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Book Review

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories

by Mari Carlson

The stories of Tobias S. Buckell’s "Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories" explore relevant earthly topics in science fiction settings. Fantasies are used to reflect on real atrocities, like the loss of collective... Read More

Diary of a Malayali Madman

by Camille-Yvette Welsch

In N. Prabhakaran’s postmodern short story collection "Diary of a Malayali Madman", people are touched by madness and constrained by the traditions and politics of their Indian societies. A man finds himself pressed into service as a... Read More

In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Me

by Kristen Rabe

The stories of Courtney Sender’s brooding, poignant collection "In Other Lifetimes All I’ve Lost Comes Back to Me" meditate on memory, loss, and desire. A handful of characters surface in various incarnations in these fourteen linked... Read More

Instructions for the Drowning

by Elaine Chiew

In Steven Heighton’s masterful posthumously published story collection "Instructions for the Drowning", men’s psyches are on display. These layered and intricate stories balloon out their denouéments until they are taut.... Read More

Patterns of Orbit

"Patterns of Orbit" is Chloe N. Clark’s inimitable collection of short stories and flash fiction, in which mysterious events abound. Herein, lakeside waves churn and tear up docks; a food scientist creates fruit that tastes of another... Read More

The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales

by Eileen Gonzalez

Vasily Eroshenko uses simple tales to explore powerful, complex morals in "The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales". Storytellers have long used fairy tales and children’s stories as a means of delivering radical, even subversive... Read More

But Is He Jewish?

by Kristine Morris

"But Is He Jewish?" is a lively compendium of humor concerning everyday conundrums. Taking on universal themes, Daniel Wolf’s diverse and witty collection of stories, jokes, musings, and short plays runs the gamut from rough and bawdy... Read More

This Side of the Divide

The twenty-three fabulist and fantasy stories collected in "This Side of the Divide" involve cowboys, the desert, coyotes, and arroyos; they remake old legends through uncommon lore in a gesture that counters cultural erasure. In the... Read More

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How to Write a Review of a Story That Will Impress Readers

Story Review Definition

A short story review is not merely a summary – it is also a good opportunity to show critical discussion of the short story. French writer Victor Hugo received the shortest review of his work: his request to the publishing house with the text of one question mark was answered no less laconically – with one exclamation mark.

When you like everything in the story, no extra words are required. When there are controversial points in it or new and frightening things, you need something more than an exclamation mark. We are talking about reviews, ladies and gentlemen! The review of the short story is a critical analysis and evaluation of a work written in the scientific, artistic, or journalistic style to form an opinion about it for the target audience. Do you know how to write a short story review, and what is the purpose?

how to write a review of a story

The Purpose of the Short Story Review

You can parse the short story to:

When we write a review, we form the final opinion about the book and create a primary view for other people. And are we doing it right?

How to Prepare for Writing a Short Story Review

First of all you need to read a story! It seems to be obvious, but no! People manage after a once-over of the content, reading the summary, and write “reviews,” where there is nothing but a binary “good-bad.” It is necessary to read the story several times – first from the standpoint of an ordinary reader, and then with a view to making a critical analysis. In the process, you can have a pad, paper bookmarks, or stickers.

Are you ready to begin reviewing? Wait a bit and check yourself:

Questions to Ask Before Writing a Short Story Review

After you find out the answers to these question, it is time to learn how to write a review for a short story.

Short Story Review Writing Steps

how to write a short story review

Evaluate  the form. It is good because:

It is bad because:

Consider orientation of the text. There are two types of orientation – book or landscape.

Review the design and cover of the book where the story is presented.

Look at the font size. Some people are lucky – they have perfect eyesight, and can read even on a matchbox. However, there are people who need large letters in the text.

Evaluate illustrations. Remember how you flipped pages in your childhood hoping to see pictures? And there was only text! In non-fiction books, the reader also wants to discover a visual component, but if to talk about short stories, probably, you will not have anything to analyze here.

Evaluate the content. To give a worthy critical review, the reviewer should have at least the same level of material as the author, and better – a higher level. You can choose one of the following strategies: a review from the side, an analysis without positing positive or negative evaluations, a critical analysis, or open polemics with the author.

