Epic Book Society Homepage Banner

The Best Short Story Collections Of All Time

Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Louisa

There’s a magic in short stories that captivates the imagination unlike any other form of literacy. In just a few short pages and fleeting moments of reading, you can see the true talent of the author, and escape into a world where dreams take shape.

What I love about short stories is that in each compact tale, you can appreciate the concentrated bursts of creativity from the writer, and also be able to devour the story in one sitting.

If you’re interested in reading some short story collections but you’re not sure what the best ones are, then you’re in luck, because there are so many short story anthologies out there that are worthy of any reader’s bookshelf.

In this guide, I’ve listed some of my absolute favorite short story collections of all time, so you can discover some new additions for your to-be-read pile.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through any of these links. 

Quick Answer: Top 3 Picks!

If you need an answer fast and don’t have much time, here are my three favorites…

Our Favourites!

the best of roald dahl

#1 Best Highly Acclaimed Author

The Best of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl

  • A collection of short stories for adults
  • Each story is vastly different from the next, keeping readers engaged
  • A masterpiece of literary writing

out of my mind by john brunner

#2 Best in Sci-Fi

Out Of My Mind by John Brunner

  • A collection of thirteen Sci-Fi short stories
  • Though written in the ’60s, they are stories that could be made into Black Mirror episodes
  • Hugo Award Winning Author

night shift by stephen king

#3 Best in Horror

Night Shift by Stephen King

  • A collection by the world-renowned horror writer, Stephen King
  • His first collection of short stories (and arguably the best)
  • Includes his iconic story, The Boogeyman

The Best Short Story Collections

1. The Best of Roald Dahl – Roald Dahl

the best of roald dahl

I first came across this collection of short stories by Roald Dahl in a charity shop, and I was honestly unaware that he wrote anything other than children’s stories.

The short stories in this collection are definitely not for children, and feature tales of debauchery, gambling, violence, and prostitution – not what you would expect from the iconic children’s author who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

However, what you can expect from Roald Dahl’s short story collection is an absolute treasure trove of imagination and wonder. Each story is a delightful escape into whimsical worlds, where anything is possible and the ordinary is turned upside down.

Dahl’s mastery of storytelling shines through in every tale, as he effortlessly transports you to magical places filled with captivating characters. From mischievous children outsmarting adults to extraordinary animals embarking on extraordinary adventures, each story is a testament to Dahl’s unparalleled creativity.

As always with Roald Dahl, the stories are not only entertaining but also carry profound messages about courage, kindness, and the power of imagination.

One story that particularly resonated with me is ‘The Landlady,’ a chilling tale of a boarding house with an eerie secret. Dahl expertly builds suspense and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the shocking reveal. This story left me with goosebumps and a lingering sense of unease, showcasing Dahl’s ability to delve into darker themes while maintaining his signature charm.

Another standout is ‘Lamb to the Slaughter,’ a twisted yet darkly humorous tale about a devoted wife’s drastic act of revenge. Dahl’s ability to seamlessly blend humor and darkness is truly remarkable, leaving you simultaneously laughing and gasping in disbelief.

Whether you’re a fan of Dahl’s beloved children’s books or an avid reader seeking a unique and engaging collection of short stories, this anthology is a must-read. It offers a captivating glimpse into the genius mind of one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

View it on:

Related Reading: Easy Classic to Read for First Timers

2. Out Of My Mind – John Brunner

out of my mind by john brunner

Admittedly, this was another thrift shop find, but one that I enjoyed so much that I tell everyone who’s a fan of short stories to pick up a copy.

This collection of short stories by Hugo Award Winning author, John Brunner, was originally written in the 1960s, but you would think they were written as the inspiration for the Netflix series, Black Mirror, as each tale is about a dystopian future that’s both dark and intriguing.

This mind-bending collection defied all my expectations. From the very first page, I was captivated by Brunner’s ability to weave intricate Sci-Fi tales that pushed the boundaries of imagination.

Each story in this collection is a thought-provoking journey into the depths of the human psyche, exploring themes of identity, perception, and the blurred line between reality and illusion.

Brunner’s writing style is both poetic and gripping, and no two stories are the same – in one story, the story is told in first person in a British Cockney Rhyming Slang, and in another, it’s in third person, allowing you to follow the story from an outsider’s perspective.

John Brunner Out Of My Mind

One story that left a lasting impression on me is ‘The Last Lonely Man,’ a riveting tale set in a dystopian future where memories can be manipulated and erased, and what that means for those who have no one to share their memories with.

