20 New Must-Read Short Story Collections

Emily Martin |
3 months ago
Bloomsbury Publishing

In his first-ever short story collection, which spans forty years of work, Alan Moore presents a series of wildly different and equally unforgettable characters who discover—and in some cases even make and unmake—the various uncharted parts of existence. From ghosts and otherworldly creatures to theoretical Boltzmann brains fashioning the universe at the big bang, Illuminations is exactly that—a series of bright, startling tales from a contemporary legend that reveal the full power of imagination and magic.

A good short story has an incredible amount of power. In just a small amount of pages, authors of short stories are able to create entire worlds, depict characters who feel real, and evoke deep emotions. If you’re a fan of short stories, you’re in luck, because 2022 has been an excellent year for short story collections. In fact, there are so many great short story collections this year, that it was hard to narrow it down to just 20 must-reads. We couldn’t possibly cover them all, so if your fave didn’t make this list, no worries! It’s still amazing.

As for the ones that are on this list, these are the 20 must-read short story collections that you’re going to love, no matter what genres you normally gravitate towards. Literary fiction is heavily represented on this list, but there are short stories in plenty of other genres as well! Love speculative fiction? Of course you do. There’s plenty of that here on this list. Mysteries? Thrillers? Suspense? Yep. Horror? Aww yeah. Sci-fi? Fantasy? Check and check. Basically, these short story collections are doing everything, and you’re going to love them.

So get your TBR lists ready, because you’re going to want to add all of these books to your to-read pile right away.

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

Jean Chen Ho’s debut is a collection of linked stories following Fiona Lin and Jane Shen, two Taiwanese American women who have been best friends since the 2nd grade. Growing up in Los Angeles, Fiona and Jane have very different but equally tumultuous family lives. As with most friendships, there are moments in time when Fiona and Jane grow closer to one another, and other periods of time where they drift apart. Each short story explores a different moment in their friendship throughout their lives. Together, these stories paint a vivid portrait of friendship, love, loss, and coming of age in contemporary America.

Seasonal Work by Laura Lippman

If you are already a fan of Laura Lippman’s work, then you absolutely have to add her latest short story collection to your TBR list. But even if you’ve never read Lippman before, you’re in for a treat. Seasonal Work is a collection of psychological suspense/thriller stories featuring murder, mystery, love gone wrong, deception, scandals, and so much more. If you only read one crime fiction short story in 2022, make it one from this short story collection.

Seeking Fortune Elsewhere by Sindya Bhanoo

Seeking Fortune Elsewhere is the debut short story collection from O. Henry Prize winning author Sindya Bhanoo. From Pittsburgh to Washington to Tamil Nadu, these stories explore the lives of South Indian immigrants and the families they leave behind. Bhanoo’s stories show how the lives of these characters and the decisions they make are complicated, filled with moments of regret, hope, and triumph.

Out There by Kate Folk

What strange and eerie secrets lurk beneath the lives of seemingly ordinary people? That’s what Kate Folk examines in her short story collection Out There. These highly imaginative short stories infuse elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction into the literary fiction landscape. Each story looks deep into the reader’s subconscious dreams and nightmares.

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

This collection consists of 12 short stories that look at life in Maine’s Native Penobscot Nation in the 21st century. These dark but honest stories follow a troubled family dealing with issues of grief, depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, and more. But these stories are filled with hope and magic as well. At the center of Night of the Living Rez is David. Each story explores the lives of David, his family, and his friends at different points in their lives.

Life Ceremony by Sayaka Murata

Life Ceremony is Sayaka Murata’s first short story collection to ever be translated into English. In these 12 stories, the award-winning author of Convenience Store Woman mixes her signature blend of the humorous, the awkward, and the terrifying to tell stories of loners and outcasts who buck traditions and societal expectations. Murata’s stories will have you questioning what it means to be human in this world and what is sacrificed when we try too hard to fit in.

Ghost Lover by Lisa Taddeo

From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Taddeo comes a stunning collection of nine short stories you won’t want to miss. This collection includes two Pushcart Prize winners and a finalist for the National Magazine Award as well as previously unpublished work. Ghost Lover tells stories of complicated, fascinating, and flawed women and their experiences of deep love, wild obsession, and uncontrollable grief.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

Kim Fu’s Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century is a collection of 12 speculative fiction short stories where the ordinary is made strange and the strange becomes ordinary. Each story in this collection creates a strange world where readers will get lost. From a group of children who steal a haunted doll to an insomniac seduced by the Sandman, each of these short stories digs deep into human nature and the contradictions that live within us all.

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma

Ling Ma stunned readers with her debut novel Severance in 2018, and now she’s back with a short story collection that’s just as mesmerizing. Through eight short stories, Ma introduces readers to characters and stories that examine the realities of motherhood, friendship, love, loneliness, and more. In one story, a woman lives in a house with all of her ex-boyfriends. In another, a toxic friendship is built around a drug that makes you invisible. These situations seems strange, but the emotions and characters are entirely relatable.