Indicate the author and the title of the work in bibliographic data. Note whether this is a novelty or a reprint.

Don’tl retell the story. You can disassemble the title, content, method of building the story, and the author’s style and skill, but do it competently and intriguingly.

Express your impression of the story , while justifying all negative and positive points.

Mark the relevance of the work and the degree of its entry into the target audience.

Point out the stylistic, factual, and grammatical mistakes made by the author. Recheck their availability.

Watch your own style : do not use jargon, speechless statements, or clericalism.

Make sentences laconic and simple depending on the volume of the review.

Short Story Review Sample Analysis

You can check out the analysis of one of our short story review examples where no mistakes are allowed. We have tried to share the experience of our writers who know not only how to write reviews, but how to analyze them as well. Our analysis of a story review example can end your struggles if you don’t know where to get ideas for writing your own review.

how to write a short story review

Now after reading through our post and checking whether you know how to write a review of a story or you can use our college writing service. Practice more to write high-quality reviews and gain success. Do not impose your vision on readers – read through review samples to know how to express your opinion better. If you stick to all the guidelines, you will be able to complete great reviews.


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An Honest Review of Short Story, the Personal Styling Service for Short People, by a Short Woman

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If you’re below 5’4”, then you’re considered a shortie. As you probably already know, like most things, there are pros and cons to being of small stature . One of the cons being that clothes tend to fit weirdly on our short bods, whether they’re too long, too baggy, or overall ill-fitting. And if you’re plus size and short, shopping can be even more annoying. I’m on the higher-end of straight sizing and border on plus at a size 14. Every pair of jeans I’ve owned have always been comically too long, resulting in saggy ankles or me resorting to cuffing them so I look like a dude from The Outsiders  (IYKYK).

Over the past couple of years, I tried buying bellbottoms three times and they were all way too long for me. Heartbreaking for my ‘70s style goals! Dresses are much easier to wear, but there is a magic length holy grail that I have to search for when it comes to minis since a lot of skirts tend to rise higher in the back because of my booty. And if a dress is too long past the knee, I feel frumpy. I’ve learned to love maxi dresses, but I often have to get them hemmed or wear four-inch platform heels so I don’t look like a ghost floating around the halls.

All of these reasons are why I was so excited to learn about  Short Story , which is a subscription styling service that helps us shorties find cute clothes that actually fit. The founder and CEO, Isabella Sun, knows firsthand the struggle of being petite, as she’s 5’1” herself. “I’ve struggled my entire life to find clothing that fits, and intimately know the challenges of shopping as a petite person,” she tells Well+Good.


“For women of shorter stature, shopping can really suck. Finding clothing that actually fits our frames can be exceptionally hard because most clothing is designed for women who are much taller, and often fitted on 5’9” fit models.” After learning that nearly 50 percent of women in the U.S. were considered petite and had the same frustrating experiences, Sun decided to leave her corporate job as a financial trader and start Short Story. “I wanted to create a better shopping experience that actually inspired confidence in petite women by helping them dress in perfectly fitting clothes,” she says.

While Short Story carries classic and up–and-coming brands, they also develop their own line of clothing, which is based on real feedback from a whopping 100,000+ respondents. “From this data we’re able to identify crucial ‘patterns’ in everything from silhouette and color preferences, to sizing dimensions that allows us to create clothing that directly addresses all of this,” says Sun.

Strangely enough, I’ve never really considered shopping in the petite section because I always thought of it as not just for short people, but for tiny, size 0 types, so I wanted to make sure that Short Story had my size, which they did. (They currently carry sizes 00 to 18P and have plans to expand their size range.) As far as what items they offer, it’s everything from tops, jackets, dresses, pants, jeans, and more.

