Most Influential Short Story Collections (In My Opinion)

May is apparently short story month (who knew?), and so this seems about as good a time as any to post a list of short story collections that have been especially influential for me. So in alphabetical order by author here goes:


The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • Contemporary stories set in Nigeria and America; been meaning to read her novels for a while now.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl – Mona Awad

  • Funny, dark, powerful all at once.

The Collected Stories  - Isaac Babel

  • Be sure to get the one translated by Peter Constantine. "My First Goose" and "Guy de Maupassant" are two of my favourites. It's time I reread Babel. 

Young Skins – Colin Barrett

  • One of the best collections I’ve ever read; wonderful maximalist language; set in contemporary Ireland.

The Stories of Richard Bausch

  • "Fatality" and "Two Altercations" are two of my favourites of the many stories I've check-marked in the table of contents. 

Gryphon: New and Selected Stories – Charles Baxter

  • Quirky stories; the title story is one of my favourites.

Natasha – David Bezmozgis

  • A stellar collection; each one is a knockout; I find myself rereading it every now and again.

Last Evenings on Earth – Roberto Bolano

  • Love these stories. His story "Gomez Palacio," a kind of plotless, atmospheric, mysterious story set in Mexico, was one I first heard read aloud on the New Yorker Monthly Podcast and was my introduction to Bolano. A great collection.

The Insufferable Gaucho – Roberto Bolano

  • The title story is one of my favourites; it's also a reworking of the Borges story "The South."

Collected Fictions – Jorge Luis Borges

  • Love Borges. All those labyrinths and so-called discovered manuscripts. But it's his more realistic stories from the 70s that are my favourites, and in particular his stories "The Gospel According to Mark" and "The South."

The Stories of Paul Bowles

  • Very dark stories; mostly set in Morocco. 

Absent Friends – Frederick Busch

  • Often described as a "writer's writer"--whatever that means. "Ralf the Duck" is one of my favourite stories.

Emperor of the Air – Ethan Canin

  • Some of these stories have had a real long-lasting effect and I turn to them once in a while to help me solve something I’m trying to do in my own fiction. “Star Food” is one of my favourites in the book.

Where I’m Calling From – Raymond Carver

  • When I was younger Carver had a huge impact on me—and still does. I still turn to him now and again when I need to solve something I’m trying to do in one of my own stories.

Stories – Anton Chekhov

  • I remember reading this and thinking, “Yes, that’s it, that’s it exactly,” not just in terms of his insight into human behaviour but also because in some ineffable way what he does is what I, too, strive to do in my own stories. “Lady with the Lapdog” is one of my favourites.

The Beggar’s Garden – Michael Christie

  • Stories set in Vancouver. There's the Downtown East Side, junkies, dumpster-diving, shiny new condos. "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" and "An Ideal Companion" are two of my favourites.

The Dew Breaker - Edwidge Danticat

  • Stories set in Haiti and America; a powerful collection of linked stories.

A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

  • A stellar collection of linked stories.

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg

  • I have mixed feelings about Eisenberg; some of her stories I love—the language is so stunning and original—and some of her stories, well, not so much. But it’s her Latin America stories that I love the most and turn to again and again.

Rock Springs – Richard Ford

  • A great collection. The story "Great Falls" has one of the best first lines ever: "This is not a happy story. I warn you."

Selected Stories – Mavis Gallant

  • I love her stories and I turn to them again and again, and every once in a while I need to reread her most famous collection, From the Fifteenth District. She’s certainly one of the biggest influences on my own writing.

Six Feet of the Country – Nadine Gordimer

  • A short but very powerful collection; I’ve read other Gordimer, but this collection, I think, contains her best and most influential stories—the “essential” Gordimer.

The Fat Artist – Benjamin Hale

  • An amazing collection; one of the best books I read in 2016.

The Short Stories – Ernest Hemingway

  • What can I say? It's Hemingway. "Hills Like White Elephants" and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" are two classics that anyone interested in short fiction should study.

Love and Obstacles – Aleksandar Hemon

The Bridegroom – Ha Jin

A Good Fall – Ha Jin

Jesus’ Son – Denis Johnson

  • These stories blew me away with their brevity and originality.

No One Belongs Here More Than You – Miranda July

  • Such quirky and fun stories. "The Boy from Lam Kien" is one that really stands out for me.

Dubliners – James Joyce

  • I remember first reading this when I was very young, maybe not even in high school, and not really understanding it yet being somehow mysteriously moved by these stories, particularly by “Araby” and “Clay.” That sense of mystery and of being moved comes back each time I reread it. I think this book had a big influence on my own desire to write short stories.

