Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Short Story Reading Challenge


Regular visitors to this blog will have gathered that I’m a keen reader of short stories, so it will come as no surprise that the challenge I propose to host in 2008 is a Short Story Reading Challenge. The blogosphere abounds with reading challenges for the new year; I’ve already committed to rather a lot of them myself. But where challenges are concerned my attitude is unequivocally “the more the merrier.” I’ve never regretted signing up for one even when I didn’t finish it, so great is the pleasure of embarking on a reading journey in the company of congenial fellows, and so great the rewards of the encounters with new authors and books thereby provoked. And the beauty of short stories for the time-strapped reader is that they are, well, short. With that in mind, I offer up a variety of forms that the Short Story Reading Challenge could take depending on your level of familiarity with short stories and on the amount of reading time you expect to have at your disposal in the coming year.

Options 1 & 2: If you’re short on time, you can simply commit to reading ten short stories by ten different authors over the course of 2008. If you’re relatively new to reading short stories, any ten will do. If you’ve already got a lot of short stories under your belt, make it ten short stories by ten writers whose work you have not yet read. How about that—a year long challenge that you could conceivably complete in the course of a day! Of course, I would encourage you not to do that but rather to heed the words of Mavis Gallant, short story writer extraordinaire, who advises:

Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.

Completing this version of the challenge could be a simple as participating in the short story discussions at A Curious Singularity throughout the year. Or picking up a short story anthology, whether of classic or contemporary stories, or of stories of a particular genre or on a particular theme, and slowly working your way through at least ten of the stories contained within. Of course, my hope is that once you get started you’ll get hooked and you’ll spiral out into other stories by those writers and more!

Options 3 & 4: If you’ve got a bit more time to devote to this endeavour, you can commit to reading between five and ten short story collections over the course of 2008. Again, if you’re a short story novice, the world is your oyster as far as selection is concerned. But if you’re a seasoned short story reader, you’ll want to choose collections by writers whose short stories you have not yet encountered.

Option 5: This is the custom option under the rubric of which you can tailor your reading list to best meet your personal reading aspirations. You might wish to craft a list that focuses on a particular place, or era, or genre. Or you might wish to include reading about short stories as well as of short stories, for example, such works as Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story. It’s entirely up to you.

If you’re aiming to read individual short stories and you’re not sure where to begin, check out the list of “ten truly great short stories” that William Boyd appends to this article on the short story. I also recommend the fine list of ten favourites that the Literate Kitten compiled last spring. You can find it here, as well as some recommendations from her readers in the comments section below the post. You’ll also find some great suggestions by dropping by The Book Mine Set for “Short Story Mondays.” And you may also wish to have a look at the stories that have already been discussed at A Curious Singularity, a list of which can be found toward the bottom of the sidebar there. If you’re looking for recommendations of short story collections, I encourage you to check out the short review, an online review site with an exclusive focus on short story collections. There is also an excellent review section (and many other great short story related resources) at story, a UK site dedicated to celebrating the short story form. Finally, for recommendations of both individual stories and collections of stories, you’ll find this article in The Danforth Review to be an indispensable resource. In it, 27 writers provide their lists of what they would include if they were called upon to put together the curriculum for an introductory-level course on the short story. Of course, I’m also hoping that participants and fellow bloggers will provide further recommendations of their own favourites.

I’ve created a blog dedicated to this challenge, which you’ll find here. On it, participants can post reading lists, recommendations, and reviews of specific short stories and short story collections, as well as ruminations on and links related to the short story form more generally. If you’d like to participate in the challenge, let me know in the comments section below or via e-mail. Even if you don’t plan to participate in the challenge, please post the titles of some of your favourite shorts stories or the names of your favourite short story writers below so that participants in the challenge can benefit from your recommendations.

For my own Short Story Reading Challenge, I plan to read ten short story collections by ten writers whose work I’ve not read before. I’m in the midst of compiling my list. But before I post it, I promise to post my own list of favourites from a lifetime of short story reading, so watch this space for that.

Happy Reading!

58 comments:

Danielle said...