How Short Story works

First, you take a quiz that asks you about the items that you usually shop for, things you wouldn’t wear, your opinion of a few of their clothing and styling examples, what your budget looks like, plus basic questions about weight, height, and age. They’ll also ask for your Instagram handle so they can get an even better sense of your style. After that, you order your Short Story Box , which can be sent monthly or every few months, and they’ll match you with a stylist who uses your responses to curate your box just for you. The styling fee is $25 per box, and that money goes towards any items you decide to keep. You can cancel your subscription at any time, and shipping and returns are always free.

short story

When you receive the box, you’ll get a small pamphlet with information about each of the five pieces of clothing they sent, as well as tips on how to style them, which I find super useful. Then you just try everything on and keep your favorites. Everything else can be easily returned via the prepaid label and shipping bag that is included. You just have to return your items within five days to avoid being charged.

short story

My honest thoughts on the Short Story box 

marie lodi

This dress couldn’t have been more me. I loved the neon pink color and it was the perfect length—not too short and not too long, so I didn't feel like I was drowning in it. I can see myself wearing this to everything—date night, parties, work events, vacation. It was a dream to wear.

Black short sleeve bodysuit

I appreciated that they included a black bodysuit, which is a great basic piece for building a year-round capsule wardrobe. Even better, it was comfortable to wear! Sometimes bodysuits can be too long in the torso, or too tight if you’re closer to plus size, causing the bust area to be pulled down and your bra to show. This didn’t do any of that, thankfully, and gave me the perfect amount of cleavage. Overall, it just felt really good to wear.

Pink printed skirt

skirt short story

The color and print of this skirt was also another “perfect Marie” pick. I can see myself packing this skirt (along with the bodysuit) on a trip. That sexy thigh slit just screams vacation, baby!

Velvet floral print robe

robe short story

Robes are one of my all-time favorite pieces of clothing. They instantly make me feel like a glamorous eccentric aunt (which I am, actually). They’re also super versatile because you can wear one over a slip dress, lounge around the house in one (with some cha-cha heels), and even pair them with jeans or trousers. I loved the velvet, and the rose pattern is always a win for me.

Black jeans (by 1822 Denim)

black jeans short story

I had to save the best for last—the jeans! Like I mentioned, jeans are a sore spot for me when it comes to shopping. They’re usually way too long, and instead of getting them hemmed, I just deal with it. I was absolutely shocked when these fit me perfectly just putting them on. The only thing is I wish these had pockets. Otherwise, they were perfect.

Final verdict

Overall, if you’re a short person who has had trouble finding clothes that fit, or just wants to experience a personalized shopping experience, Short Story is totally worth trying out. I loved all of my picks and found the return experience so much more simple than when I shop regularly.

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short story of review

The Best Reviewed Books of 2020: Short Story Collections

Featuring nicole krauss, stephen king, emma cline, zora neale hurston, and more.

2020—the longest year that has ever been—is almost at an end, and that means it’s time for us to break out the calculators and tabulate the best reviewed books of past twelve months.

Yes, using reviews drawn from more than 150 publications, over the next two weeks we’ll be revealing the most critically-acclaimed books of 2020, in the categories of (deep breath): Memoir & Biography;   Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Fantasy ; Short Story Collections; Essay Collections; Graphic Literature; Poetry; Mystery & Crime; Literature in Translation; General Fiction; and General Nonfiction.

To Be A Man ribbon

1. To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss (Harper)

18 Rave • 6 Positive • 2 Mixed

Read an interview with Nicole Krauss here

“… like talking all night with a brilliant friend … Krauss imbues her prose with authoritative intensity. In short, her work feels lived. Some of these stories appeared earlier, in the New Yorker and elsewhere. But re-encountering them in a collection lets us absorb them as siblings … Krauss’s explorations of interior struggle press on, unflinching; aperçus feel wrested from depths … With chilling casualness, Krauss conveys the murderous realities lurking behind the scrim of social surfaces, that young women routinely face … Settings range globally without fanfare, as do Krauss’s gelid portraits of modern arrangements … the hallucinatory ‘Seeing Ershadi,’ in which a dancer and her friend become obsessed with an Iranian actor, seems to distill the strange urgency of Krauss’s art … What Ershadi represents to the women slowly unfurls, and (like much of this fine collection) continues to haunt a reader’s mind and heart.”

–Joan Frank ( The Washington Post )

2. The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (Riverhead)

14 Rave • 4 Positive

“… a new collection that is so smart and self-assured it’s certain to thrust her into the top tier of American short story writers. Evans’ stories feel particularly urgent at this moment of national reckoning over race. While they aren’t specifically about being Black any more than Alice Munro’s are about being white, many of the characters are shaped by the social, economic and cultural conditions unique to African American life … she brings an anthropologist’s eye to the material conditions of her characters’ lives … The hands-down masterpiece of the collection is the title novella … Reading these stories is like [an] amusement park ride—afterward, you feel a sense of lightness and exhilaration.”

–Ann Levin ( USA Today )

3. I Hold a Wolf By the Ears by Laura Van den Berg (FSG)

14 Rave • 2 Positive

Listen to a conversation between Laura Van den Berg and Catherine Lacey here

“The terrain of Van den Berg’s difficult, beautiful and urgent new book, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears , is an ecosystem of weird and stirring places you’ll want to revisit, reconsider, maybe even take shelter in. It’s easy to get going, because Van den Berg is such a master of setups … Possessing some of Karen Russell’s spookiness and Otessa Moshfegh’s penchant for unsettling observations about the way we live now—personally incisive but alive with a kind of ambient political intelligence—Van den Berg feels like the writer we not only want but maybe need right now … There is range here, particularly in characters and relationships: single people, mothers and daughters, loners, but also people engaged in the long dance of marriage … Van den Berg is so consistently smart and kind, bracingly honest, keen about mental illness and crushing about everything from aging to evil that you might not be deluded in hoping that the usual order of literary fame could be reversed: that an author with respectable acclaim for her novels might earn wider recognition for a sneakily brilliant collection of stories.”

–Nathan Deuel ( The Los Angeles Times )

Verge Lidia Yuknavitch

4. Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch (Riverhead)

12 Rave • 5 Positive • 1 Mixed

Read a story from Verge here

“With the powers of her prose on full, incandescent display, 6½ pages is all Yuknavitch needs to illuminate the connections between the body and the spirit, the fists and the heart, both beating in their losing battles … In these 20 efficient and affecting stories, Yuknavitch unveils the hidden worlds, layered under the one we know, that can be accessed only via trauma, displacement and pain. There is a vein of the wisdom of the grotesque throughout … the damaged beauty of these misfits keeps the reader leaning in.”

–Nicholas Mancusi ( TIME )

5. Sorry For Your Trouble by Richard Ford (Ecco)

11 Rave • 4 Positive • 3 Mixed

“The finest and most substantial story here is ‘The Run of Yourself.’ One could say is has the richness and breadth of a novel, but that would be to slight the short-story form, of which Mr. Ford has repeatedly proved himself a master … However understated and oblique, Sorry for Your Trouble —which is what Irish people say to the bereaved at a funeral—is both a coherent work of art and a subtle and convincing portrait of contemporary American life among the moneyed middle class. None of the main characters has to worry about money, which highlights the emotional malaise that underlies their lives and their frequent and almost absent-minded couplings and uncouplings. In the background are wars, financial crises, natural vicissitudes. This is America, and Richard Ford is its chronicler. In these superbly wrought tales he catches, with exquisite precision…the irresistible melancholy that is the mark of American life.”

–John Banville ( The Wall Street Journal )

Daddy Emma Cline

6. Daddy by Emma Cline (Random House)

9 Rave • 8 Positive

Read Emma Cline on Anaïs Nin’s erotic fiction and John Cheever’s journals here

“In an era whose ascendant short-story practitioners lean into high-concept experiments of genre and form, Emma Cline represents something of a throwback. The 10 stories that constitute her first collection, Daddy, are almost classical in structure—you won’t find a fragmentary collage, list or screenplay among them. Though she’s not one for a sudden, curious departure of voice or dissolution of the fourth wall, Cline has an unnerving narrative proprioception, and her stories have the clean, bright lines of modernist architecture … As for her style, she seems to eschew the telegraphic mode made popular by writers like Sally Rooney or Rachel Cusk for something at once direct and musical. Cline’s idiom is earnestness punctuated by millennial cool—but nothing too fussy, everything in just the right place … The aesthetic pleasure of Cline’s writing is anesthetizing. So much so that one could conceivably read these stories with the same drugged passivity with which one shuffles through a lifestyle catalog. But that would be a mistake … Cline is an astonishingly gifted stylist, but it is her piercing understanding of modern humiliation that makes these stories vibrate with life … the characters shift uncomfortably through the beautifully appointed shoe box dioramas of their lives, aware at once of their own insignificance and also of their desire for prominence. They ask if anything matters as though nothing does, and yet hope to be contradicted. But perhaps we all do. Perhaps, in these brilliant stories, that is the most daring and human thing of all.”

–Brandon Taylor ( The New York Times Book Review )

7. You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South (FSG Originals)

9 Rave • 6 Positive • 1 Mixed

Listen to an interview with Mary South here

“South writes as though she has always been where we find ourselves now: looking back on a world where we believed we might gain personal agency over technology’s dominion, entering one where such agency is a luxury we might never again hope to afford … stories of exceptional loss, spilling out at the point of conflict between the cool detachment of the technological world and the tender vulnerability of the users living within it … This collection’s power, though, comes from South’s dark sensibility, her comfort with brutality, and her narrative insistence that, while the nightmare of tech capitalism won’t wholly eradicate the personal and the private, it will compress beyond recognition the spaces where personal, private moments can unfold … South writes with the assurance of someone who knows she has no answers to give. But instead of resulting in a shrugging ambivalence, You Will Never Be Forgotten mounts an ever more effective critique of technology-amplified structural inequality … [the] stories are united by South’s keen examination of the thrill and risk of human connection—between lovers, siblings, parent and child, care-giver and care-receiver, and digitally connected strangers—under increasingly cruel conditions … Still, You Will Never Be Forgotten shows us there is still tenderness to be found, and protected, in the brave new world to come.”

–Jennifer Schaffer ( The Nation )

8. If It Bleeds by Stephen King (Scribner)

6 Rave • 10 Positive • 1 Mixed

“Nobody does novellas like Stephen King … a quartet of stories that are a little too long to be labelled short, all of which are packed with that uniquely King combination of fear and empathy … One of the joys of King’s novella collections is the reminder that he, perhaps more than any of his bestselling peers, has a tremendous gift for giving stories exactly the amount of space they need to be properly told. Sometimes, that results in 700-plus page epics. Other times, just 70. Whatever it takes to get the story from his head to the page—that’s what King gives you. It’s remarkable really, that an author can create stories that cause a reader to shiver, to smile and to shed a tear in the space of a few pages—but really, should anything Stephen King does surprise us anymore? … practically pulses with the humanistic empathy that marks the best of King’s work. It’s an outstanding quartet, featuring four tales that are wildly different from one another, yet undeniably bound together by the voice of our finest storyteller. There is much to fear in the worlds created by Stephen King, but even in the depth of his darkest shadows, a light of hope steadily glows. More exceptional work from the maestro … Keep ‘em coming, Mr. King.”

–Allen Adams ( The Maine Edge )

9. Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery (Bloomsbury)

7 Rave • 7 Positive • 2 Mixed

“Nicole Flattery’s publisher paid big money for these debut stories (plus a novel-in-progress), and it’s not hard to see why: they’re often extremely funny—peculiar as well as ha-ha—and highly addictive … Flattery’s themes are work, womanhood and early-to-midlife indirection, all tackled slantwise … It’s easy to read but trickier to get a handle on: Flattery’s off-kilter voice blends chatty candour and hard-to-interpret allegory (think Diane Williams or 90s Lorrie Moore), with the deadpan drollery and casually disturbing revelations heightened by her fondness for cutting any obvious connective tissue between sentences … Trauma lurks in the background, with allusions to attempted suicide, abuse and a 13-year-old’s miscarriage … Yet Flattery’s stories don’t depend on bringing such things to light; they’re just there—part of a woman’s life—which ultimately proves more disconcerting … Flattery…doesn’t seem too bothered about sewn-up narratives running from A to B; it’s a mark of her art in these strange, darkly funny stories that we aren’t either.”

