This week for Top Ten Tuesday, the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish ask bloggers to list their top ten books in X genre. Now, I don’t often read “genre” fiction like sci-fi, fantasy, romance, YA, or horror, so this one’s kind of tricky. But! I have an affinity for short stories, and that’s a genre, right? (Right?!) So, today I’m listing my ten favorite short story collections!
1. Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman. The stories in this beautiful debut collection examine humans’ relationships both with each other and with animals. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever loved a pet.
2. Understories by Tim Horvath. This collection mixes short, surreal cityscapes in the mode of Italo Calvino with longer, contemplative pieces about ordinary life. Horvath’s writing is dazzlingly imaginative, and I wish he had more than one book out!
3. This is Paradise by Kristina Kahakauwila. Set in Hawaii, these stories portray a darker, grittier side of the tropical paradise than tourists see. Disappearances, cock fighting, pidgin English, and seedy deals color the less-than-glamorous lives of the locals, and Kahakauwila paints revealing portraits of their lives.
4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. This story collection portrays the tension between Indian and American culture that immigrants and their children face. Lahiri presents this theme from many different perspectives, each of which are educational, empathetic, and beautifully rendered.
5. Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu. Set mostly in LA and Beijing, this collection features stories about human loneliness, vulnerability, love, loss, and the crushing weight of the American dream. Many of the pieces use magical realism to represent the ways the characters are stunted, challenged, or searching. It’s a highly imaginative collection!
6. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. A novel in stories, The Women of Brewster Place is about a black ghetto of an American city. Each story focuses on a different woman who lives there, and although it is sometimes brutal and heartbreaking, it is beautiful to see how these women support each other.
7. The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich. What is life like for a condom being carried around in a young man’s wallet? What would personal ads for dogs look like? What does an astronaut have to do to get laid? Simon Rich answers all of these questions in his hilarious collection about modern relationships.
8. St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell. This is Russell’s first book, and I think it’s my favorite. There are stories about an overnight camp for kids with sleep disorders, a pack of werewolf children being raised into proper young ladies, and a boy whose minotaur father is pulling the family wagon on a westward wagon trail. These stories are charming, beautifully written, and emotionally charged.
9. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. In her third book and second story collection, Russell fully embraces her weird. St. Lucy’s Home had touches of whimsy and magical realism, but Vampires is full-on bizarre. There are dead presidents reincarnated as horses, an Antarctic whales vs krill sporting event, and girls who are turned into silkworms. It’s so great.
10. Diving Belles by Lucy Wood. This debut story collection is made up of dreamy stories set in Cornwall, England and featuring aspects of Cornish folklore. I’m pretty sure Lucy Wood is actually a will-o’-the-wisp, because she has an amazing ability to draw readers helplessly into the wild moors of her imagination.