Editor’s note: As part of our Short Story Month celebrations, we’re delighted to present this guest post by agent Julie Barer of Barer Literary.
I once dated a man who shared my taste in fiction almost completely. Diehard fan of the often overlooked Canadian writer Robertson Davies? Check. Particularly drawn to novels that played with genre like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? Another check. Books that seemed written for young adults but read just as well for grownups, like Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy? Triple points. As you can imagine, this made him all the more attractive to me, as we bookish girls get turned on by such things.
But when it came to short stories, he just wouldn’t get on board. I couldn’t understand it—we could agree about the authors we thought were brilliant and underrated, and those we thought were hacks and overhyped, but when it came to short story collections I couldn’t seem to get him excited. “Too short,” he said. “Too unsatisfying.” He couldn’t “get into” them because they ended too quickly. No matter the author I pushed on him (and I pushed a lot), he seemed determined to not be convinced. I don’t want to suggest that this was the reason we eventually broke up, but, well, it did make me suspicious of deeper flaws in his character.
Because I love short stories. I love everything about them, and I feel constantly frustrated and perplexed by the numbers of fiction fans and friends who just aren’t interested in reading them. I’m not sure why some people like me devour whatever new and collected works come around, and others like my ex can’t seem to be bothered, but it makes me sad. “Think of all the wonderful books you’re missing!” I want to shout to strangers on the street and in bookshops. However, that would just make me look like a crazy person. So instead I have put together a list of some of the story collections I love. There’s something here for everyone, and I hope that someone out there reading this will be willing to take a chance, and go out and buy one of these books and discover the magic of short stories. You never know, becoming a fan of short fiction might just get you a date.
- Stranger Things Happen and Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link
- Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser
- Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard
- Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue
- Selected Stories by Alice Munro
- Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff
- Park City: New and Selected Stories by Ann Beattie
- The Collected Stories by Deborah Eisenberg
- Selected Stories by William Trevor
- A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You and Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
- How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
- Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
- St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell
- Where the Money Went by Kevin Canty
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
- A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
- Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
- Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Corpus Christi by Bret Anthony Johnston
- Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work by Jason Brown
- People I Wanted to Be and The Necessary Grace to Fall by Gina Ochsner
- Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson
- What You Have Left by Will Allison
- The Best of Animals by Lauren Grodstein
Barer Literary is a full-service boutique agency that represents a variety of writers across a literary spectrum, with an emphasis on fiction. Clients include National Book Award finalist Joshua Ferris, bestselling novelists Paula McLain and Helen Simonson, and prize-winning crime writer Zoe Ferraris. Writing by Julie Barer’s clients has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Best American Non-Required Reading, New Stories From the South, Best New American Voices, Tin House, Granta, and various other publications, and has received numerous awards and honors, including grants from The National Endowment of the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award, the Los Angeles Times First Book Award and the Flannery O’Connor Award. Before becoming an agent, Julie was a bookseller at Shakespeare & Company in New York.
Want to try before you buy? We’ve featured many of Julie’s favorites right here on FWR. Browse below for tastes, then click any of the titles above to find these collections at your local indie bookstore (thus supporting authors, indie bookstores, and FWR in one fell swoop!).
- Read more about Kelly Link and her work
- Learn why Alice Munro’s “Meneseteung” (included in her Selected Stories) is one of the “Stories We Love”
- Read an FWR interview with Tobias Wolff, and check out his masterpiece “Bullet in the Brain” (included in Our Story Begins)
- FWR contributor Liana Imam examines Deborah Eisenberg’s stories through a critical lens
- FWR reviews Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and interviews the author
- FWR reviews Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work by Jason Brown
- FWR reviews Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson
- FWR reviews What You Have Left by Will Allison