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11 Of The Best Short Story Collections Of The 21st Century (So Far)

May is Short Story Month! This year Powell's staff tackled contemporary work. To qualify for this list, a collection must have been released (or first translated into English) between 2001 and 2014. Collected works, anthologies, and reprints were excluded. Check out the whole list here!

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1. Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender (2005)


Aimee Bender always manages to tell stories that are both surreal and whimsical, yet entirely emotionally relatable. In Willful Creatures she weaves stories of people with keys as fingers or irons as heads that draw you in and perfectly capture the human condition. She never fails to make you feel weird and wonderful at the same time. – Jordan H.

2. Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño (2006)


Last Evenings on Earth was the first of Bolaño's short story collections to appear in English translation. Culled from the same two collections (Llamadas Telefónicas and Putas Asesinas) as the stories in The Return, these 14 tales feature wayward and lowlife characters similar to those found within his two masterworks, The Savage Detectives and 2666. Often somber, even haunting, these short stories unfurl in the low-lit peripheries of prescience and immediacy that the late Chilean author most likely knew all too well. Regardless of form (poetry, short story, essay, or novel), Bolaño's writing was consistently singular and beautifully sinister. – Jeremy

3. Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis (2007)

In all of her collections, Davis's taut, straightforward prose has a tendency to hit you with a thud. But the impact is lasting. Stories that at first seem surface-level — sometimes overly logical, other times coy — gradually reveal themselves to be much more. In Varieties of Disturbance, her fourth collection, Davis ventures into even more experimental territory, with exquisite results. – Abby

4. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2013)


A wonderful series of vignettes that expose the absurdity of love and relationships. Growing up in a Latino neighborhood, I found Díaz's narrative tone very familiar. Each of these stories could've easily been told to me while riding with a cholo in a broken-down Honda Accord, cruising down Boyle Heights, while listening to The Delfonics. – Paul J.

5. How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers (2004)


This is the kind of short story collection that contains images that will stick with you forever; the idea of a wave as an escalator is something I still think about every time I go surfing, and, in fact, I'm pretty sure it's this book that made me want to surf in the first place. Even though Eggers is known for his novels, these short stories are perfect distillations of feelings, always going for less instead of more, taking ridiculous risks and coming together in a collection that will make you wish Eggers wrote short stories more often. – Lizzy

6. Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg (2007)


The problem with slice-of-life fiction is that so many of the slices seem cut from the same pie: quiet struggles, recognizable types, familiar emotions. While these six meaty stories slice life, they're serving a different meal — every character here is so unique that, while you'll recognize yourself in them, you'll spend every page learning who they are. I guarantee that these are not stories you already know. – Tye

7. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008)


Unaccustomed Earth is in many ways a deeply and authentically sad book. I would not advise reading the stories too quickly; they will each haunt you for days afterward (and, unusually in a collection like this, they are all equally strong). But Lahiri's prose is worth it; her work is masterful, confident, and timeless, and this gorgeously written collection of stories is her strongest fiction yet. – Tessa

8. Hot Pink by Adam Levin (2012)


Levin's first story collection (following his 1,000-plus page debut novel, The Instructions) features stories about a doll that thwarts eating disorders, mysterious goo leaking from a bedroom wall, and a girl who likes to be hit by strangers. But, bizarre plotlines aside, what really sets this collection apart is Levin's flair for voice, and his tough, damaged characters have big personalities and a lot of soul. Inventive, energetic, and disarmingly funny, Hot Pink is a collection that will remain fresh for years to come. – Renee P.

9. Bark by Lorrie Moore (2014)


Moore's first book of short stories in 15 years showcases her razor-edged humor, her dazzling skill with language, and her incredible psychological precision. Reading Bark, I realized that as much as I love her novels, I'd been missing the irresistible pull of her stories terribly without knowing it. – Jill

10. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower (2009)


Every story here feels like a weird little shot of brilliance. I can only describe this collection as "masterful." I had read the title story a few years before and really loved it, but I actually liked most of the other stories even more. "Retreat" has a great ending that'll make your stomach tumble with laughter and sickness. "Wild America" is full of young female bitterness. And "On the Show" is full of some of the most quotable dialogue ever. – Kevin S.

11. Oblivion by David Foster Wallace (2005)


In a body of work earmarked by information overload and hyperawareness, this final collection of stories by the '90s wunderkind focuses on its titular state, oblivion. At turns bawdy and heart-stopping, the defining feature of these stories are characters who miss a fateful, telling detail, who lack awareness, who suffer blind spots. The stories here are the very finest examples of modern tragedy American letters have to offer. – Tate