–Anthony Cummins ( The Guardian )

10. Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston (Amistad)

7 Rave • 4 Positive

Read a story from Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick here

“…a revelation not just in its celebration of Hurston’s lesser-known efforts as a writer of short stories but also in the subjects and settings that it takes on … Hurston’s stories do not merely document black experience in the early 20th century; they testify to larger truths about black life … tender and wry … Fans and scholars of Hurston’s work and the uninitiated alike will find many delights in these complex, thoughtful and wickedly funny portraits of black lives and communities … this book is a significant testament to the enduring resonance of black women’s writing.”

–Naomi Jackson ( The Washington Post )

Our System: RAVE = 5 points • POSITIVE = 3 points • MIXED = 1 point • PAN = -5 points

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March 8, 2023

jenny odell

4 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story Review

Reviewing literary works has tremendous significance for the development and expansion of the literary field within the academic sector. It is important to provide an unbiased opinion on a piece of literature to create an independent and professional environment for the literature sphere to exist and undergo substantial advancements. This is the main reason why writing reviews of literary works is such a common practice in academia, also being one of the main indicators of a student’s competency.

Among the types of literature, college kids are often assigned to review, fiction stories receive the most attention. And the greatest focus goes to short stories in particular. Reviewing critically short stories seems to be the best option for students, as this genre of fiction is relatively easy to grasp and analyze, which is a great practice for young people who have little experience evaluating literature. Thus, by analyzing short stories, college kids train their skills and learn the craft of reviewing with exceptional effectiveness. And, as is true of every academic practice, reviewing literary works sometimes proves to be a big challenge for inexperienced students. That being the case, a few killer tips on writing a professional short story review will do!

Always Be Unbiased

After you devour the story for analysis, you will most likely have a strong impression of what you read. And developing your own opinion about anything you peruse or study is the main indicator of being equipped to do proper analysis, just like professional writers who provide online essays and reviews. However, having personal impressions of the piece you read may largely harm the quality of your review. The most critical principle that a writer should stick to when developing a review is staying unbiased and fair-minded. Leave aside your subjective impressions of the piece and instead steer an objective and reasoned way of evaluating it.

Provide a Critical Analysis of the Story

Critical analysis of the story is the bulk of your entire review. How you provide a critical viewpoint within a review defines its quality and the effect it will make on the reader – whether the review will be comprehensive and reasonable or not. To analyze the story in a critical way means to include the following important points:

To make your review valuable and informative, you need to include each of these critical points, expressing them to the fullest. Let’s view the first point, for example. When mentioning the main idea of the story, you need to clearly state what the story’s main message is, which serves as the focal aspect of the story and its major goal. Then, we can move to the story’s purpose. This part is similar to the idea, as the purpose of your story is reached and realized with the help of its idea, so these things are interrelated within any story.

Now, speaking of the theme of your story, it’s crucial not to confuse it with the idea as many young writers tend to. A theme is something that is portrayed or described within the story, while an idea is something that the author wanted to communicate to the reader. The rest of the points we mentioned are easy to expound upon, providing you stick to academic standards, which will be the subject of our next section!

Follow the Scholarly Standards

As one of the most critical rules for academic writing, sticking to the standards that have been approved by specialists in order to unify academic writing is extremely important. It’s normal that, inspired by the story (if the story is good, of course), you might want to simply express how compelling the piece is, disregarding other criteria for an academic review. But this is a misleading habit that many young writers follow, only serving to devalue their analyses and making them unprofessional. Writing an academic review presupposes adhering to the strict academic standards, doesn’t it? Make sure to follow the common standards for scholarly writing as long as you want to strike gold with your review!

Develop a Plan

Sketching the structure and creating a plan are quite reasonable options to consider when writing a critical review. Planning your future evaluation will help you include all important points in it, eliminating any possibility of missing anything vital in your review. Be sure to take your time to think over how you want to structure your review. Decide what elements you want to include in it and wherein your essay you want to place them. To make the planning procedure more effective, you should also include sub-points to every major point you write down – this will help you elaborate on noteworthy things in your review.

