10 Books with Enthralling Short Stories That’ll Leave You Wanting More

Sometimes you simply don’t feel like reading a full-length novel. Perhaps you don’t have the time, or perhaps you want to try a new form of fiction. For such times, a great collection of short stories is just what you need.

With excellent plots condensed into a few pages, you are guaranteed to find what you are looking for in each of the following ten short story books.

10. Kiss Kiss, by Roald Dahl

First Published: 1959

What It’s About:

Each of these short stories by the much-loved children’s writer will leave you feeling shaken up. Every story in this fascinating collection focuses on the bizarre, the disturbing and could be considered to be horror stories by some readers. None of the stories have a happy ending, and the reader will be faced with increasingly tense plots that often imply something terrible rather than stating directly. Whether it’s a murderous tree or a monstrous rabbit, prepare to be surprised by this collection of Dahl’s finest short stories.

Why You Should Read It:

A collection of short stories by Roald Dahl will surprise anyone who has read his children’s stories. Unlike the immensely popular fiction aimed at younger audiences, this book has a much darker theme running throughout. Each story has a sense of impending doom, with macabre storylines which may give you chills.

Best Quote:

“He turned and saw his landlady sailing into the room with a large silver tea tray in her hands. She was holding it well out in front of her and rather high, as though the tray were a pair of reigns on a frisky horse.”

9. Tenth of December, by George Saunders

First Published: 2013

What It’s About:

This collection of short stories by Saunders is uniquely American and one of the stories, “Home” was the finalist for a Bram Stoker Award in 2011. The stories are a mixture of danger, doom, death and also humor. One of the stories “Victory Lap” is said to be Saunders’ strongest stories ever written and focuses on a group of children who live in dangerous surroundings while managing to avoid deadly encounters. The story is told from different points of view and is one of the best of the collection, along with the title story about a man’s slow death in the snow.

Why You Should Read It:

While none of the stories are connected to each other, similar themes run through all the stories, including fear, rescue, humor and will intrigue anyone looking for a great collection of short stories that are quintessentially American.

Best Quote:

“It was that impossible thing: happiness that does not wilt to reveal the thin shoots of some new desire rising from within it.”

8. The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First Published: 2009

What It’s About:

Adichie’s collection of short stories focuses on the cross-cultural experiences of characters in Nigeria and the United States. The author is from Nigeria and moved to the United States at the age of nineteen and so is able to weave stories that focus on the relationships between men, women, children and even nations.

Why You Should Read It:

Adichie is a master storyteller with plenty of insight and grace, weaving prose that paints beautiful pictures. This collection of short stories by the award-winning author is a mixture of tragedy, compassion, and hope.

The stories deal with characters that are either American or Nigerian while the stories themselves are told in a very straightforward narrative and an unflinching tone, regardless of the subject matter. This is a must-read if you are looking for beautifully written stories that focus on the collision of two very different cultures.

Best Quote:

“She could not complain about not having shoes when the person she was talking to had no legs.”

7. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri

First Published: 1999

What It’s About:

The nine short stories in this award-winning, highly acclaimed collection of short stories focus on people who are from India and either living in India or the United States. Despite the focus on people of a certain ethnicity, the themes that Lahiri focuses on are varied, including the civil war and even the trials of an unhappy marriage. Lahiri writes about experiences that are universal, even discussing difficult topics such as feeling like an outsider in your own family.

Why You Should Read It:

This is Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut and it won her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000. Lahiri’s parents are originally from India and she has lived in the United States so her stories often have a similar theme of the immigrant experience running through them. While the situation which her characters find themselves in may, on the surface, be applicable to their specific circumstances, the message that Lahiri conveys is one that anyone can relate to.

Best Quote:

“There are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept.”

6. A Manual For Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin

First Published: 2015

What It’s About:

Lucia Berlin’s short stories focus on the everyday lives of Americans living in various parts of the country, leading ordinary lives. Each story is full of wit and humor, with a heavy dose of sadness as well. The title story refers to a woman who works at a Laundromat and who has recently experienced a personal tragedy. Despite the subjects of each story being everyday people, Lucia Berlin is able to draw the reader in with her affinity for powerful storytelling.

Why You Should Read It:

For stories with plenty of emotional depth, this is the book to read. It will appeal to people who look at strangers on the street and wonder what their story is, what are they going through? Lucia Berlin turns the ordinary into the extraordinary in this remarkable collection of short stories. It is also interesting to note that several of the stories are almost autobiographical in nature.

