Earlier this month, the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Canadian short story writer Alice Munro. For many this signals a new critical acceptance of the short story as a literary form since the Nobel committee has usually recognised novelists and poets. Munro is famous for being a master of the craft of the short story, using it to explore the complicated relationships between men and women and small town life. Though critical acceptance is new, the short story has been an enduringly popular way to read and is perfect for our modern lives.
The short story grew out of the newspaper and magazine market in the late 19th century. Full-length novels were initially serialised in magazines before being collected as books, but newspaper distribution was local and potentially unreliable and travelling workers may miss out on chapters making serials unattractive to them. Paperback printing also made the novel cheaper to release. The magazines began to see stories that could be read in one part in one sitting as very attractive to its readers. Many of the reasons the short story was popular in those days remain today.
With our modern lives becoming busier by the minute, many of us find it harder to make time to read. A novel may be daunting to read in small parts when you can make the time. The short story is the perfect way to sit down and enjoy a complete journey through a story in the half hour to an hour you can find somewhere in your busy schedule, on a train journey, before bed, at the park or on a weekend afternoon. Buying a collection of short stories allows you to enjoy many different reading experiences for the price of a single novel-length story.
In the early twentieth century masters of the short story form like G. K. Chesterton began to emerge writing many classic collections of short stories still popular today. Later, Jeffrey Archer popularised the short story with a twist at the end as well as writing many urban legends. These short stories are published in collections such as A Twist in the Tale.
Many short stories collect different authors and are a great way to quickly and easily read a story from one of your favourites as well as discover new authors who are similar or in the same genre who may become your favourites in the future. The short story caters to all genres and tastes.
While Alice Munro initially looked on the short story as practice for writing a full-length novel she found that short stories were where she excelled. However you will recognise many of your favourite novel authors in short story collections available now.
Loves Me, Loves Me Not is a collection of over forty stories celebrating women’s fiction in all its guises. Authors include Joanna Trollope, Katie Flynn, Rosie Harris, Anna Jacobs, Maureen Lee and Carole Matthews. The Girls Night In 10th Anniversary Collection brings together stories from many female authors from the popular series including Marian Keyes, Candace Bushnell, Cathy Kelly and Maggie Alderson.
Or try Ten Short Stories You Must Read in 2011, don’t worry if you didn’t read them in 2011 – there’s still time to read them now! This book is an initiative of the Australia Council’s Get Reading! Campaign each September.
Science fiction and fantasy fans may like the Legends series, collecting stories by the masters of modern fantasy such as Terry Pratchett and Robert Jordan.
Fans of true stories and Australiana may like the series collected and told by Bill “Swampy” Marsh for ABC books, including Great Australian Droving Stories, Great Australian Shearing Stories and Great Australian Railway Stories.
Also available is the Baby Penguin range, each individual book collects a classic short story or essay in an individual mini book perfect for your pocket and reading on the go, each for just 50 cents.
Making time to read, even if you can only make time to read a short story is a very rewarding experience, give it a try!