There are many literary genres, and more than a few literary forms, with novels, novelettes, short stories, poems, plays and essays being the most widely known. The general criticism of short stories is that they are too short and don't allow the reader to get to know and enjoy the characters more, and it is often valid. On the other hand, I find that they allow for exploring different forms, styles and language in a way that novels cannot. There are never enough hours in the day to read or do everything, or even a fraction of what, we would like to, so I have gone with the practical approach of reading what I come across and find interesting, and then go from suggestions I get from people online or offline, and mix it with some classics. A quick search online will give you many "must reads" in short fiction, so I will not aim to replicate or add to any of this.
Instead, I would like to introduce to you some short story writers whose stories I genuinely enjoy. They are mostly literary so far, but I am working on reading up on some genre short fiction as well. If you read closely enough, you might recognize a few inspirations for my collection "Vienna in Short Stories".
Oscar Wilde - "The Canterville Ghost" is one of my favorites. It's hilarious and quirky and you can't help but feel for Sir Simon. Every autumn around Halloween, I re-read it because I love it, and also because this is the type of ghost story I can handle. The edition I have is from my mother's family in Sofia, and it's a Russian imprint of 1979 with crispy pages but the story itself in English - all fittingly quirky.
Jeanette Winterson - My husband gifted me her 2016 collection "Christmas Days - 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days" last year and I fell in love with it! Everything about it is perfect. The illustrations by Katie Scott are magical. The stories are quite diverse in style but all have a distinct Christmas theme (the ghost stories, the love stories and even a fable) and the 12 recipes and anecdotes behind them are thoughtful, nostalgic and mouth watering. I dream of cooking all 12 recipes this year for Christmas. This is probably the best Christmas gift you could give an avid reader - and then leave them alone to read it in a cosy corner.
Joyce Carol Oates - she is a wonderful storyteller, but her stories often have a dark side to them that is eerie to me. I have read her collection "Lovely, Dark, Deep" so far, and the classic structure, length and style of her stories draw you in immediately.
Tom Hanks - what fascinates me about his first short story collection "Uncommon Type" is the love he has for vintage typewriters (my heart is singing) and the fact that I heard his voice in my head throughout all of the stories. Most of them are a nod to the past, and although this book came out in 2017 it feels like a vintage treasure find. A few of them are quite experimental (e.g. 'A Junket in the City of Light', and the newspaper-series 'Our Town Today with Hank Fiset') but - in case you haven't noticed - I kind of love the uncommon type ;)
Lydia Davies - the introduction to the "Collected stories of Lydia Davies" includes a small debate pre-publishing that had been going on whether to call them stories, or 'writings' because many of them are as short as a sentence. I find her voice very sarcastic, realistic, and often funny. The complete collection is more than 700 pages long, but a lot of the stories take up a only one page or less. How prolific! It's a bit like leafing through a reference book, a dictionary or a bible. You can open it up at any random page and start reading and it will always be thought provoking. To me, she is a genius of 'flash fiction', even though some stories can be long.
O.Henry - another master of the short fiction, who has formed the modern short story around 1900 so much so that an annual short story prize was initatied soon after his death. His plot twists at the end of a story are very clever and you almost find yourself looking for them. My favorite stories so far are "The Gift of the Magi" and "The Pimienta Pancakes" but the selected stories collection I have is another one from my mother's old treasures from 1977. I am eagerly awaiting a complete collection in the mail any time now.
Ernest Hemingway - I like his matter of fact, short sentences. Maybe it's because I'm not an English native speaker, but in his stories I rarely recognize the language aspect of his writing. You just dive into the story. I'm trying to read one of his stories every second day at least now as a new morning routine, so I can't decide on a favorite story yet, but "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" left me breathless with its page-turning speed.
I've also added some suggestions below, which I got online recently and can't wait to dive into soon.
These authors only constitute my most urgent to-be-read short stories list, but I'm afraid - as is always the best case - this list gets longer quickly. You can always add to it if you leave me a comment below.