Welcome to my first ever Top 5 Friday post! This week, we’ll take a look at my five favourite modern short story collections.
I think we can all agree that when it comes to short stories, the classic masters will never disappoint. Poe. Bradbury. Lovecraft. Le Fanu. I could do separate top five lists for each of these authors. Come to think of it, I most likely will in the future because if you haven’t been reading any of these authors, you’re definitely missing out.
I’ll be honest, when I’m looking for something to read, I do not usually gravitate toward short stories (although I have read my fair share of fan-fic, so go figure). I prefer a longer novel because I like the opportunity to really engage with and get to know the characters as I read. Short stories are tricky because the author has less time to really get their point across and get us to understand and care about their little worlds. When a short story manages to accomplish this, I am always blown away. When little tales are done right, they can pack a huge punch!
For this list I have opted out of including any Stephen King. He has some really amazing short stories, but I feel like chances are you’ve read them and I wanted to highlight a few that are not as commonly known. Here are my top five modern anthologies:
5. The Museum of Dr. Moses: Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates
I wouldn’t call these traditional horror stories; they are more along the lines of Chuck Palahniuk. They find horror in the everyday, and the monsters are of the human variety. The title story is a little more along the lines of a gothic tale, but these are definitely more psychological warfare than supernatural scares. Deeply unsettling, these stories will leave you looking sideways at the people you encounter day to day.
4. Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle
This collection is a fitting tribute to the man himself, the late, great Ray Bradbury. Featuring stories from a wide array of authors including Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and Audrey Niffenegger, it really is a love letter to a wonderful, prolific, influential writer. I really appreciated how the stories were clearly not meant to copy or re-do any of Bradbury’s works, but to showcase how each writer was influenced by them. My favourite is By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain, a surprisingly heartfelt story about a lake monster. A must-read for any Bradbury fans out there, and for extra fun, there is a graphic novel version of selected stories also available.
3. Books of Blood by Clive Barker
Clive Barker, guys. There’s not much more to say. The guy is a diabolical genius. His stories are violent, visceral, and downright messed up. How could we expect anything less from the author who brought us Hellraiser and Candyman? I think what makes Clive Barker’s stories so shocking is that those you think are innocent are often the ones who are doomed. There is a feeling of dread almost right from the get-go in his stories, yet somehow he manages to hand you an ending that shocks you most of the time, despite being braced for the worst. One of my favourites is The Midnight Meat Train from the very first volume, which will make you think twice about public transit. Books of Blood is six short volumes totalling 18 stories.
2. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Way back when, before we discovered that he is Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill released this awesome collection of short stories. These stories are the perfect embodiment of his earlier work, combining the genuinely creepy with sarcasm and dark humour that made Horns and Heart-Shaped Box so clever and fresh. The ideas in these stories are unique and creative…my favourite is the guy who collects last breaths in jars. Yeah. Read that and then try to sleep.
1. The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares: The Haunted City presented by Jason Blum
Jason Blum is the producer behind the movie production company, Blumhouse, which is responsible for movies like Sinister, Insidious, and The Purge. This collection of stories features authors such as Ethan Hawke, Sarah Langan, and Eli Roth, and is suitably dark. Blum explains in his forward that the contributors were given the guideline that their story had to take place in a city, but that’s all, so the result is a very varied collection that still feels surprisingly linked because of the urban setting. One of my favourites is the very first story, Hellhole, in which a nightmare renovation becomes an actual nightmare. Because the collection is sub-titled, I am really hoping that it becomes a multi-volume series. Book of Nightmares is the first book published under their book banner, Blumhouse Books. Since then, they have put out the horror novel The Apartment by S. L. Grey, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Let’s hope Blumhouse keeps the books coming!
Hope you enjoyed this list! If there is a list that you would like to see on Top 5 Fridays, let me know!