What sets Out Of My Mind apart is Brunner’s ability to seamlessly blend science fiction elements with profound philosophical insights. His stories not only entertain but also challenge you to question the nature of reality and the limits of human understanding.

I highly recommend Out Of My Mind to anyone who’s a fan of Sci-Fi books and wants an extraordinary reading experience. It is a collection that will transport you to uncharted territories of the mind, leaving you pondering the mysteries of existence long after you’ve turned the final page.

If you pick up a copy from Amazon, you get thirteen short stories, whereas the copy I found in a charity shop only has ten.

View it on:

3. The Complete Short Stories: The 1960s – Brian Aldiss

The Complete Short Stories- The 1960s - Brian Aldiss

Another collection of short stories that I loved is by Nebula Award-winning author, Brian Aldiss, who originally wrote these stories in the 1960s – but like John Brunner, you can still relate to them today, making them timeless classics.

This collection is a treasure trove of mind-bending science fiction stories that captivate you from start to finish.

Aldiss’s writing style is both eloquent and evocative, painting vivid pictures of the story in your imagination. Each story is a testament to his mastery of the craft, showcasing his ability to seamlessly blend science fiction, fantasy, and social commentary.

One story that left an indelible mark on me is ‘The Saliva Tree,’ a haunting tale set in a distant future where humanity encounters an alien plant species. Aldiss skillfully weaves together elements of mystery, intrigue, and existential exploration, leaving readers pondering the intricate connections between humans and their surroundings.

Another standout is ‘Man in His Time,’ a poignant examination of the human condition and the passage of time. Through richly developed characters and thoughtfully constructed narratives, Aldiss delves deep into the complexities of human existence, inviting you to reflect on your own life and choices.

What sets this collection of short stories apart is the sheer breadth and diversity of the stories included. From dystopian futures to whimsical alternate realities, each story offers a unique glimpse into Aldiss’s boundless imagination.

View it on:

4. Dubliners – James Joyce

Dubliners - James Joyce

If you’ve ever been to Dublin, you’ll know that the locals consider James Joyce to be a literary hero. He’s best known for his novel, Ulysses, which is considered a love letter to the city of Dublin, and what made him one of the most influential Irish writers of the 20th century.

Dubliners is a literary masterpiece that delves into the complexities of human nature and the nuances of Dublin life. Joyce’s masterful storytelling and keen observation of the human condition make this collection of short stories an absolute must-read.

Each story in Dubliners gives you a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, capturing the essence of the city and its inhabitants.

Joyce’s vivid descriptions and richly developed characters transport you to the streets, pubs, and homes of Dublin, immersing them in a world that is both familiar and endlessly fascinating.

One story that particularly resonated with me is ‘The Dead,’ a haunting tale that explores themes of love, regret, and the passing of time. Joyce’s lyrical prose and profound introspection create a visceral experience, evoking a range of emotions.

The final scene of the story, which I won’t give away, is a testament to Joyce’s ability to capture the beauty and melancholy of life in a single moment.

Another standout is ‘Araby,’ a coming-of-age story that follows a young boy’s infatuation with a girl and his quest to impress her with a gift from the eponymous bazaar. Joyce’s portrayal of youthful longing and disillusionment is both heart-wrenching and relatable, capturing the universal experience of unrequited love and shattered illusions.

What sets Dubliners apart is Joyce’s ability to delve into the human psyche with unflinching honesty. He presents characters who are flawed, complex, and deeply human, inviting you to reflect on your own hopes, dreams, and disappointments.

Through his stories, Joyce paints a vivid portrait of Dublin society at the turn of the 20th century, shedding light on the social and cultural realities of the time.

James Joyce’s keen eye for detail, his lyrical prose, and his exploration of the human condition make this collection an enduring classic that continues to resonate with readers today.

5. Nine Stories – J.D. Salinger

Nine Stories - J.D. Salinger

Best known for his coming of age novel, ‘Catcher in the Rye’, J.D. Salinger later went on to write an excellent series of short stories, entitled Nine Stories.

This extraordinary collection showcases the brilliance of Salinger’s storytelling prowess. Each story within this compilation is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, tinged with both poignancy and dark humor.

One particular story that left a lasting impact on me is ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish.’ Through the character of Seymour Glass, Salinger delves into themes of isolation and the struggles of fitting into societal norms. The story is crafted with such depth and sensitivity that it lingers in your mind, prompting introspection long after the final page is turned.