Natural History by Andrea Barrett

The six short stories in Andrea Barrett’s collection Natural History feature characters Barrett has written about in her work since 1996’s Ship Fever. But even if this is your first Andrea Barrett book, you will connect with these characters right away. In these interconnected stories, Barrett allows readers into the intertwined lives of a family of scientists, teachers, and innovators. Following their lives throughout the years, readers see the ways women’s lives and the expectations put upon them have changed over the years.

What We Fed to the Manticore by Talia Lakshmi Kolluri

What We Fed to the Manticore is a really fun short story collection because it consists of nine short stories all told from a different animal’s perspectives. Through these animals’ eyes, debut author Talia Lakshmi Kolluri discusses environmentalism, conservation, identity, belonging, loss, and family. Whether the story is told from the perspective of a donkey, a vulture, or a pigeon, readers will become full immersed in these characters and their stories.

Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-lee Chai

Tomorrow in Shanghai is May-lee Chai’s beautiful follow-up collection to her award-winning collection Useful Phrases for Immigrants. These stories examine the lives of people in China, the Chinese diaspora in America, and people of Chinese descent living throughout the world. Whether the characters are rich or poor, male or female, living in the city or the country, each story looks at issues of prejudice, power dynamics, and interpersonal struggles in the globalized world.

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monáe

The Memory Librarian is like a literary tie-in for Janelle Monáe’s high-concept album Dirty Computer, set in a world in which thoughts can be erased or controlled. This collection expands on the totalitarian existence imagined in Dirty Computer. To fully flesh out this sci-fi world, Monáe also collaboraties with several talented sci-fi/fantasy authors, including Yohanca Delgado, Eve L. Ewing, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, and Sheree Renée Thomas — just to name a few.

Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin

Seven Empty Houses is a short story collection that just made the National Book Award longlist for best book in translation. In this collection, Samanta Schweblin tells seven stories about seven strange houses that are all empty in different ways. Some are devoid of love. Some don’t have any furniture. Or any people. But in every case, something always creeps in: trespassers, a ghost, a list of things to do before you die…you get the idea. Samanta Schweblin has already wowed readers with her collection Mouthful of Birds, and this one is just as good if not better!

A Sliver of Darkness by C. J. Tudor

This debut short story collection from author C. J. Tudor features 10 tales that are creepy, twisty, and mind-bending. For instance, there’s “The Lion at the Gate,” a story about a strange piece of graffiti that leads four school friends into a horrifying encounter. And as the world descends into darkness in “Final Course,” a group of old friends find time for one last dinner party. Then there’s “I’m Not Ted,” in which a case of mistaken identity turns deadly. This one is a must-read for horror fans and anyone who is hungry for stories that will stick with you long after you’ve finished the final page.

Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker

Chelsea Bieker, the acclaimed author of Godshot, is back with a remarkable collection of short stories set in California’s Central Valley. From a woman who steals a baby from a shelter, to a mother and son selling dreamcatchers along the highway, to two teenage girls playing a dangerous online game, all of Bieker’s characters burn with deep and reckless desires. And all are heartbroken in their own ways.

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

The last collection was set entirely in California, and Milk Blood Heat is all about Florida. In the cities and suburbs of Florida, the characters in these stories each find themselves confronted by moments of violent personal reckonings. Dantiel W. Moniz’s debut collection is filled with intimate, emotional moments that shed light on the nature of family, faith, forgiveness, and how we are all connected to one another.

City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer, who has been called “the weird Thoreau,” is probably most known for his sci-fi/weird fiction Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance). In City of Saints and Madmen, VanderMeer introduces readers to the world of Ambergris, a place unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Through this interwoven collection of stories, histories, and “eyewitness” reports, VanderMeer creates a fantasy world that feels incredibly real.

Gods of Want by K-Ming Chang

With each story in K-Ming Chang’s Gods of Want, the author mixes myth, memory, and surrealism to tell feminist stories about Asian American women from different walks of life. In “Xífù,” a mother-in-law goes to torturous ends in an attempt to get a wife out of her home. In “Virginia Slims,” a woman from a cigarette ad becomes real. And in “Auntland,” a stream of aunts attempt to adjust to American life in strange ways. These uncanny stories explore questions of power, identity, and memory.

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs by Sidik Fofana

All of the stories in Sidik Fofana’s Stories from the Tenants Downstairs are set in a low-income Harlem high rise where gentrification weighs heavy on the tenants’ minds. Each of the eight interconnected stories explores the hopes, struggles, and strengths of the tenants in the Banneker Homes. Every tenant there has a unique, touching, and thought-provoking story to tell.

Looking for more must-read short story collections? Here are 10 speculative story collections to enjoy in 2022. And here are the sci-fi/fantasy short story collections you won’t want to miss.