Since having a baby 16 months ago, my reading habits have changed. Gone are the days where I can finish a book in one day, because I have a tiny human who I’m apparently supposed to regularly interact with. Giving up on reading is not really an options; reading is my form of meditation. If I don’t do it, my head doesn’t work properly.
I’ll blog in more detail about how I’ve adapted my reading to suit my shiny new lifestyle, but this post focuses on one aspect. A month ago, I set myself the task of reading one short story every day. I’ve set myself a couple of guidelines:
• I’m not allowed to read the same author more than one per month
• I have to physically READ them; audiobooks are a no-no this time, my friend.
I document my activity on a spreadsheet, because of course I do. Spreadsheets are amazing, and I’ll happily tell my grandchildren via future Skype how I fought for them in the great Excel Wars of 2028.
I’m having a blast with this. Okay, sometimes I cheat, and miss a day, and have to read two stories in one day, which is such an incredible hardship. And only once have I ended up intentionally reading two stories in one day, because the first one I read was TERRIBLE, and I felt like I needed to counter-balance it with something good. “The 10:00 Report is Brought to You By…” by Edward Bryant, since you asked. Followed very swiftly by the wonderful Cynthia Asquith’s “The Corner Shop”, which was marvelous.
My love of short stories goes back for as long as I can remember. I think the first one I truly loved was “The Hitchhiker” by Roald Dahl, and it’s still an absolute favourite now. I remember my tiny brain being dazzled by how many amazing things could happen in so few words, and how wonderfully everything unfolded. So I’m really enjoying revisiting favourite authors, such as Dahl, Daphne duMaurier (whose story, “The Old Man”, is possibly my current favourite short story. Go and read it right now. It’s mind-blowing), Shirley Jackson (all hail Shirley), Sophie Hannah and Nigel Kneale.
I’m also looking forward to revisiting Jeremy Dyson, Stephen Volk, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Adam Nevill, and the fantastic collection Eight Ghosts, released by English Heritage last year. And if I could get my hands on one of Andrew Michael Hurley’s early collections that hasn’t fallen victim to the Amazon pricing algorithm, that would be superb.
And then there are the authors that I’ve shamefully never read, and of course I’m now absolutely madly in love with, such as Harlan Ellison (“I Have No Mouth…” is just bonkers good. Why did no one tell me?!), Flannery O’Connor (I was blown away by “A Good Man…”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that!), James Tiptree Jr, and Charles Beaumont.
My choices are mostly horror and sci-fi, because that’s what I enjoy, and those are the two genres that dominate my bookshelves. But just because I have a vast collection of short stories, don’t think that’s stopped me from buying more books! Because if anything, it’s made things worse! However, they’ve mostly been cheap Kindle books, so at least my husband can’t complain about lack of space. Only about lack of money. I’m kidding. Amazon money isn’t real money.
Recently purchased collections which I picked up very cheaply on my Kindle are Looming Low (which features three stories nominated for Shirley Jackson awards – all hail Shirley), Get In Trouble by Kelly Link, and The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova.
But don’t fret, dear reader. I’ve also been stocking up on lovely old paperbacks, complete with yellowing pages, and some so old they don’t even have barcodes. Examples of some real beauties I’ve picked up recently are pictured.
I haven’t set myself a timeline for this, I figure I’ll just keep doing it until it isn’t fun anymore.
So, what’s your favourite short story, or short story collection? Leave me a recommendation and I’ll add it to my list.
It’s good to be back.