I’ve been on a bit of a reading tear lately. In the last few months I’ve devoured some novels that I’ve absolutely loved (including Room, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Hunger Games trilogy, Little Bee and Cane River if you’re looking for suggestions…). But after finishing the latest tome, I felt like I’d been gorging on rich, decadent food at an all-you-can-eat buffet for months. I felt like I needed to go on a literary diet. Short stories are my palate cleanser.
Every year for Christmas, my husband gives me two collections of short stories, and I save those collections for our March Break holidays. I love short stories for holiday reading because you can pick them up and put them down quite easily, you get a real variety of topics, styles and voices, and I often discover new and younger writers.
If you’re looking to pick up an anthology of short stories, I don’t think you can go wrong with one of the two that line my bookshelves. I’ve been collecting The Best American Short Stories and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best for over twenty years (and it’s not just because I love the way they look all lined up and ready to be read…).
You’ll find the best of contemporary American (and sometimes Canadian) authors each year, and I promise you that there’s something for everyone. This year’s collection includes stories about soldiers returning from Iraq, a man who has sliced off part of his thumb on New Years Eve in Naples, small family stories and large political dramas.
These anthologies are a bargain (even though I categorize them under high…more on that later), and you’ll get more than twenty stories in each for under $20. You just can’t go wrong.
I hope I’ve already convinced you that the high price of less than $1 a story is a bargain worth chasing, but if you’re still not convinced, then how about paying nothing for some short stories?
The one challenge I do find with short story collections is that they don’t work great for my daily commute. Because I don’t end up quite as immersed in a short story as I do in a novel, I find I spend half my commute flipping pages back and forth trying to remember characters and differentiate this story set in Louisiana from that one set in wartime Berlin that I read earlier in the day.
My answer is podcasts. I’ve been downloading PRI’s Selected Shorts weekly and been listening to them on my iPod on the bus and subway. They get amazingly talented actors who read the stories out loud in a theatre, and if you see a crazy woman on the TTC with headphones on, eyes closed, grinning (or laughing, or crying), that’s probably me enjoying my short stories.
Either option works well as an easy shakeup to your literary routine, and I recommend both options the next time you’re wandering the aisles of your favourite bookstore, or downloading the latest Angry Birds app.