5 Best Short Story Books For Adults Update 05/2022

Short Story Books For Adults

Friends, the end of the decade is near. It’s been a hard, anxious, morally questionable decade, but at least there has been some great literature. Whenever we can, we’ll take our silver linings where we can.

It’s our job as a literary and culture website to look back at the best and most important books of the last decade, even though we know that the task could be fruitless and endlessly debated. In the coming weeks, we’ll look at the best and most important books of the last decade. We will, of course, use a lot of lists to do this. There were the best debut novels of this decade, then there were the best short story collections of this decade. We’re back with the best collections of short stories published in English between 2010 and 2019.

They were chosen by the Literary Hub staff after a lot of debate and a lot of votes. Tears were shed, feelings were hurt, and books were re-read because people were hurt by the news. Even though we had a hard time coming up with just 10, we’ve also included lists of people who disagreed with us, and even more people who didn’t make it. Let us know in the comments below if we’ve missed any that you think we should add to the list.

Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn 2012

Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn 2012

It’s Claire Vaye Watkins’ first book, and it’s set in Nevada. It includes a 60-page novella that takes place during the 1848 Gold Rush, as well as a dazzling and devastating opening story that combines fiction, local history, and myth with the story of Watkins father, who was a member of the Manson Family in the late ’60s. In Watkins’ writing, there’s a bravery that’s admirable. She doesn’t hide from the despair that’s in the hearts of her lost and worn characters, and she doesn’t give them tidy paths or tidy endings. Landscapes drawn by her are very beautiful, with a lot of detail and characters who are haunted by the pain and violence of their pasts and the desperate need of their present. They are also very well-drawn. For example: In one heartbreaking story, a man finds a bundle of letters scattered across the wreckage of a car crash. He then begins to write to their owner, who he imagines is the desperate neighbor he killed years ago. It was late in the Spring when there was a swarm of grasshoppers moving through Beatty. They were on their way to the alfalfa fields down south. They were thick and fierce, like a storm rolling in your head. It’s rare to come across a debut collection where the voice, the vision, is so well-formed and confident. That’s what Watkins has done with this exceptional work, though. There is a person who works for Book Marks named Dan Sheehan, and this person is the editor of the book.

Alice Munro, Dear Life 2012

This one isn’t fair. There has to be a place on the list of the best Alice Munro collections of any given time. Munro is a genius, but it’s not fair to other writers that he’s so good. In Dear Life, most of the stories were previously published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Granta. They all show how Munro can take a lifetime, or even generations of a single family, and shrink it into a thirty-page text, not by spinning out events one after another, but by delivering a character so detailed, and a series of moments so precise, that we can’t help but think we know them all. These stories and characters don’t have a lot of flash or high concept. It’s just that Munro knows people so well, and he portrays them so well, so wisely, and so humanely that you can’t help but be moved. It doesn’t matter that, as Michiko Kakutani said, with age, Munro’s portrayals of the common man have become a little more sharp. “Though Ms. Munro hasn’t become judgmental, she seems to be more interested in the selfishness, irrationality, and carelessness that people can do.” In addition, there are a few sketches that are “autobiographical in feeling, but not always entirely so in fact,” we are told. They are the first and last things she says about her own life. They, too, are great.

Munro won the Nobel Prize in literature the year after Dear Life came out in 2013. The Swedish Academy called her a “master of the modern short story” at the time. There’s no shit. The senior editor is Emily Temple.

George Saunders, Tenth of December 2013

When you’re living in the past, it can be hard to tell what time period you’re living in. Yes, it’s the post-9/11 time. Or maybe we’re really in what will one day be called the Era of Misinformation. I hope so. The “we had a chance to save the planet but didn’t do anything” era is probably what we’re in right now. In 200 years, there probably won’t be any historians around to call it anything. A modern classic by George Saunders is called Tenth of December. It is likely that some version of the last decade of life on Earth will show up in the story.

This collection has a wide range of emotions as well as a wide range of styles. In “Puppy,” two families come together over the possible purchase of a dog. In “Escape From Spiderhead,” clinical drug trials go way too far. Saunders places his characters in a series of bespoke narrative dioramas. He’s a witty and loving god who is always wary of the disappointment his creations cause, but can’t help but set little “boobytraps” to see how his characters react. Using tenderness and generosity, Saunders lets his characters figure out how to get out of the confines of their own fictional lives. They are as wounded, joyful, and magnificently broken as any of us, the living.

Clarice Lispector, tr. Katrina Dodson, ed. Benjamin Moser, The Complete Stories 2015

Clarice Lispector, tr. Katrina Dodson, ed. Benjamin Moser, The Complete Stories 2015

It’s hard to put a “complete stories” collection on our list of the best books of the decade, not least because Clarice Lispector has been considered Brazil’s best writer since 1943, when her first book, Near to the Wild Heart, was published (she was 23). But in 2012, the publisher New Directions started putting out new translations of Lispector’s novels from four different translators. This was a big effort to bring her work to a wider audience in English. “Complete Stories,” which were published in 2015, came after the novels. There were 86 of them, written between 1952 and 1979. It was translated into English by Katrina Dodson, and the book was a huge hit in the US. This made Lispector one of the most important writers of the last century.

Clarice Lispector’s stories are hard to put into words. They are feminist and absurdist, charting family drama, love affairs, and existential surrealism. They move through the preoccupations and modes of twentieth-century literary experimentation with a disorienting ease, and that’s the point. It’s mutilation to be coherent, says a character at one point. “I want chaos.” This is a desire that Lispector understands and brings to life with more power than almost any other writer I can think of. The Deputy Editor is Emily Firetog.

Lucia Berlin, ed. Stephen Emerson, A Manual for Cleaning Women 2015

Does it mean that a short story collection by a writer who died in 2004 should be one of the best collections of the decade that came after that time? A Manual for Cleaning Women itself is great, but the fact that it’s so popular shows that there’s a big hole in our literary culture. People who read a lot of story collections show this. At least in Berlin’s posthumous collection, we have a small correction to the record. It won’t be possible to fully account for the stories and novels that didn’t get the attention they deserved in a literary culture that focused on the anxieties and insights of well-to-do white guys.

The literary tourists who write about last-chance bus depots, cheap borderland hotels, and third-rate nursing homes have a lot of bravado, but when Berlin writes about these places, she doesn’t have that bravado. The places we go through for epiphanies and authenticity don’t matter to Berlin. They are the places where life happens, and one only wishes she had lived long enough to see the start of her own renaissance. Editorial Chief: –Jon Diamond

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