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short story of review

short story of review

The Best Reviewed Short Story Collections of 2021

Featuring haruki murakami, brandon taylor, elizabeth mccracken, kevin barry, lily king, and more.

Book Marks logo

Well, friends, another grim and grueling plague year is drawing to a close, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to put on our Book Marks stats hats and tabulate the best reviewed books of the past twelve months.

Yes, using reviews drawn from more than 150 publications, over the next two weeks we’ll be revealing the most critically-acclaimed books of 2021, in the categories of (deep breath): Memoir and Biography ; Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror ; Short Story Collections; Essay Collections; Poetry; Mystery and Crime; Graphic Literature; Literature in Translation; General Fiction; and General Nonfiction.

Today’s installment: Short Story Collections .

Brought to you by Book Marks , Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes for books.”


1. Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco)

22 Rave • 5 Positive • 1 Mixed

“The presence of the author is so vivid in Afterparties , Anthony Veasna So’s collection of stories, he seems to be at your elbow as you read … The personality that animates Afterparties is unmistakably youthful, and the stories themselves are mainly built around conditions of youth—vexed and tender relationships with parents, awkward romances, nebulous worries about the future. But from his vantage on the evanescent bridge to maturity, So is puzzling out some big questions, ones that might be exigent from different vantages at any age. The stories are great fun to read—brimming over with life and energy and comic insight and deep feeling.”

–Deborah Eisenberg ( New York Review of Books )

2. Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)

19 Rave • 7 Positive • 2 Mixed Read an interview with Brandon Taylor here

“Taylor plays the Lionel-Charles-Sophie storyline for all its awkwardness and resentment, but it can feel like a note held too long to suspend commitment, which is the resolution we’re trained to expect … The violence is neither glamorous nor gratuitous; it is senseless without being pointless. In contrast, Taylor presents such earnest moments of vulnerability in Anne of Cleves that my breath hitched … Some writers have the gift of perfect pitch when writing dialogue; Taylor’s gift is perfect tempo. In a band of writers, he’d be the drummer who sticks to a steady moderato. He neither rushes a story to its high notes nor drags the pace so that we can admire his voice. And as a plotter, he doesn’t rely on gasp-inducing reveals … Taylor’s superpower is compressing a lifetime of backstory into a paragraph – sometimes just a sentence … I’ve come to expect, in fiction, the story of the Sad Gay Youth who is rejected by his often religious family and thereafter becomes self-destructive or reckless. And while Taylor refracts versions of this story throughout the collection, he does so without overly romanticising it … He is a writer of enormous subtlety and of composure beyond his years.”

–Ian Williams ( The Guardian )

First Person Singular Haruki Murakami

3. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami (Knopf)

13 Rave • 17 Positive • 7 Mixed • 5 Pan

“… a blazing and brilliant return to form … a taut and tight, suspenseful and spellbinding, witty and wonderful group of eight stories … there isn’t a weak one in the bunch. The stories echo with Murakami’s preoccupations. Nostalgia and longing for the charged, evocative moments of young adulthood. Memory’s power and fragility; how identity forms from random decisions, ‘minor incidents,’ and chance encounters; the at once intransigent and fragile nature of the ‘self.’ Guilt, shame, and regret for mistakes made and people damaged by foolish or heartless choices. The power and potency of young love and the residual weight of fleeting erotic entanglements. Music’s power to make indelible impressions, elicit buried memories, connect otherwise very different people, and capture what words cannot. The themes become a kind of meter against which all the stories make their particular, chiming rhythms … The reading experience is unsettled by a pervasive blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality, dream and waking … Most of the narrators foreground the act of telling and ruminate on the intention behind and effects of disclosing secrets, putting inchoate impulses, fears, or yearnings into clear, logical prose … This mesmerizing collection would make a superb introduction to Murakami for anyone who hasn’t yet fallen under his spell; his legion of devoted fans will gobble it up and beg for more.”

