Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

Short Story Collections to Love

A recommended reading list by the author of the new book, Disembark.

Book Cover Disembark

Jen Currin's Disembark is up for giveaway right now until the end of May.

For your chance to win, head over to our Giveaways page, and be sure to check out everything else we've got on offer.


In the world there exists a perverse creature, a strange category of person who loves short stories more than novels. I am one of these. A poet for many years, I didn’t start writing short stories seriously until about 14 years ago, and as a writer I have been enchanted by what the form can do. I find them very difficult to write but I have always loved reading stories, loved sinking into these little worlds that are complete unto themselves. I admire the form for what it can do in just a few pages, the way each detail takes on a deeper weight, the tension of its sentences, the quickness with which characters are drawn. I adore its weirdness, its flights of fancy, its surprises—the unexpected swerves that can happen in the final paragraphs. Below is a list of some of my favourite Canadian story collections. Bon appétit!


Book Cover Dream of a Woman

Dream of a Woman, by Casey Plett

When I finished this book I felt such gratitude to Plett for putting to the page stories that centre trans women and their communities, which are stories I had not encountered before. Plett writes into the complexity of trans and queer relationships with humour and tenderness, exploring themes of addiction, recovery, trauma, dislocation, and friendship. A strong sense of place animates these fictions—whether that be Portland or an unnamed town in the Prairies. The stories that explore friendships between trans women are the ones that stay with me still.


Book Cover Last Woman

Last Woman, by Carleigh Baker

Carleigh Baker’s first collection of stories, Bad Endings, could also be on this list, but I’ve decided to choose just one book per author. This new collection Last Woman is a real amazement. Baker’s prose is muscular and taut, each sentence carefully honed. There is a wide range in this collection: a story told from the point of view of friendly, intelligent aliens who are bemused by the bungling of humans on Earth, a humorous horror story that takes place on the site of a former shopping mall, a bizarre tale of female bonding gone wrong. Each situation Baker chooses to write about is approached in a new and surprising way.


Book Cover How to Pronounce Knife

How to Pronounce Knife, by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Another favourite of the last few years, this collection made me laugh and also gave me a lot to think about. Thammavongsa brings a poet’s attention to the situations she captures, and even the shortest stories in this collection have a thematic heft to them. There are daring tales, like the one told from the point of view of a seventy-year-old woman having an affair with a much younger man. In particular I am struck by the way Thammavongsa writes about labour, the different jobs people have to work to get by, the beauty—or more often, ugliness—of the hustle, whether the protagonists are digging up worms for money or plucking feathers at a chicken plant. 


Book Cover Hopeful Monsters

Hopeful Monsters, by Hiromi Goto

When I think of writers who do “non-realism” in a very fluid and believable way, I think of the stories of Hiromi Goto. Many of these have stayed with me for years--the man who wakes up to find he has breasts and now has to be the one to feed his infant child, the girl who is born with a tail. My favourite in this collection is actually a piece of realism; in “Drift,” Goto touchingly depicts a truce between a lesbian daughter and her old-fashioned mother. In all of these stories, Goto depicts her characters with generosity and good humour, two qualities I admire.


Book Cover Bad Imaginings

Bad Imaginings, by Caroline Adderson

I could have picked any of Adderson’s story collections for this list, but I’m choosing this one because it’s the most recent one I’ve read, even though it is also her very first book, published in 1993. This collection stands the test of time. Adderson’s voice is smooth and assured, with deep insight into her characters’ motivations. There are some great stories told from a child’s point of view—difficult to do! And some strong examples of historical fiction, which can also be difficult to carry off in short fiction. An impressive debut collection.


We Want What WE Want

We Want What We Want, by Alix Ohlin

When I think of short story writers who have skill when it comes to crafting strong endings, Ohlin comes to mind. These stories capture a range of characters and situations, from a creepy Brooks Brothers guru who lures others to his strange cult to a woman who struggles to know how to support her hospice nurse girlfriend. In each case, Ohlin glides the story to its ending like an experienced pilot landing a plane.


Book Cover

Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday, by Jamaluddin Aram

Technically, this book has the word “novel” printed on its cover, but I’m sneaking it onto the list because I just dig it so much. In my defense, I did see Aram read from and talk about this book on panel of short story writers, and he did say that it originally was a book of stories before he revised it to be a novel. The stories circle around various townspeople in a small town in Afghanistan during the most recent war. The collection begins with an epigraph by Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Márquez’s influence is clear in terms of the style of the writing: gorgeously lyrical, it reads a bit like A Hundred Years of Solitude meets Winesburg, Ohio. From its first lyrical sentence, I was hooked.


Book Cover Disembark

Learn more about Disembark:
Award–winning author Jen Currin presents remarkable and sometimes magical new stories of queer friendship and love, against the backdrop of city life.

The stories in Disembark feature queer characters navigating new worlds, new circumstances, and new methods of relating to the people around them. With resonant imagery and clear, lyrical prose, Jen Currin weaves vibrant narratives showcasing queer relationships—be they platonic, romantic, or somewhere in between. A banshee shacks up with a lesbian couple in a rocky relationship, a lonely teen is gifted a knife by their mother’s boyfriend, a queer woman finds herself heartbroken when her best friend fails her at a crucial moment, and a young alcoholic hashes things out with their mother in the afterlife. In modes both realist and fantastic, the profound and eloquent stories in Disembark provide a glimpse into the unexpected, offering insight into the ways we relate in this world and in worlds beyond.

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog