June 22, 2012

What Are Your Favorite Short Story Collections?

Prior to really engrossing myself in the online venues for short fiction, physical books were my sole source for reading short stories and novellas. Stephen King in particular has been a longstanding favorite when it comes to short stories, which should come as little surprise. Nor should you be surprised when you see I've listed one of his books as my all-time favorite collections.

I'm curious what your favorite short story collections are, though. Which author has entertained you the most with their stories? One of the reasons I ask is because you will see my five favorite collections below and none of them are written by women. That is a god-damn travesty, in my opinion. Now, don't get me wrong, as I've read a few very good collections by female authors (notably Cate Gardner's Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits and Poppy Z. Brite's The Devil You Know), but none have had enough punch to break into my fave five.

So, after you check out the five books I count among my absolute favorites--and to look at them now I can see there will probably be little surprise to most horror readers--I'd like you to leave a comment and share which short story collections you cherish most. I'm a long ways off from being as well read as I'd like to be, and the collections already sitting on my to-be-read pile (Joe R. Landale's The Complete Drive-In chief among them) are a mere few of the much ballyhooed books I should read sometime before I die. So help a critter out, would ya?

#5: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill - When it comes to Joe Hill's amazing ability at spinning yarns, I'm left to weight the options of nature versus nurture to explain how he got so good. This collection is a triumphant display of the twisted and the touching.

#4: I Am Legend and Other Stories by Richard Matheson - This collection might go by some other name, but I picked up the 2007 Tor Books movie tie-in release with Will Smith on the cover, so who knows. What I do know is that this is a remarkable glimpse into the genius that is Matheson. I've got his Button, Button collection (another Tor Books tie-in paperback) on my to-be-read pile and wonder if it might be even better.

#3: The October Country by Ray Bradbury - Oh, Bradbury. We lost one of the good ones earlier this month. I had just picked up The Illustrated Man the weekend before his death, and I've been slowly savoring each story in it since. It might have made the list if I had finished it in time, but I can easily rank this magnificent collection as one of the very best I've had the pleasure to read.

#2: The Books of Blood by Clive Barker - I'm referring to the first three volumes here, which I have in one big hardcover. These are easily the most chilling and downright disturbing stories in this little list, and some are really not for the squeamish. If you can brave reading any of the volumes, however, I guarantee you're in for a superbly written treat.

#1: Skeleton Crew by Stephen King - I could easily have put more than one of King's collections on this list, but hardly seems fair. So I narrowed it down to this one, mainly because it contains the incredible novella, The Mist. Night Shift and Everything's Eventual get honorable mentions for some amazing short stories, but Skeleton Crew is not without its own fair share of memorable stories.

There you have it. I'll have another fave five list later on this summer to discuss my favorite anthologies, too. For now though, let me know if any of these books make your fave five and name some collections I need to track down.


  1. I loved 20th Century Ghosts so that would definitely hit my top five.

    I highly recommend Robert Shearman's collection 'Tiny Deaths'. Or any Robert Shearman collection at all. He easily stands up against King, Matheson etc.

  2. Brite's Wormwood
    Schow's Seeing Red
    HPL's Dunwich Horror & Others
    Etchison's The Dark Country
    Jackson's The Lottery & Others

    But that's just off the top of my head...

    I agree with your Barker, Bradbury, and King choices, and Hill's book is one of the few current collections I've read and enjoyed.

  3. LOVED Roald Dahl's Kiss, Kiss. I was also delighted by Vivian Vande Velde's being dead -- it's YA, and started out kind of same-old, but the ending of the first story floored me.

    And of course Nightmares and Dreamscapes, to add to the King love. :)

  4. Good choices! Mine would be:

    1.Demons By Daylight - Ramsey Campbell
    2. High Lonesome - Joyce Carol Oates
    3. Cold Hand In Mine - Robert Aickman
    4. The Lottery - Shirley Jackson
    5. Ice Age - Iain Rowan

    I reserve the right to completely change mind tmrw.

  5. Cate - Thanks for the rec.

    Will - I'm unfamiliar with Etchison, but I'm throwing him on the wish list anyway. Thanks.

    Amanda - Ah, Roald Dahl. I read one of his collections, crime and mystery stuff, that was quite good. I don't think it was called Kiss, Kiss though. Nightmares & Dreamscapes is another nice outing from King.

    James - Never heard of Robert Aickman, but his book and the others you mentioned are going on the list. Thanks.

  6. I'm not sure I could ever pick a top five.

    I guess Strange Highways, by Dean Koontz, would be in there by default, as he's my favorite author. It is a great collection, though.

    I would definitely include Dreamsongs, both volumes, by George R.R. Martin. Fantastic stuff!

    Hard to not want to round out a top five with every King collection. His short fiction, in my opinion, is where he shines. Brilliant writer, of course, but his short stuff, in my opinion, is nearly flawless.

    Some recent collections I've read and loved would include 20th Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill; every collection by Darrell Schweitzer, but since I started with Transients, I'll name-drop that one. Seriously, though, the man is fantastic, and sadly, woefully underrated among horror fans.

    Other enjoyable collections I've recently read: Ford Country, by John Grisham; Enough Rope, by Lawrence Block (this thing is massive; contains over 80 short stories, and most are fantastic). The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair is quite good as well, though I'll admit, I do have a story in it.

    I am not helping here, huh? Totally breaking the rules! Haha. Sorry about that. A top five from me would probably change day to day, so I "this is good" list works better. =)

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  8. I have I am Legend but have not read any of his short stories. Mine edition is jus thte one novel.