I find it harder and harder to make it through books longer than three hundred pages, especially if I’m not a huge fan of it. It very well could be just the current social climate, but nevertheless it has me turning to other options.
This is how I discovered the marvelous world of short stories. It’s been nice to just sit down for a while and read through a single, isolated story, and move onto another one the next time I read. I don’t have to remember where I left off, what was happening with what characters. It’s a blank slate every time, which takes off some of the pressure (if there was any to begin with).
Of course, there is the downside of not getting to know characters quite as much with only a couple dozen or so pages.
The tale is more isolated, and doesn’t really let you dig into the plot or the world building. There is also the stereotype that because it is shorter, the quality is also significantly lowered. This last, more than anything, is false.
Now, I’m not saying you won’t definitely get a bad author from time to time, or a story that’s just not your style. But on the whole, I’ve learned from experience that because it’s so short, it has to be good in order to be published. I’ve read a lot of short stories that have stayed with me for years after I finished them, regardless of their length.
So what kind of short stories, exactly, have I been reading? Well, my recent favorites are Nothing to Lose by Kim Suhr, Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks, and Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. Now the last is technically what is called a “story cycle,” in that it’s several separate stories set in the same place and with overlapping characters. All of these were memorable in their own way.
Nothing to Lose is great because it mostly takes place in Wisconsin, and features characters that feel very familiar. The stories have so much heart and are excellently written. The author is also a Wisconsin native who runs a writing program out of the southern part of the state.
And who doesn’t like Tom Hanks? A fantastic actor and now an author…a pretty good one, too. The fun and interesting characters are definitely the standout parts of this collection for me, and I was pleased that his writing was high quality as well.
Lastly, Love Medicine is just all around excellent. A collection that takes place on a reservation and speaks to contemporary Native American life, I was deeply moved by Erdrich’s writing. There are several different versions of this collection, with stories added, detracted, or moved around, which makes for very interesting reading and discussion, especially if your friend hasn’t read the same edition.
There are so many more wonderful collections that we have in our library system, and reading them is a nice break from typical, longer works.