Maybe it's because I write in the short form (my book, A Book of Ages is a book of anecdotes, after all) but I think short stories give the truest picture of real life.
Life isn't a novel; it's a series of detailed glimpses and episodes. Nowhere do you find a better picture of 20th century America than in John O'Hara's short stories. I also like the economy. Stories like Raymond Chandler's give you a full opera in the time it takes you to ride from outer Brooklyn to Midtown. Gunplay, wisecracks, heroism, surprise and denouement.
A reader of stories can be walking the sunburnt streets of L.A. in the morning and spend the afternoon commute at an English country house party with Saki or sharing a nightmare with Shirley Jackson, John Collier or Muriel Spark. Brevity is the soul of wit, but variety (if you'll excuse the cliché) is the spice of life. A good short story collection is insurance against boredom.
by Raymond Chandler
Nobody does hard-boiled as well as Chandler. A master stylist, he was a schoolboy with P.G. Wodehouse and, with Billy Wilder, co-invented film noir. Plots as swift and efficient as a Pierce Arrow.
Acid, dryly comic, madcap, impeccable, remorseless short tales about the English upper class at play.
by Shirley Jackson
Veering skillfully between light comedy and cold-bloodedness. The Lottery is chilling, but not the most chilling story in the bunch.
by John Collier
Surreal situations, eccentric characters and surprise endings; The Twilight Zone by way of Noel Coward.
by John O'Hara
Nobody painted a clearer picture of 20th century America. Subtler and more authentic than Cheever, less showy than Salinger. Most appeared first in the New Yorker.
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Ripping yarns set in Napoleonic Europe, told by a shameless and astonishing soldier and written down by the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Tiina Nunnally
Andersen was a peculiar man, and these are peculiar stories, much more literary, amusing and suggestive than the sanitized Disney versions.
edited by John Gross
No crowd has better gossip than a literary one. Also rivalries, feuds, fist-fights, bad reviews, foolishness, odd coincidences, indiscretions and misadventures told with panache and enjoyable malice.
by Muriel Spark
These are not the Stephen King variety of ghost story. Instead of shock and violence, they rely on the unsettling realization that things are not what we thought.
by Mollie Panter-Downes
Neatly drawn pictures of English domestic and public life during wartime: bravery, humor, camaraderie, resentment, despair and the usual stiff upper lips.
by William Faulkner
These mysteries might be the best introduction into the intensely complicated Gothic South of William Faulkner.
by Rabindranath Tagore
Bengalese poet Tagore wrote these stories a century ago and a world away, To read them is to live for an hour or two in that intense heat and quiet. Tagore was the first Asian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Eric Hanson
I've been an illustrator for quite a few years. All this time I've been a writer too. My stories and articles have appeared in McSweeney's, the Atlantic, Smithsonian and such, but most excitingly, I've recently published A Book of Ages.
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