Best Quote:

“Time stops when someone dies. Of course it stops for them, maybe, but for the mourners time runs amok. Death comes too soon. It forgets the tides, the days growing longer and shorter, the moon.”

5. One More Thing, by B.J. Novak

First Published: 2014

What It’s About:

A collection of heartfelt and hilarious short stories by the actor, director, and writer of the hit U.S. Comedy TV show The Office, this funny and entertaining read is a breath of fresh air. Novak’s ability to bring to life a vast range of characters proves how his imagination is a fertile ground for excellent fiction. The stories are funny, interesting and also full of emotional depth which many readers will find moving. Some stories that stand out are the ones that discuss why wearing a red tee shirt daily is the key to finding happiness and how a hare decided to take revenge for his loss in a race against a tortoise.

Why You Should Read It:

If you enjoy funny stories, but also want something that focuses on the human experience with topics such as family, love, nature and fear, look no further.

Best Quote:

“If you love something, let it go. If you don’t love something, definitely let it go. Basically, just drop everything, who cares.”

4. Fortune Smilesby Adam Johnson

First Published: 2015

What It’s About:

In each of these six short stories, the author focuses on themes of loss, love, politics, technology and the influence of external factors on shaping a person. Some stories relate to personal loss, such as “Hurricanes Anonymous” where a young man is in search of the mother of his child in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and Rita Wreaking havoc on the area. In the title story, Johnson, who is known for discussing North Korea, shows two former North Korean citizens from Pyongyang as they try to start over in Seoul, but one of the two is unable to forget the woman he lost due to the move.

Why You Should Read It:

While each of the stories deals with controversial subject matters that are dark and full of a sense of loss, they are also infused with an intelligent sense of humor that keeps the stories from becoming too depressing.

Best Quote:

“The truth is, though, that you don’t need to die to know what it’s like to be a ghost.”

3. Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, by Bonnie Jo Campbell

First Published: 2015

What It’s About:

With a focus on strong, female characters, who are not always good people, this compelling book shows the complex relationships that women have. The stories focus on women and their interaction with those they are closest to. The stories are often fraught with doom and angst as seen in “Home to Die”, where an abused woman inflicts revenge on her bedridden husband. The female-driven stories are full of fearless characters and will leave the reader surprised to find humor in even the darkest storylines.

Why You Should Read It:

If you are interested in the plight of women who come from all walks of life, women who are simple middle-class citizens going about their lives, then this book will definitely interest you. Everyone has a story and the female characters in these short stories bring to light some painfully honest narratives of abuse and betrayal.

Best Quote:

“I’ve got a head full of stories you still need to hear, starting with my ribs, ending with my whole life.”

2. Night At The Fiestas, by Kirstin Valdez Quade

First Published: 2015

What It’s About:

The stories in this hard-hitting collection of short stories take an unflinching look at characters who are inextricably linked to their past. They either have a desire to escape the past or to become embroiled in its depths even further. The book explores themes of race, class, what it means to be a family and several coming-of-age moments. The characters in Quade’s world are on a mission to find themselves and most of the stories focus on the relationship between parents and their children.

Why You Should Read It:

If you are looking for honest, straightforward storytelling in a contemporary setting, you will enjoy this book. If you are a fan of stories related to the intricate relationships that hold together a family, Quade’s stories will stay in your mind, especially stories such as “Family Reunion”. The book will also be loved by anyone looking to gain an insight into the people of New Mexico.

Best Quote:

“If girls are going to run around like that, they should pay.”

1. Cries For Helpby Padgett Powell

First Published: 2015

What It’s About:

A collection of 44 short stories which, at their heart, speak to the emptiness and confusion of life today. At times poignant and at times hilarious, each of the stories will ring a bell with readers for their relatability despite the setting of each story, because at their core they focus on loneliness, work, fear, and longing, all of which are universally relatable topics.

Why You Should Read It:

Padgett Powell was mentored by famed writer Donald Barthelme, who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Read this book if you are looking for characters with plenty of wit who strive to go against the norm and are all deeply ambitious. The stories are highly varied despite following everyday characters, and plots range from everyday life to the most out of the ordinary events, each of which will ring true for the reader thanks to some brilliant writing by Powell.

Best Quote:

“The other horse traders are over there in the 7-eleven.”

Conclusion

If you are looking for something different and not something as long as a full-length novel, then these ten short story books will guarantee that you remain enraptured by some great writing.

Keeping sharing simple