Nicole’s Top Ten of 2020

This year I stayed quite nicely tucked into my reading comfort blanket of weird, atmospheric, and dark reads for the most part. I read more than one collection of short stories, and one novella, which reflects my unpredictable ebb and flow of reading ambition the past ten months: some days I couldn’t focus on reading for more than fifteen minutes, while others days I was inspired to plant myself on the couch and read all weekend. Below you’ll find my ten favorite books I read this past year: including some supernatural thrillers, weird and beautiful science fiction, horror short stories, literary fiction, and more!

Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Stories of Horror Edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto

If It Bleeds by Stephen King

The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt

The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer

Bunny by Mona Awad

Circe by Madeline Miller

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Why Short Stories Work for Me

Our schedules are demanding. Our obligations overwhelming. How can can we be expected to find any time to read? Especially when there are all those critically acclaimed Netflix series/Atwood Adaptations/Groundbreaking Cable shows demand to be watched.

I do love to read but sometimes it can be an uphill battle to sit down and get through a book. I feel worse when I begin a novel and loose interest a 100 pages in. So how can I actually get a chance to enjoy what I am reading, finish a story, and fit it into my schedule? For me the answer came in the form of short stories.

Short story collections solve many of the obstacles I had to sitting down and getting through a book. Don’t have a lot of time but want to to be able to get through an entire plot? No problem, the story is only 20 pages long. Want to a bit of variety and get to sample many different literary voices? Anthologies are the perfect solution. Have a favorite author but they haven’t released the next book in their big series? See if they have any short story collections or if they have edited and collected the works of other authors. Unable to get through the whole collection before you have to return the book? That’s fine, each story was a world in itself and you haven’t created any cliffhangers for yourself.

Short stories can keep up with your busy schedule while giving you a bonus sense of satisfaction when you get through the whole collection. 300 pages doesn’t seem as bad when it is broken up into 10 stories, each giving you a natural rest in between to recharge and carrier on.

Here are a few of my favorite short story collections:

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A Story for our Time: Short

I really love short stories. I like the way they move, their conciseness, their ability to tell me something I need to know in around 20 pages. When I want just a glimpse into someone’s day, I go to Carver. When I want a short story that reads like a novel, there’s none better than Alice Munroe. (How does she get all those people, events and histories into so few pages?) I like to read a whole collection by a single author. Or come upon a new author in an anthology or magazine—it’s like speed dating: Small investment of time may net lasting relationship.
It surprises me that today, when we want everything fast and now, more of us don’t read and appreciate short stories. Here are a few of the reasons why I do:
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” – Hemingway
“Dusk” – Salter
“All Shook Up” – Boyle
“A Day in the Country” – Chekov
“The Dead” – Joyce
“The Lovely Troubled Daughters of Our Old Crowd” – Updike
“The Year of Silence” – Brockmeier
“The Progress of Love” – Munroe
“Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?” – Carver
“A Lesson in Traveling Light” – Eisenburg
“The King of Sentences” – Lethem

What are your old and new favorites?