Our Favorite Short Stories of the Past Year


May is National Short Story Month, so we’re celebrating the tail end of it by honoring some short stories of the past year that are deserving of your attention. Although these diverge from Geraldine Brooks’s choices in The Best American Short Stories collection or those contained in PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, we encourage you to pick either or both of these up if you’re interested in more tales from notable authors. Or, if you want stories from our neighbors across the Atlantic, there’s always Best European Fiction, which was edited by one of our favorite writers, Aleksandar Hemon. But our list spans more than this continent or that of Europe — we wanted to tip the balance to include both emerging and established writers from countries all over the world (as well as those who live outside our fair coast). As Beyoncé queries in her latest call-and-response hit, “Who run the world?” (Girls). But you knew that already, didn’t you? So read on, dear readers, and tell us who we missed.

“The Deer-Vehicle Collision Survivors Support Group” by Porochista Khakpour Guernica, February 2010

Image courtesy of Paper Magazine

“Do you like hunting? Birding? We don’t understand how animals become a thing to do out here. Back in the city we saw mainly pigeons on the sidewalks, rats in subway stations, roaches in dark cracks, mice in every corner.”

Khakpour is a judge (along with the incredibly talented, prize-winning novelist and short story writer Yiyun Li) for Hyphen Magazine’s Asian-American Short Story Contest. The winner will be announced on June 3rd on the website, so check back to find out who made the cut.

“Bomb Jockey” by Terese Svoboda One Story, January 8, 2010

“Known as Hump to his face, a face that looked enough like John Wayne’s that some people thought he should get a rope and start in with a lariat, if not a horse, he was not as shy as he could have been since you don’t get to be eighteen looking like that without some serious experience.”

Svoboda is a native of Ogallala, Nebraska, and this story took her seven years to write, with extensive revisions after it was accepted for publication. She now lives in New York, and has written a number of novels, poems, and even a libretto for a chamber opera.

“What separates us from the animals” by T.C. Boyle Harpers, October 2010

“I’d been chair of the committee that brought him here, so I had an advantage. Plus, that was me standing out there in the cold to greet him when he drove off the ferry in an old Volvo wagon the color of Jack cheese.”

Thomas Coraghessan Boyle was born in upstate New York, and it is here that he set his third novel, World’s End, which is a darkly comic historical exploration of the people that make up the Hudson River Valley. Boyle is also known, however, as a proud short story writer. He has eight collections under his belt, and often publishes in Harper’s, Esquire, and The New Yorker.

“Hitting Budapest” by NoViolet Bulawayo The Boston Review, November/December 2010

“There are guavas to steal in Budapest, and right now I’d die for guavas, or anything for that matter. My stomach feels like somebody just took a shovel and dug everything out.”

Bulawayo, née Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, is a Zimbabwean writer who is on the shortlist for the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. The winner will be announced on July 11th at the University of Oxford. She’s currently enrolled in the MFA program at Cornell, and is working on her first novel.

“Butt and Bhatti” by Mohammad Hanif Granta, Fall 2010

“Teddy Butt stumbles into the OPD the following morning, bleary-eyed, moving slowly. Even his voice seems to be coming from underwater. There is a sleepy calm about him. Even the muzzle of the gun in his trousers seems flaccid.”

Mohammad Hanif is a Pakistani journalist and the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes . He is also your daddy.

“The Vicinity of the Sick” by M.O. Walsh Oxford American, August 2010

“At the top of Carl’s knee is a hole, ripped clean through his rubber pants. Bess stares at the puckered wound in his flesh, a perfect circle, and knows this is not good.”

M.O. Walsh is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and his debut story collection, The Prospect of Magic, was named an editor’s pick for best new books last year by the Oxford American.

“Virgin” by April Ayers Lawson Paris Review, Fall 2010

“People often immediately identified them as newlyweds. Jake worried over this, but when he asked Sheila if it bothered her, she laughed. She said what it really meant was that people were thinking of the two of them having good sex.”

In an interview with James McGirk, Lorin Stein says, “It’s by a young woman you’ve never heard of named April Ayers Lawson, and it’s an astonishment. All sex and brains and feeling. And it’s funny too. A minute before I read the story, I had no idea that such a thing existed.” In an interview about the story, Lawson says, “I like to try to understand what it means to be ‘manly,’ what it means for a man to think he’s failed to be manly. The more I understand men, the more I understand women.”

“Ceiling” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Granta, Summer 2010

“She had called him Obinze, wished him happiness in breezy sentences, and mentioned the Black American she was living with. A gracious email. He hated it. He hated it so much that he googled the Black American, a lecturer at Yale, and found it infuriating that she lived with a man who referred on his blog to friends as ‘cats.'”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria but left to study in the United States. The New Yorker named her one of their “20 Under 40” novelists last summer, and her short story,“Birdsong,” was featured in the September 20, 2010 issue.

“Doctor on the Nile,” by Leila Aboulela VQR, Winter 2010

“You made this pronouncement solemnly with understanding as if you could imagine violence in such a party setting, with the women in evening frocks and jewels, the palace grounds bright with floodlights and the brass band blaring away! You were a precocious child.”

Aboulela is a Sudanese writer and playwright who is now living in Qatar. Her latest novel, Lyrics Alley , details the life of a well-to-do family in northern Sudan in the 1950s. In an interview with the Guardian, she says, “The more writers tackle minority issues, the easier it becomes for others to join in because people are more informed.”

“The Hotel Life” by Javier Montes Granta, Winter 2010

“They had skimped on real flowers and overdone the air freshener–without success, for even in the broad light of day there still hovered in the foyer the ghost of the aficionados’ cigars.”

Javier Montes is a Spanish writer, translator, and art critic who is currently working on his third novel. We cheated and included this excerpt from his forthcoming novel, which ran in Granta‘s Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists issue, because we loved the story so much. Can you blame us?