Another standout is ‘For Esmé – with Love and Squalor,’ a tale that delves into the profound effects of war on individuals. Salinger effortlessly captures the emotional turmoil of soldiers returning from battle, weaving a narrative that is both heart-wrenching and hopeful.

What sets Nine Stories apart is Salinger’s ability to create characters that feel incredibly real and relatable, despite their flaws and idiosyncrasies. His prose is elegant and evocative, drawing you into the inner worlds of his characters with remarkable precision.

This collection is a testament to Salinger’s mastery of the short story form. Each narrative is carefully crafted, offering glimpses into the complexity of human relationships, the search for meaning, and the fleeting moments of connection that shape our lives.

J.D. Salinger’s unparalleled storytelling talent shines throughout this collection, leaving an indelible mark on readers fortunate enough to embark on this literary journey.

Related Reading: Books Like Catcher in the Rye

6. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway is a literary treasure that immerses you in the raw and unfiltered world of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Hemingway’s mastery of storytelling and his unique writing style make this collection an absolute must-read for literature enthusiasts.

Each story in this compilation is a testament to Hemingway’s ability to capture the essence of human emotions with remarkable precision. From the battlefields of war to the quiet corners of cafes, Hemingway paints vivid landscapes with his words, transporting you to different times and places.

One story that deeply resonated with me is ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro,’ a poignant exploration of regret and mortality. Hemingway’s sparse yet evocative prose creates a haunting atmosphere, as the protagonist reflects on his life choices while facing his own impending death. It is a powerful reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of seizing the present moment.

Another standout is ‘Hills Like White Elephants,’ a masterclass in subtext and dialogue. Through a seemingly simple conversation between a man and a woman, Hemingway delves into complex themes of communication, love, and the weight of decisions. The story leaves a lasting impact, leaving you pondering the untold stories that lie beneath the surface.

What sets The Complete Short Stories apart is the diverse range of narratives and characters. From bullfighters to soldiers, fishermen to expatriates, Hemingway captures the essence of masculinity, resilience, and the human spirit in all its contradictions. His prose is clean and unadorned, yet it carries emotional depth that speaks directly to the heart.

Hemingway’s stories are timeless classics that continue to captivate and inspire readers, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

7. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury is a captivating and visionary masterpiece that transports you to a world beyond imagination.

Bradbury’s rich storytelling and poetic prose make this collection of interconnected short stories an absolute delight for science fiction enthusiasts and literary connoisseurs alike.

Within the pages of The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury weaves a tapestry of human dreams, longings, and fears against the backdrop of a future Mars. Each story, with its own distinct voice and narrative, contributes to a larger exploration of humanity’s relationship with the unknown.

One tale that left an indelible impression on me is ‘There Will Come Soft Rains,’ a haunting depiction of the aftermath of a devastating war. Bradbury’s evocative imagery and vivid descriptions create a poignant atmosphere, underscoring the fragility of human existence and the enduring power of nature.

Another standout is ‘The Martian,’ a fascinating exploration of cultural clashes and misunderstandings between humans and the native Martians. Through his nuanced characterization and intricate world-building, Bradbury delves into complex themes of colonization, identity, and the consequences of unchecked ambition.

What sets The Martian Chronicles apart is Bradbury’s ability to blend elements of science fiction with timeless human dilemmas. His stories are not merely about space travel or futuristic technologies but serve as mirrors reflecting our own hopes, dreams, and shortcomings as a society.

Bradbury’s prose is luminous and lyrical, painting vivid landscapes of Martian landscapes and capturing the essence of human emotions in a way that is truly unparalleled. The Martian Chronicles is a testament to Bradbury’s genius as a storyteller, leaving you enthralled and inspired by the possibilities of the unknown.

Ray Bradbury’s visionary storytelling and profound insights into the human condition make this collection a timeless classic that will continue to ignite the imaginations of readers for generations to come.

8. Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors - Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman is a bewitching collection of stories that effortlessly blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, leaving you spellbound. Gaiman’s mastery of the written word shines through each narrative, showcasing his ability to craft tales that are both whimsical and deeply thought-provoking.

One particular story that captivated my imagination is ‘Chivalry,’ a delightful exploration of the extraordinary hidden within the ordinary. Gaiman weaves a charming tale centered around an elderly lady who discovers the Holy Grail in a thrift shop. With his trademark wit and imaginative storytelling, he takes you on a whimsical journey where the mundane collides with the mythical.