What a great idea--Can I join in? I've been reading a story or two each weekend (since Carl's RIP challenge) and I'd like to continue doing so. I've been posting about what I read on Sundays--if I know I am going to devote a post to a story I tend to stay on track. My goal is to read at least one story a week in 2008 and try and read five short story collections (I read an unprecented four this past year--which for someone who never read short stories is pretty good). Thanks for all the great links, which I'll be checking out and printing off. I'd also like to read about the short story--sometimes it seems there is so much more to a story than what is on the surface! And I love the Mavis Gallant quote--I read my first story by her last Sunday (from the Across the Bridge collection). Thanks for setting this up--it sounds like fun!

Joy said...

OH! This sounds great and I LOVE the button! :)

I've just started dabbling into short stories and really have enjoyed the ones I have read. You can count me in!

jenclair said...

I almost never choose to read short stories, but when I do, I wonder at my reluctance. I'm in with #5 - which should leave me plenty of flexibility.

Melanie said...

This is making me feel faint...I told myself no more challenges...but this is so very tempting. I'll think on it!

Becky said...

I'm definitely going to join this one. Do we have to come up with a list of what we want to read now? Or can I decide as I go? Anyway, thanks for hosting!

TitaniaWrites said...

Kate - a fabulous idea! And thanks so much for giving The Short Review a plug. I would love to join in as TheShortReview.wordpress.com - can't seem to log in as that here. I read short stories all the time, am thrilled about reading and blogging about them.

Tania
Editor, The Short Review

Ex Libris said...

I love short stories and have quite a few collections. Since I am already reading 3 short story collections next year for other challenges, I figure I may as well go all out and do 10! Please count me in.

Sharon

SFP said...

That is the coolest button ever. Count me in. I think I'll try for a story a week, reading at whim at first, but hoping to find a focus as the year progresses.

Debi said...

I am on total challenge overload for next year, but frankly, I can't resist this one! I'm fairly new to short stories, and am going the wimpy route with Option 1, though I certainly hope to get more than 10 stories read. Here's my list.

Thanks so much for hosting this! And I agree with others--that is one cool button!

Nicola said...

Count me in! I've been reading short stories each weekend since Oct and really want to keep it up during 2008 and this challenge will definately give me some goals.

yellojkt said...

This is a great challenge. I read a lot of science fiction and I have two big short story collections that I keep setting aside. My pledge will be to read one story a month.

I also run a challenge. I try to get people to read at least one novel in the month of January. I call it National Just Read More Novels Month or NaJuReMoNoMo for short.

raidergirl3 said...

cool idea, and great icon.
I've been reading with john mutford on short stories mondays, and will be continuing. I think I'll sign up some time in January. I'm trying to get through the short stories in my old Norton Anthology, but there are so many collections that intrigue me.

I'm in, but I'll post about it later.

bookinhand said...

Ok, you have convinced me to join one more challenge! Short stories are a genre I so seldom read, and one of my reasons for joining book challenges is to explore and expand my reading. I am choosing option 1 and will read 10 short stories over the course of the year. I probably won't post a list because I would like to explore this and have some fun with it. But I will review the stories in my blog! Thanks for this challenge,
Diane

Literary Feline said...

I would like to join in! I'm going with Option 5, reading 3 short story anthologies that touch upon the Indian culture in India and in the U.S. I hope that will fit the guidelines. I will officially post my list on my blog early tomorrow.

Wendy said...

Love it! I've posted this on A Novel Challenge Blog to give you some advertising. I am definitely interested in joining - I have always loved the short story format...and I have several collections which I want to read this year.

Dark Orpheus said...

Hi, can I sign up?

I'm pretty green at short stories though -- so I'm just going to try to read at least 10 short stories by 10 different writers over the course of 2008. (I suspect most of them will be Russian though)

Thanks.

John Mutford said...

I'm in of course (you had me at "john mutford").

Seachanges said...

I'm in as well - will come back with my list and my option tomorrow. Great idea. I love short stories. Just short on time at this particular moment!

Melanie said...

Ok, I'm in. I'll go for Option 3 and try to read 10 collections by authors new to me. I'll put up a list of possibilities soon.

greeneyes said...

I am brand new here, but I would love to joint the challenge. I am an avid short-story reader, but I tend to get hooked on collections I really love (someone, please, remove Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage from my hands *now*). I'll go with option #4, read ten collections by ten writers I haven't read yet. How exciting!

