Short Fiction Suggested Reading

by Corey Brown
published in Reading

I struggled to come up with a perfect suggested reading list for this month’s Master Class on Short Fiction, but I kept finding myself hitting the wall.  Some of you may have heard me lament the absence in the world of a perfect short story anthology .  I’ve found ones that are OK but never one that is truly excellent, so it wasn’t like I could just say “read this anthology” and be done with it.  This meant choosing stories one by one, and the minute I started trying to do that I realized that I many favorites.  Many, many favorites.

Enter Corey Brown: a fellow member of the Quill & Coffee writing group, an excellent writer, and a good friend.  When it comes to short fiction, Corey’s also the most well-read person I know and his knowledge of short fiction ranges from classics to obscure gems that make me wonder “where has this story been all my life?

I would have listed the obvious choices: Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to FInd,” Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” John Cheever’s “The Swimmer” or Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral.”  Corey’s list is much more interesting.  When I asked him what was the hardest part of putting this list together, he said: “Stressing about who wasn’t on the list.”  I hear you, Corey.

Now without further delay, here’s this month’s suggested reading list, compiled by Corey Brown.


So many stories! How does one truly find the time to read them all? Well, one story at a time. For me, I devour short stories daily. They bring me great joy and inspire me to get to the real task at hand—writing.

The world is not lacking in short stories, perhaps maybe readers. Oftentimes, short stories, I think, don’t get the same level of respect as the novel, but there are a lot of gems out there. And no: this is not a definitive list. Yes—these writers, plus several more not listed have influenced in me some way: Donald Ray Pollock, A.M. Homes, Flannery O’Connor, James Franco, Miranda July, ZZ Packer, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, Annie Proulx, Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk and…you!

Where is your gem of a short story for the world to read and celebrate? After seeking out these writers and their work, command your talent to the page. For a writer writes.

A writer also reads. In this particular case, short stories.  Here’s a list to get your started:

Short Fiction Suggested Reading

(Elements of craft represented by these stories are in italics.)

  • Aimee Bender, “Night Trilogy.”  Style / Point of View (POV)
  • Truman Capote, “Miriam.”  Dialogue / Character / Plot.
  • Dan Chaon, “Shepherdess.”   Plot / Structure / Style.
  • E.L. Doctorow, “Edgemont Drive.”  Dialogue / Character / Style.
  • Lisa Glatt, “What Milton Heard.”  Character / POV / Voice
  • Patricia Highsmith, “A Mighty Nice Man.”  Dialogue / Character / Plot
  • Shirley Jackson, “Mrs. Anderson.”  Dialogue / Character.
  • Stephen King, “The Gingerbread Girl.” Plot / Structure / Style.
  • Ander Monson, “To Reduce Your Likelihood Of Murder.”  Style / Voice.
  • Alice Munro, “Free Radicals.”  Dialogue / Character / Plot.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, “Wolf’s Head Lake.”  Tone / Mood / Voice / POV.
  • Davy Rothbart, “How I Got Here.”  POV / Character / Voice.
  • Joy Williams, “Charity.” Plot / Dialogue.

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