Another standout is ‘Snow, Glass, Apples,’ a bold and dark retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale. Gaiman subverts traditional tropes, providing a fresh perspective from the point of view of the stepmother. The story is macabre and haunting, showcasing Gaiman’s ability to weave intricate narratives that defy expectations.

What makes Smoke and Mirrors unique is the sheer variety of stories within its pages. From haunting ghost stories to surreal dreamscapes, Gaiman effortlessly traverses genres and themes, keeping you on the edge of your seats, never knowing what imaginative world awaits them next.

Gaiman’s prose is exquisite, painting vivid pictures that transport you into the heart of each tale. His characters come alive on the page, their hopes, fears, and desires resonating deep within our own hearts.

Neil Gaiman’s masterful storytelling and enchanting prose make this collection a true gem, destined to be cherished by readers who crave the extraordinary.

9. The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

A classic but a necessity for anyone who’s a fan of detective stories. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle is an absolutely mesmerizing collection that delves into the brilliance of the world’s greatest detective.

Doyle’s masterful storytelling and attention to detail transport you into the thrilling world of Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion, Dr. John Watson.

One story that truly left me captivated is ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles,’ a chilling and atmospheric tale set amidst the haunting moors of Dartmoor. Doyle weaves a narrative filled with suspense, mystery, and a sense of impending doom. Holmes’s keen intellect and Watson’s unwavering loyalty shine through as they unravel the truth behind the supernatural legend that haunts the Baskerville family.

Another standout from this collection is ‘A Scandal in Bohemia,’ where Holmes matches wits with the enigmatic Irene Adler, a woman of exceptional strength and intelligence. The story showcases Holmes’s remarkable deductive abilities and his ability to navigate complex webs of intrigue with grace and precision.

What makes The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes different is Doyle’s ability to create intricate puzzles and mysteries that keep you on the edge of your seat. Each story is carefully crafted, and the clues are strategically placed for your discovery, engaging them in an intellectual dance alongside Holmes.

Doyle’s writing style is elegant and engrossing, effortlessly transporting you to the foggy streets of Victorian London. His attention to detail brings the era to life, immersing you in a world of hansom cabs, gas lamps, and the relentless pursuit of justice.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic characters and intricate plots have stood the test of time, making this collection a true classic that continues to captivate readers around the world.

10. Night Shift – Stephen King

night shift by stephen king

Night Shift by Stephen King is the riveting first collection of short stories by Stephen King that delve into the depths of horror and suspense. King’s unparalleled storytelling ability shines through each tale, leaving you on the edge of your seat, eagerly turning the pages.

One story that left an indelible mark on me is ‘The Boogeyman,’ a chilling exploration of fear and the demons that lurk within our own minds. King expertly taps into our deepest fears, weaving a narrative that takes us into the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Another standout is ‘The Ledge,’ a tense and gripping tale that follows a man forced to walk along a narrow ledge on a high-rise building as part of a sadistic bet. The story is a testament to King’s mastery of suspense, keeping you engrossed and anxiously anticipating the outcome.

What sets Night Shift apart is the sheer variety of stories within its pages. From supernatural creatures to psychological horrors, King effortlessly transports you into his twisted and imaginative worlds, each more terrifying than the last.

King’s prose is atmospheric and evocative, painting vivid pictures that seep into your subconscious. His ability to create fully realized characters, complete with their own fears and desires, adds depth and authenticity to each story.

I wholeheartedly recommend Night Shift to anyone who craves a spine-tingling reading experience. Stephen King’s unparalleled imagination and skillful storytelling make this collection a true masterpiece of the horror genre, leaving readers both terrified and enthralled.

Like this post? Don’t forget to save it on Pinterest!

Best Short Story Collections Pinterest

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a masterful piece of science fiction or you’re looking for a novel to transport you into a fantastical world, there is a short story for everyone on my list.

I hope that you found an anthology that intrigues you from this list. If you’ve read a short story collection that you loved, let me know about it in the comments!

Headshot of Louisa

About Louisa Smith

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the Founder, Editor, and Head Honcho of Epic Book Society. She was born and raised in the United Kingdom and graduated from the University for the Creative Arts with a degree in Journalism. Louisa began her writing career at the age of 7 when her poetry was published in an anthology of poems to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee. Upon graduating university, she spent several years working as a journalist writing about books before transitioning to become a Primary School Teacher. Louisa loves all genres of books, but her favorites are Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult Fiction. Read more Louisa's story here.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.