Dorothy W. said...

Hi Kate. Sign me up please! I'm going to do Option #3. Thanks for putting this together!

Usiku (oo-SEE-koo) said...

Thank you for your attention to the short story and for this challenge. A few stories can be found online. Why We Need Peach Trees & Kids and Buffalo Creek Crossing.

Melody said...

This sounds fun! I'm in, Kate.
Here's my list.

Mandy said...

Count me in on this one too! I have no clue what stories I'll read, but I think I would definitely love to participate and do 10 different ones by 10 different authors. Great challenge!

kim said...

May I join? Short stories are my regular style of reading, but I would like to expand my horizons a bit! Her is a link to my post...
http://mom-musings.blogspot.com/2007/12/short-stories-abound.html

gautami tripathy said...

I like to read short stories in between novels. I have a coolection of short stories by Marquez which needs to be read. I got Poe too.

I think I will take up this challenge.

Iliana said...

This sounds like a lot of fun so please count me in! I think I'll end up doing option one but I'll post on this soon. Thank you for hosting!

Nymeth said...

I'd love to join, and read 10 short stories by authors I have never read before. The only thing I haven't done yet is decide which stories I will read. I'd like to do the same as Becky and decide as I go along - is that okay?

PS: I love the button!

Lizzy Siddal said...

I have so many unread short story anthologies that I'd better join in!

But before I commit, what's the cut-off point between a short story and a novella? (Because I have a lot of those in the TBR as well.)

locusbooks said...

If you will allow me a moment of self-indulgent promotion... for takers of option 1 or 2 (or even the others!) may I suggest subscribing to Mini Shots, a short story mailout that I publish? A subscription to Mini Shots guarantees that a new Mini Shots mini-magazine containing one short story per issue will arrive in your letterbox monthly. Regular mail and an awesome short story by an emerging author, what more could you want?!

Mini Shots

L.

Carl V. said...

I love the banner you made for this one, it is terrific!

"Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait."

Good advice, but as I found out with the short story anthology I just read, it is easier said than done when each story is just so darn good and you cannot wait to see what the next author has in store.

baddict said...

I think I'm going to hop on this reading bandwagon. I've only recently become somewhat of a fan of short fiction, so I think this would be a wonderful way for me to delve more deeply into this area of reading. Thanks for hosting this!

ravenous reader said...

A challenge indeed, particularly for someone who shys away from the short story genre. In the hopes of increasing my appreciation for short fiction, I accept the challenge, and will read (and review) five story collections during 2008.

Thanks for throwing down this guantlet!

Phoebe said...

What a great idea for a challenge. I don;t read nearly enough short stories and want to expand my horizons. Thanks for hosting!

ta said...

Please count me in. I've already started the challenge and I'm loving it. I used to read many more short stories than I have lately. I'm going to start with 10 stories by 10 authors and I'm going to try to read the Frank O'Connor book, too. My list is over at my blog: ironinklings.wordpress.com
I have a feeling I'm going to read more than the ten as they make such great bus reading.

Lizzy Siddal said...

Well, I've come up with an option 6 - basically option 5 without a time limit. Which probably disqualifies me from joining in. Regardless thanks for the inspiration. More here:

http://lizzysiddal.wordpress.com/2008/01/16/lizzys-a-z-of-shorter-fiction/

Lesley said...

I'm in! My list can be found here. Thanks for hosting this challenge!

Anonymous said...

I'm in. I'm going with option 1, maybe 2 if I have time. I'm not a seasoned short-story reader, but I do enjoy them. So a few years ago, I subscribed to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock, and now I'll commit myself to reading some of them. Karen (no blog)

teenbookreview said...

I'm a little late, but I'm participating! I haven't read a lot of short stories before, but this sounds fun. My initial post about the challenge is at http://teenbookreview.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/the-short-story-reading-challenge/.

Lenneth said...

I'd like to sign on! My post about the challenge is here:

http://foxywriter.com/2008/01/31/one-more-challenge/

Ovidia said...

This is so great--is it too late to sign up? I'm also in on the '10 stories this year' level & hoping it will spiral out further...