The Complete Short Stories – Franz Kafka

  • “The Country Doctor” is my favourite Kafka story.

The Marquise of O – Heinrich von Kleist

Interpreters of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth – Jhumpa Lahiri

Dead Boys – Richard Lange

  • I don’t think anyone really knows about these stories, which is too bad because it’s a fantastic collection.

Sightseeing – Rattawut Lapcharoensap

  • Don't let the unpronounceable names put you off. These are really well-crafted stories by a young Thai-American and set in present-day Thailand.

The Boat – Nam Le

  • Each story is told in a very different voice and style regarding wildly different subject matter; a powerful collection.

A Place I’ve Never Been – David Leavitt

Family Dancing – David Leavitt

  • An influential dose of gay lit when I first read them when I was much younger.

Interesting Women – Andrea Lee

Dead Girls – Nancy Lee

  • Powerful stories, harrowing.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers – Yiyun Li

Gold Boy, Emerald Girl – Yiyun Li

  • I love Yiyun Li, and this collection is one of my favourites; a very subtle, yet powerful book. Been meaning to check out her novels.

Island – Alistair MacLeod

Selected Short Stories – Guy de Maupassant

  • Who doesn’t love Maupassant?

Creatures of the Earth – John McGahern

  • I love Irish writers (yet I don’t think he’s very well known in North America) and I remember being powerfully moved by this huge book. I think it’s high time I reread it.

The Collected Stories – Leonard Michaels

  • I’m actually not a big fan of all of the stories in this book, but it’s his Nachman stories that are superb. "The Penultimate Conjecture" is my favourite, one I often think of and remember well.

Death in Midsummer – Yukio Mishima

  • There are some very good stories in here, but it’s the title story that is, by far, his best. About a woman who loses several members of her family at a seaside resort in Japan and the effect it has on her and her marriage, it had a hugely powerful effect on me, and I would rate it among my favourite short stories ever!

Like Life – Lorrie Moore

Birds of America – Lorrie Moore

  • I love Lorrie Moore and her fantastic ability to make the tragic so much more tragic by a good dose of comedy. "Places to Look for Your Mind" (in Like Life) and "Agnes of Iowa" (Birds of America) are my two favourite Moore stories.

Alice Munro

  • Need I say more? She has too many books and too many fine, fine stories to list here. A huge influence.

The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien

  • O'Brien writes mostly about the Vietnam War and the effect it has had on his protagonists. The title story and "Love" are two of my favourites.

The Love Object – Edna O’Brien

  • Another fantastic Irish writer.

Collected Stories – Frank O’Connor

The Complete Stories – Flannery O’Connor

  • Yes, these stories are pretty dark, but O’Connor really knows how to structure and tell a really spellbinding story.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere – ZZ Packer

  • Reading this made me realize how few books on my shelf are by black authors. The title story is another one I would rate as one of my favourite stories ever.

The Collected Stories – Grace Paley

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake

  • Dark stories; leaves a lot for the reader to infer; “rugged” language. Another book I need to reread.

The Collected Stories – V.S. Pritchett

  • British, funny, often involving “odd” characters. His story “Did You Invite Me?” is one of my favourites short stories.

Nine Stories – J.D. Salinger

Dusk and Other Stories – James Salter

Last Night – James Salter

The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories – Bruno Schulz

Bang Crunch – Neil Smith

We’re Flying – Peter Stamm

  • Swiss writer; amazing how he can create a story out of seemingly nothing. The title story is one of my favourites by Stamm.

Marine Life – Linda Svensen

  • These linked stories had a huge impact on me when I first read them years ago. The poetic quality of her prose and the brevity with which she tells her stories made a big impact on me when I first read them.

World’s End – Paul Theroux

William Trevor

  • Like Mavis Gallant and Alice Munro, this Irish writer has far too many books and stories to list here. He’s had a huge influence on my own writing, and when it comes to contemporary short story writers, I think there is no one better than William Trevor.

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned – Wells Tower

  • Another collection I turn to now and again.

The Stories of Denton Welch

  • Although not every one of these autobiographical stories “works” as a story, his language and his very tactile, sensual view of the world as a semi-closeted gay man in 1930s Britain is something that draws me to his prose. When I read Welch, I feel such kinship with him. This is another big book I need to reread.

The Visiting Privilege – Joy Williams

  • Quirky and weird. Original. Love her.

Our Story Begins – Tobias Wolff

  • This collected works of Tobias Wolff is one of those books anyone interested in short stories should pick up.