Friday, 12 June 2009

The Definitive Fiction Workhouse Short Story Reading List

(While I was away, some members at The Fiction Workhouse put together their 'definitive' short story reading list. Thanks to Valerie Waterhouse for collating, posting there, and sending it here for general consumption. My own bits were added at the bottom of the list.)

The Definitive Fiction Workhouse Short Story Reading List

ONE: The Fiction Workhousers Top Short Story Authors (They all had to have multiple votes to achieve this hallowed status)

Raymond Carver
Jhumpa Lahiri
Alice Munro
Nathan Englander
James Joyce
Katherine Mansfield
Lorrie Moore
Flannery O’Connor
William Trevor

TWO: The Fiction Workhousers Top Short Story Collections

Atwood, Margaret. Bluebeard’s Egg and other stories
Barnes, Julian. A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters
Carver, Raymond. What we talk about when we talk about love; Where I’m calling from; Cathedral
Beckett, Samuel. Stories and texts for nothing
Camus, Albert. L’exil e le royaume
Chekhov, Anton. Lady with a Lapdog and other stories
Colette: Collected Stories
Conrad, Joseph: Short Fiction
(Read for: These are possibly novellas, but brilliant anyway; out of print?)
Coraghessan Boyle, T. If the River was Whiskey
Dinesen, Isak: Seven Gothic Tales
(Read for: Weird and beautiful, if your taste runs to this sort of thing)
Englander, Nathan. For the Relief of Unbearable Urges
Gebbie, Vanessa. Words from a Glass Bubble
(Read for: The Workhouse Bible) (Pah. Stuff and nonsense… the author.)
Ho Davies, Peter. The Ugliest House in the World
Hogan, Desmond. Stories
Jolley, Elizabeth. Woman in a Lampshade.
(Read for: Way ahead of her time; terrific characters; good at taking the reader by surprise)
Joyce, James. Dubliners.
Keegan, Alex. Ballistics
Lahiri, Jhumpa. Unaccustomed Earth
Mansfield, Katherine. Collected Stories
McEwan, Ian. First Love, Last Rites
Moore, Lorrie. Selected Stories.
Munro, Alice. Runaway; The Beggar Maid; Dance of the Happy Shades
O’Connor, Flannery. A Good Man is Hard to Find; Complete Short Stories
Phillips, Jayne Anne. Fast Lanes.
Proulx, Annie. Heartsongs.
Rhodes, Dan. Anthropology
(Read for: Perfect, funny little flashes)
Rourke, Lee. Everyday
(Read for: A recent find, so very much an of the moment favourite, but contains some great voices)
Saki (Hugh Hector Munro). Short Stories of Saki.
(Read for: The Great British Humorist – good on tiger-shooting memsahibs and child-eating wolves; some dodgy views)
Scott Fitzgerald, F. Collected Stories.
Simpson, Helen. Hey Yeah Right Get a Life
Thomas Dylan. Collected Short Stories
Trevor, William. Cheating at Canasta; Collected Stories
(Read for: Use of language; sometimes weird approach to dialogue)
Updike, John. Early Stories
Whitaker, Malachi. The Crystal Fountain and Other Stories
(Read for: Anti-fascist DH Lawrence contemporary from Yorkshire; witty and skilfully crafted; out of print)
Williams, Joy. Taking Care
(Read for: The best writer nobody has ever heard of)

THREE: The Fiction Workhousers best Anthologies

Best New American Voices (annual; various)
Granta American Short Stories
(Read for: Vol 1: Includes Carver, Vonnegut, Oates, Wolff)
The O. Henry Prize (annual; various)
Anthology (name not specified) featuring Alice Munro, William Trevor, Mishima, Tobias Wolff, Annie Proulx

Lots of my favourites are already there, above. But I will add these:


Best American Short Stories of the Century, ed: Updike
New Irish Short Stories, Faber and Faber (any of them)

Single author collections:
John Cheever: Collected Stories
Adam Marek: Instruction Manual for Swallowing (Comma)
Wena Poon: Lion in Winter
Plus all the collections I mention on my blog anyway, because I love them. Especial mention to:
Petina Gappah, An Elegy for Easterly, (Faber and Faber)
Tania Hershman: The White Road and other Stories (Salt)

Echo the list above. And add in
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

From Readers of this Blog:Additions from Those Who Know:

Single Author collections:
Haruki Murakami: After the Quake
Alistair MacLeod: Island
Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried
Anthony Doerr: The Shell Collector
Richard Yates : Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
Julian Barnes: The Lemon Table

Writers who must not be forgotten


Ravi Mangla said...

This is wonderful. I wish I could have been there for this.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Ravi - lovely to hear from you. Please do put your favourites here... I'll add them in. V

ValW said...

Ooo yes Ravi, pls do! Hope all's going sparklingly for you. (I have no doubts!)

PS: Finally signed up so I can keep up at your blog occasionally, V. Thnx for the post!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

It am a pleasure, Valerie. Thanks for sharing! I added John Cheever this morning. Woke up at 3 am, with a start. Oh! I forgot JC!

Writing For My Life said...

Really nice list but a few essentials are missing:

Newfoundland writer, Alistair MacLeod's brilliant collected stories, entitled 'Island'.

Tim O'Brien's 'The Things They Carried' - it's debatable, perhaps whether this is a novel or a collection of interlinked stories, but since most or all of the stories were independently published I'd go for the latter. The title story, in particular, is one of the finest ever written. All in all, an amazing book.

Haruki Murakami's 'After The Quake'. Beautiful stuff.

Finally, where's Hemingway? Seems almost criminal to compile a list of great short stories without encluding Ernie...

Vanessa Gebbie said...


great additions, I agree. Although no list will be absolutely perfect, we can try to make it so.


I'm starting a new section on the post, "Additions from Those Who Know."

I love Tim O'Brien's story, it is in the Best American Shorts I added in. And there is one Hemmingway in there too.

Murakami is one of my faves. Everything. But I will add in ATQ as well.

Alistair MacLeod's Island is a new one... thank you!!

Cadenza said...

When the list was compiled, it was compiled of 'favourites', which as several of us said when we were posting, could change, depending upon mood. Clearly, Hemingway wasn't anyone's favourite on that particular day.

It was never about 'essentials', and even there, there will never be a definite list as such, will there?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Neat points, Z. I guess there could be a list of 'essentials' for aspiring writers of strong lit fic, Im guessing? But then the list would change depending on who is compiling it.

Personally I think it is lovely to have some classics like Hemmingway, alongside the newer books. See, If I had to stick my head out, I reckon a writer like Adam Marek will be judged v highly, in years to come.

(she said sucking her tooth.)

Ravi Mangla said...

Well, two of my very favorites are The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates. Beautiful collections.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Thanks Ravi

will add them in forthwith. Do let other writers know about the list if they would like to add their own faves.

David King said...

Many of my own favourites there, V. One recent collection I bought was Julian Barnes 'The lemon Table' (2004). Very impressive, and nearly all published in The New Yorker of course.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

JHi David! Lovely, I will add that in. many thanks.