Does looking up previously read stories I sort of remember & want to reread count?

Thanks so much for coming up with this idea! I found your site via woyopracmo & am so glad I followed you back!!

ovidiayu said...

Sorry Kate--to explain my previous comment, I followed WoYoPracMo to DarkOrpheus' site and finally here... but if it's not too late would really like to join the short story challenge!

Anonymous said...

I'll do it but don't want to join... A great online collection is shortstorycorner.blogspot.com

I also have to say Graham Greene's short work is amazing.

mariel said...

I'd like to join, though a little late! I already have The Ladies of Grace Adieu and some Neil Gaiman short stories lined up but will definitely use this opportunity to expand my short story horizons!!

jlshall said...

Wow, I know I'm really late for this! But I'd really like to join the challenge – especially since Option #5 is so flexible. I used to read a lot of short fiction, but haven't read much lately and would like to. I don't have an actual plan or list yet, but if it's not too late, please sign me up!

Sabine said...

Having just embarked on my own Short Story Appreciation Quest, I guess I am in

Casey Quinn said...

Hey, You mentioned you like to read short stories, we opened an ezine recently called short story library located at http://shortstory.us.com - we are new and have one publication out there, we are producing one each month.

If your looking for some more good short stories, or know anyone who wants to submit any, please check us out and pass on the info!

Intergalactic Bookworm said...

I belong to the Yahoo! group Nutshell Cubbyhole, so this will be a good challenge for me. Will individual short stories count, as that is the format at Nutshell Cubbyhole, not a collection of short stories. Thanks! Judy

Maria said...

I'll do option 3. My 5 short story collections are:
* Down to a Sunless Sea - Mathias Freese
* Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling
* Across the Miles - L.M. Montgomery
* Nine Unlikely Tales for Children - E. Nesbit.
* Flowers in the Rain - Rosamunde Pilcher

jlshall said...

Finally finished my first collection of stories for the challenge, and posted the review on my blog. Yes, I know I'm slow!

LD said...

I am incredibly late, but would still like to join if possible.

I'll put together a list asap.

LD said...

Here's the list:

1. Atwood, Death by Landscape
2. Faulkner, The Bear
3. Alvarado, Not a Matter of Love
4. Dick, Minority Report
5. London, To Build a Fire
6. Crane, The Open Boat
7. King, Shawshank Redemption
8. Hemingway, The Nick Adams Stories
9. Bierce, The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
10. Melville, Bartleby the Scrivner

I will be posting at www.hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com

rika said...

Hi Kate!

It's a nice challenge....I'm definitely in" by the way, I have my own short stories collection...just visit
http://
rika-shortstories.blogspot.com

Grilsgood said...

Can I still join???? I havne't read a short story that wansn't assigned in high school or college until last week. And I really liked it. I could do 10 in the next 3 months. Lindy

Grilsgood said...

I don't have a blog like most people, so here is what I read. Haven't read a short story since college, but I will read more.

1. Poe, Edgar Allan The Cask of Amontillado
2. Poe, Edgar Allan The Tell-Tale Heart
3. Poe, Edgar Allan The Fall of the House of Usher
4. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
6. The Christening by Guy de Maupassant
7. How the Leopard Got His Spot s by Rudyard Kipling
8. The Open Window by H. H. Munro (Saki)
9. A Slander by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
10. The Bell by Hans Christian Andersen

Karen said...

Short stories are interesting, conclusion is quick. My favorite link is http://www.shortstorybook.net.Do check it.....regards, karen

Grilsgood said...

I am going away until next year, and have no blog, so I will post now:

1. Poe, Edgar Allan The Cask of Amontillado
2. Poe, Edgar Allan The Tell-Tale Heart
3. Poe, Edgar Allan The Fall of the House of Usher
4. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
6. The Christening by Guy de Maupassant
7. How the Leopard Got His Spot s by Rudyard Kipling
+8. The Open Window by H. H. Munro (Saki)
9. A Slander by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
10. The Bell by Hans Christian Andersen

Malay Atheist said...

The link for the article from the Danforth Review is dead. I think I found it here

http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/202/300/danforth/2009/no27/features/special/short_story_101.htm