Recommended Reading: short story collections

We’re recommending five new & five old favourite short story collections to dip into this month.


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Hold Your Fire by Chloe Wilson

The debut of an unforgettable new voice in Australian fiction, Hold Your Fire exposes the battles we wage beneath the surface. The title story takes us into the cold war of a contemporary family: a missile-making mother doubts her husband’s guts and the steel of her son, until a playground incident escalates and brings them into the most surprising of alliances.

Needle-sharp, effortlessly surprising and beautifully controlled, every tale will pin you to the page. At each turn, Chloe Wilson offers a unique insight, a tear in the veil of our moral certainties. Her stories strip away the varnish of our decency to reveal the raw mechanics beneath.


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The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters' lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history.

We meet Black and multi-racial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief - all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history - about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.


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First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

The eight masterly stories in this new collection are all told in the first person by a classic Murakami narrator. From nostalgic memories of youth, meditations on music and an ardent love of baseball to dreamlike scenarios, an encounter with a talking monkey and invented jazz albums, together these stories challenge the boundaries between our minds and the exterior world. Occasionally, a narrator who may or may not be Murakami himself is present. Is it memoir or fiction? The reader decides.

Philosophical and mysterious, the stories in First Person Singular all touch beautifully on love and solitude, childhood and memory… all with a signature Murakami twist.


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Born Into This by Adam Thompson

The stories in Born Into This throw light on a world of unique cultural practice and perspective, from Indigenous rangers trying to instil some pride in wayward urban teens on the harsh islands off the coast of Tasmania to those scraping by on the margins of white society railroaded into complex and compromised decisions. To this mix Adam Thompson manages to bring humour, pathos and occasionally a sly twist as his characters confront racism, untimely funerals, classroom politics and, overhanging all like a discomforting, burgeoning awareness for both white and black Australia, the inexorable damage and disappearance of the remnant natural world.


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Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen

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; and 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.

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.


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That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry

Kevin Barry has been acclaimed as one of the world’s most accomplished and gifted short-story writers. Barry’s lyric intensity, the vitality of his comedy, and the darkness of his vision recall the work of masters of the genre. In this rapturous collection, we encounter a ragbag of West of Ireland characters, many on the cusp between love and catastrophe, heartbreak and epiphany, resignation and hope. These stories show an Ireland in a condition of great flux but also as a place where older rhythms, and an older magic, somehow persist.


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Smart Ovens for Lonely People by Elizabeth Tan

Conspiracies, memes, and therapies of various efficacy underpin this beguiling short story collection from Elizabeth Tan. In the titular story, a cat-shaped oven tells a depressed woman she doesn’t have to be sorry anymore. A Yourtopia Bespoke Terraria employee becomes paranoid about the mounting coincidences in her life. Four girls gather to celebrate their underwear in ‘Happy Smiling Underwear Girls Party', a hilarious take-down of saccharine advertisements. With her trademark wit and slicing social commentary, Elizabeth Tan’s short stories are as funny as they are insightful.


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Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado

In her provocative debut, Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the mysterious green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague spreads across the earth. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery about a store’s dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted house guest. A dark, shimmering slice into womanhood, Her Body and Other Parties is wicked and exquisite.


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Homesick for another world by Ottessa Moshfegh

There’s something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh’s stories, something almost dangerous while also being delightful - and often even weirdly hilarious. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet; all yearning for connection and betterment, in very different ways, but each of them seems destined to be tripped up by their own baser impulses.

What makes these stories so moving is the emotional balance that Moshfegh achieves - the way she exposes the limitless range of self-deception that human beings can employ while, at the same time, infusing the grotesque and outrageous with tenderness and compassion.


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Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke

In Melbourne’s western suburbs, in a dilapidated block of flats overhanging the rattling Footscray train lines, a young black mother is working on a collection of stories. The book is called Foreign Soil.

Inside its covers, a desperate asylum seeker is pacing the hallways of Sydney’s notorious Villawood detention centre, a seven-year-old Sudanese boy has found solace in a patchwork bike, an enraged black militant is on the warpath through the rebel squats of 1960s Brixton, a Mississippi housewife decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her son from small-town ignorance, a young woman leaves rural Jamaica in search of her destiny, and a Sydney schoolgirl loses her way. The young mother keeps writing, the rejection letters keep arriving …


And if you’d like a book that dissects the form, we’d recommend…

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A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.

He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

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Hold Your Fire

Hold Your Fire

Chloe Wilson

$32.99Buy now

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