April 9, 2011

Best. Books. Ever: Story Collections

I'm purposefully putting off the Best. Books. Ever. FICTION post for last as it is taking me a considerable amount of time to even... attempt... to narrow down my list so it is blog-managable. So, sometimes we're in a mood for something fun, creative, thought provoking, but don't have enough time to really get into a novel. Well, here comes your white horse: the short story collection!

As a high school teacher, I find short stories more rewarding to teach on a regular basis as the language and sentence structure is often more purposeful, creative, and all around beautiful. Don't get me wrong, I love novels, but for high schoolers, short stories are my money maker.

There are a few authors that are my personal favorites and then there are the ones I am always drawn to for school, so I decided to share one big list with you today!

Enjoy :)

(aren't the top 2 covers for Shirley Jackson & Flannery O'Connor incredible!?)

1. Shirley Jackson is a haunting writer that leads the reader through what seems to be a normal, every day life situation, ultimately resulting in a dark and twisted ending. Students love her, I love her, but be prepared to have a moment of reflection and say, "whaaaat?!" I strongly recommend "The Lottery" and "The Possibility of Evil" for teenagers.

2. Flannery O'Connor is very similar to Miss. Jackson, but with a gothic southern twist. O'Connor is able to depict characters and situations that can often be muddled in pure black and white. Her characters are raw and deep, but easy to build attachment to. Good luck making it through her collections without taking a moment to analyze yourself. It's next to impossible. In my experience, high schoolers are fond of "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "The Life You Save May Be Your Own".

3. Tim O'Brien & The Things They Carried. Before you jump out the window (or out of this screen), let me explain. O'Brien's "TTTC" is a novel comprised of short stories centered around a platoon in Vietnam. Yes, it is published as a novel, but I assure you the chapters can stand on their own as short stories. I just finished reading the opening chapter entitled, "The Things They Carried" today with my regular 10th graders. They loved it. It's moving, deep, and all those things teenagers want to be. Caution: lots of "f bombs!"

4. Raymond Carver is the contemporary expert of the short story. He's modern, provacative, and different. He has a true style that shows you the grit of life and of the human existance, but tends to lend his characters to meaningful themes and messages. Although his stories are not the most school appropriate pieces I can think of, teenagers get a kick out of "Cathedral" because of the innocence in wanting to be accepted and... it's probably the first story they've read in school where the main characters smoke pot together.

Follow the hyperlink for more Best. Books. Ever.


  1. Ooh - good list! :) My highschool English teacher was always raving about 'The things We Carried', but I've never read it all.

  2. Hey Michelle! The cool thing about "TTTC" is that each chapter acts as a short story using the same characters. The opening chapter, which shares the title of the book, is the most powerful, but the entire book is awesome. I usually read the entire book in my American Lit class, but since this is a regular, general English class, I just read the opening story. It sucks you in, for sure!