Bringing It All Together: Reviewing Short Story Collections

Bringing It All Together: Reviewing Short Story Collections 1024 576 Reader Views
Skyler Boudreau

I love short story collections. They are compulsively easy to read, far more so than novels. I also like to think of them as introductions to authors I haven’t read before. Short stories are a great way to sample a writer’s style. Anthologies of short stories can be tricky to get right. Some are straight forward collections of a single author’s work. I tend to only buy these if I’m already familiar with the author through their other work, whether that be a novel or a separate short story that I read and enjoyed.

Those can be a lot of fun, but my favorite collections are the ones based around a particular theme. The theme can be something as broad as a genre or as specific as a retelling, like an anthology exclusively featuring new versions of Alice in Wonderland.

Collections showcasing many different authors can face a unique set of obstacles, some of which affect the scores given by reviewers. No two stories can be too similar and each one must be able to hold its own amongst the others. Speaking as a reviewer, I can’t only look at each piece individually, though that is certainly an important part of it. Each contribution needs to bring something unique that ultimately results in making the entire collection stronger. If half of the stories are excellent and the other half are terrible, I can’t give that collection a five-star rating. When assigning stars, I try to find the average amongst all the stories.

One short story collection I read recently, Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters edited by Sarena Ulibarri, is a great example of a well-balanced themed anthology with a diverse set of stories from an equally diverse group of contributors. Each piece was about a world set in a deep, dangerous winter brought on by extreme climate change. The authors took the theme and not only crafted vivid, fascinating stories with it, but also used it to explore other important modern day issues, such as transphobia.

A short story collection will only be great if all of its individual parts are great. While they can be difficult to review sometimes, they are definitely worth it. They’re also a wonderful tool to help a reader out of a reading slump. It can be a lot easier to devour a dozen short stories than one novel.

There’s a short story collection out there for everyone. What are some of your favorites?

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