reading short story collections

I find that I’m getting buried in short story collections: big thick ones such as The Big Books of Pulps and  some of the collections from NESFA, regular sized ones including many from Crippen & Landru, even a few older thin paperbacks of SF or mystery stories. There seem to be an awful lot of them, as if they’re proliferating while I sleep. Okay, I know they aren’t but it sure seems there are many of them in the TBR, and that would be okay, but I seem to be having some trouble getting through each one.

Usually when I read a book I pretty much get straight through it. Sure, I pause for other things life demands of me, but I have the book at hand and read it through pretty quickly, considering I’m not a particularly fast reader. But for the past few months I haven’t been able to do that with short story collections. For some reason, I pick one up, read two or three stories, and set the book aside. I want something in a longer form. So the short story collection is set aside and sits there, like a bomb with a lit fuse, while I read a novel, or two, and glance occasionally at the partially read item and think I really need to finish that.

Anyone else have this problem?

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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16 Responses to reading short story collections

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Well, as you know I make a habit of reading at least one short story a day, a practice I started back in 1995. I’ve gotten through a lot of great short story writers that way, like Chekhov and John O’Hara to name two, and also a lot of mystery writers.

    Usually I’ll read one story a day (more if they’re short ones) before I start reading whatever other book I’m reading, and that way it’s just part of my daily routine and I get through it without too much pain or suffering.

    If the stories are longer (but not novel length) I do tend to space them out more, like Murray leinster’s Med Ship series, which I’d read on the express bus to Manhattan on days we’d go to shows.

    Occasionally there is a “big” book (as you stated) and that can take longer. Sometimes I have 2-3 books of stories going, or an EQMM and a book of stories.

    One of the main things I’ve used anthologies for rather than single author collections has been to discover new authors. That’s the way I first found Brendan DuBois, one of my favorite short story writers in the mystery field. I’m also a big fan of the shorts by Ed Gorman and Bill Pronzini, to drop a couple more names.

  2. Like Jeff Meyerson, I try to read a short story every day. And, I usually have a novel or non-fiction book going, too. And now I have to make time for 24!

  3. Richard says:

    Jeff has told me before that he does this, and several times I’ve decided to try it but have been unable to follow through. Time to try again.

  4. I find it difficult to read anthologies featuring different authors since each author has a somewhat different style and often a somewhat different focus even though each story shares the theme of the collection.It seems best to read a story, consider it, note the author, and pause before reading the next one. Sometimes, I take nearly forever to finish a collection. Too, I may not give each story as much of a chance to engage me as with a novel.

  5. Richard says:

    That’s a thoughtfull comment, William. The majority of the short story collections I have on hand are single author,, but that doesn’t mean the stories in them have a great deal in common, especially the larger ones that offer a retrospective of an author’s short works, such as the Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson published by NESFA.

  6. patti abbott says:

    Like Jeff I read them one at a time usually. I always have a novel I read when I go to bed because you can’t not finish a short piece in one sitting. I think it’s time for the Edgars to have a category for anthologies either single or multiple authored. I think there are too many fine collections not to notice entire collections rather than just single stories.

  7. Drongo says:

    Even when I don’t care for the author, I always find those NESFA books impressive.

  8. Richard says:

    I agree with you, Patti. There should be a category for anthologies / collections, both for the editor and the publisher. I note the Hugos have an award for best editor, short form, which the Edgars do not have.

    What I’d really like to see is:

    Best Anthology, Short Form (multiple authors)

    Best Collection, Short Form (single author assemblages).

    So somebody tell the Edgar folks!

  9. Richard says:

    I agree, Drongo, they are impressive, and I often buy them, but there are a few sitting here, and thus back to the original post…

  10. Evan Lewis says:

    The story a day plan employed by Jeff and George sounds great. Wish I could stick to it. I sometimes manage to finish a single collection with that method, but my record is about 50-50. I find it much easier to stick to when the stories are part of a series (e.g. Breckenridge Elkins, Khlit the Cossack, Captain Blood). Anthologies are much harder to stick to.

  11. Cap'n Bob says:

    I went through a period where I read a s/s a night, but I switched to novels, reading a chapter or three before falling asleep. Maybe I should get back to the stories as I have tons of them piling up.

  12. Carl V. says:

    I am a big fan of short stories, but my partaking of them seems to come in waves. I’ll read a bunch and then will be in the mood for novels for awhile before getting back to them. For the most part I try to read an entire collection once I start reading it, but that doesn’t always happen, especially if the collection is a large one. I have more than one large short story collection in which I’ve read and enjoyed several of the stories but have yet to finish it.

  13. If you’re feeling ambitious, Rick, you can join the 2010 Short Story Challenge here:
    I’ve chosen the “read one short story collection per month” option.

  14. patti abbott says:

    Just joined in. Thanks for pointing this out.

  15. I seldom read a single author collection straight through. I find some authors use similar themes(think Jack Chalker in virtually every book) and the style can be off-putting to me.

    What I do is space them out between novels.

    Multi-author volumes are easier to consume at one time.

  16. Richard says:

    That’s a good point, Randy. I’ve noticed that similarity of themes in several collections I’ve read in the last few years. I just dislike having a lot of books around partially read, but I guess it just goes with the territory.

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