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Updated by MIchele Faye on Aug 19, 2013
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MIchele Faye MIchele Faye
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10 of the Best Contemporary American Short Story Collections

Some of my most favorite contemporary short story collections. Help me rank/add to it!

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel: Amy Hempel

Amy Hempel is a master of the short story. This celebrated volume gathers together her complete work -- four short collections of stunning stories about marriages, minor disasters, and moments of revelation.

Rock Springs: Richard Ford

In these ten exquisite stories, first published by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1987 and now reissued as a Grove Press paperback, Richard Ford mines literary gold from the wind-scrubbed landscape of the American West—and from the guarded hopes and gnawing loneliness of the people who live there: a refugee from justice driving across Wyoming with his daughter and an unhappy girlfriend in a stolen, cranberry-colored Mercedes; a boy watching his family dissolve in a night of tragicomic violence; and two men and a woman swapping hard-luck stories in a frontier bar as they try to sweeten their luck. Rock Springs is a masterpiece of taut narration, cleanly chiseled prose, and empathy so generous that it feels like a kind of grace.

Nine Stories: J.D. Salinger

he Stories: A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, Just Before the War with the Eskimos, The Laughing Man, Down at the Dinghy, For Esme -- With Love and Squalor, Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes, De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period, and Teddy.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven: Sherman Alexie

When it was first published in 1993, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven established Sherman Alexie as a stunning new talent of American letters. The basis for the award-winning movie Smoke Signals, it remains one of his most beloved and widely praised books. In this darkly comic collection, Alexie brilliantly weaves memory, fantasy, and stark realism to paint a complex, grimly ironic portrait of life in and around the Spokane Indian Reservation. These twenty-two interlinked tales are narrated by characters raised on humiliation and government-issue cheese, and yet are filled with passion and affection, myth and dream. Against a backdrop of alcohol, car accidents, laughter, and basketball, Alexie depicts the distances between Indians and whites, reservation Indians and urban Indians, men and women, and, most poetically, modern Indians and the traditions of the past.

Birds of America: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries): Lorrie Moore

Though the characters in these 12 stories are seen in such varied settings as Iowa, Ireland, Maryland, Louisiana and Italy, they are all afflicted with ennui, angst and aimlessness. They can't communicate or connect; they have no inner resources; they can't focus; they can't feel love. The beginning stories deal with women alienated from their own true natures but still living in the quotidian.

The Complete Stories: Flannery O'Connor

The Complete Stories [Flannery O'Connor] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Winner of the National Book Award The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all

The Things They Carried: Tim O'Brien

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

This Is How You Lose Her: Junot Diaz

Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz’s first book, Drown, established him as a major new writer with “the dispassionate eye of a journalist and the tongue of a poet” (Newsweek).

Come to Me: Stories: Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom's 1993 collection, Come to Me, is filled with yearning mysteries of romantic and familial love that are far more complex than the phrase "love story" allows. The first sentence of the first story, "Love Is Not a Pie," evinces the contradictions, layers, and interconnections of her narrator's existence--and hooks the reader entirely. "In the middle of the eulogy at my mother's boring and heart-breaking funeral, I began to think about calling off the wedding."

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories: Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender's stories portray a world twisted on its axis, a place of unconvention that resembles nothing so much as real life, in all its grotesque, beautiful glory. From the first line of each tale she lets us know she is telling a story, but the moral is never quite what we expect. Bender's prose is glorious: musical and colloquial, inimitable and heartrending.