one roof.

The Secret Lives of People in Love: Stories by Simon Van Booy. Van Booy’s collection of stories takes readers to Paris, Rome, New York, and Greece with a common thread of compassion and connectedness. 

Gryphon: New and Selected Stories by Charles Baxter. You don’t have to start at the beginning with this one. Go straight to the title story, nestled in the middle. A classroom gets a substitute teacher who isn’t what she seems.

The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín. Short-story writing could be taught in M.F.A. programs everywhere with Tóibín’s latest collection of Irish love and loss. “The Pearl Fishers” is particularly beautiful. 

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro. Nobel Prize winner Munro’s signature is weaving the extraordinary into the ordinary world. Dear Life spans generations, from WWII to the present, focusing on the moments in life that begin quietly and end in a roar. [Read a review here.] 

Pretending the Bed is a Raft by Nanci Kincaid. Kincaid’s focus is on the relationships between men and women in the Deep South; their urges, entanglements, and place in society. Her prose is smartest when she presses her characters between the brink of loyalty and betrayal. 

Strangers in the House: Life Stories by Dorothy Gallagher. Real-life tales from one of the sharpest storytellers out there. Gallagher tells smart, honest stories of the New York intelligentsia and the often mysterious people it attracts.

The Collected Works of O. Henry by O. Henry. It’s the holidays, and the “Gift of the Magi” is always worth rereading.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis. We promised brevity, yet this book is about a million pages. But some of the stories are only three.

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee. The title story, “Bobcat,” is alone worth the price of admission. But the real standout is “Slatland,” the tale of a woman’s re-acquaintance with a long-lost therapist as she uncovers her lover’s lies. 

The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor. Because if you haven’t already read “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” what are you waiting for?

Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III. Interwoven lives sort through some of the less savory parts of “love” in Dubus’ latest collection of four novellas. [Read a review here.]


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