short story collections to enjoy one bite at a time

by Becca Varcoe

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Short story collections are the perfect read in winter, when you can’t keep your hands outside of your doona cover for more than a few minutes at a time, and reading books in the sun on the grass for hours feels like a distant memory. They’re also great for if you’ve been in a bit of slump with your reading – not being able to concentrate long enough to get into a story, or not being able to settle on one book. Picking up one book with a few different, digestible little bits of lit is a great way to get back into the swing of things, or to fill your brain with stories without committing to hours of freezing hands.

Pulse Points, Jennifer Down

An Aussie writer based in Melbourne, Jennifer Down has a knack for writing beautiful sad stories that hit you right in the gut. Pulse Points is her second book, and features tales from Japan to Toowoomba. Boys, girls, death, heartbreak: that’s life, and Pulse Points distills it all into eight stories that’ll probably make you cry. Opening in Japan, we jet off to the Sea of Trees. Then, we meet a couple who make a grisly discovery in Emerald, before we head off along the Hume on a bleak Aussie road-trip to Queensland. I’ve warned you – but stick with these stories, the beautiful prose is worth the tears.

The Bed Moved, Rebecca Schiff

I’ll admit it – Rebecca Schiff’s collection caught my eye because of its lovely book covers. But inside is a fantastic bunch of stories that examine love, family, and growing up. While they’re are often super-funny, they’re also quite touching. Think sexual experiences on geology camp (funny), but also think visiting home after your dad dies and finding some… interesting stuff in his browser history (touching and funny).

This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz

This is actually the third of Junot Diaz’s books to feature his character Yunior, who was the protagonist in his first short story collection, Drown, and in his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. In This Is How You Lose Her, we follow Yunior through a bunch of stories, mostly about love – which is a really simple way of saying that these are tales about, well, infidelity, and the complexities of being a flawed person looking for lasting human relationships. While it’s still a beautiful read, it’s probably a good thing that this tricky subject matter is spread over a couple of different stories.

Hot Little Hands, Abigail Ulman

Another great Aussie story short author is Abigal Ulman. Hot Little Hands includes nine stories, all with female protagonists trying to figure life out. From wanting desperately to fit in at school, desperately avoiding your thesis (hello, me and all deadlines), and the joy (ha) of break ups in your 20s, this collection spoke to me now, me as a teen, me five years ago, and hopefully me one day. Give it to a friend who is trying to work their life out – or, you know, keep it for yourself, because we all know you’re a mess, Sharon.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver

Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes beautiful – that’s love, and that’s this book. A collection based on that complicated feelin’, Carver is one of the greats for a very obvious reason. This one is best read on a sleepy afternoon with a cuppa in hand, or in bed next to the person you love.

Pretty pic by Silvia Sala.

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