–Pricilla Gilman ( The Boston Globe )

4. That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry (Doubleday)

13 Rave • 10 Positive •1 Mixed

“There’s not a bad story in the bunch, and it’s as accomplished a book as Barry has ever written … Barry does an excellent job probing the psyche of his diffident protagonist, and ends the story with an unexpected moment of sweetness that’s anything but cloying—realism doesn’t need to be miserablism, he seems to hint; sometimes things actually do work out … Barry has a rare gift for crafting characters the reader cares about despite their flaws; in just 13 pages, he manages to make Hannah and Setanta come to life through sharp dialogue and keen observations … Barry proves to be a master of writing about both love and cruelty … Barry brilliantly evokes both the good and bad sides of love, and does so with stunningly gorgeous writing … There’s not an aspect of writing that Barry doesn’t excel at. His dialogue rings true, and he’s amazingly gifted at scene-setting—he evokes both the landscape of western Ireland and the landscape of the human heart beautifully. His greatest accomplishment, perhaps, is his understanding of the ways our collective psyche works; he seems to have an innate sense of why people behave the way we do, and exactly what we’re capable of, both good and bad.”

–Michael Schaub ( NPR )

5. Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz (Grove)

17 Rave • 1 Positive Listen to an interview with Dantiel W. Moniz here

“Mortality is the undercurrent in Dantiel W. Moniz’s electrifying debut story collection, Milk Blood Heat , but where there’s death there is the whir of life, too. A lot of collections consist of some duds, yet every single page in this book is a shimmering seashell that contains the sound of multiple oceans. Reading one of Moniz’s stories is like holding your breath underwater while letting the salt sting your fresh wounds. It’s exhilarating and shocking and even healing. The power in these stories rests in their veracity, vitality and vulnerability.”

–Michelle Filgate ( The Washington Post )

6. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez (Hogarth)

15 Rave 2 Positive Read a story from The Dangers of Smoking in Bed here

“There’s something thrilling about other people’s suffering—at least within this collection’s 12 stories of death, sex and the occult. Horrors are relayed in a stylish deadpan … Enriquez’s plots deteriorate with satisfying celerity … Largely it’s insatiable women, raggedy slum dwellers and dead children—those who are ordinarily powerless—who wield unholy power in this collection, and they seem uninterested in being reasonable. And Enriquez is particularly adept at capturing the single-minded intensity of teenage girls … If some of these stories end vaguely, the best ones close on the verge of some transgressive climax … To Enriquez, there’s pleasure in the perverse.”

–Chelsea Leu ( The New York Times Book Review )

The Souvenir Museum Elizabeth McCracken

7. The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco)

13 Rave • 2 Positive • 1 Mixed Read Elizabeth McCracken on savoring the mystery of stories here

“Elizabeth McCracken’s The Souvenir Museum begins with one of the funniest short stories I’ve read in a long time … I had to stop reading ‘The Irish Wedding’ several times to explain to my husband why I was laughing so hard. I kept thinking: I wish I were reading a whole book about these people … they’re all beguiling … This tale, like much of McCracken’s work, captures the mixed bag that characterizes most people’s lives … McCracken’s writing is never dull. She ends this fantastic collection with a second English wedding and its aftermath, nearly 20 years after the first, delivering happiness tempered by sobering circumstances—and a satisfying symmetry.”

–Heller McAlpin ( NPR )

8. Wild Swims by Dorthe Nors (Graywolf)

13 Rave • 1 Positive Read an excerpt from Wild Swims here

“How slippery the work of the Danish writer Dorthe Nors is, how it sideswipes and gleams … The stories are vivid the way a flash of immobilizing pain is vivid … Perhaps because they’re so very short and because they mostly sketch slight interior shifts in her characters, Nors’s stories all feel a little bashful, a little tender. Surely this is intentional … Most of her stories are too short to linger deeply in time or consciousness; the characters spin back into their silence almost as soon as they emerge on the page. Nors is a master at portraying female rage, but here there is also no violent explosion outward, instead a sort of inner collapse; her characters assiduously resist confronting their fury until it rises up against them and attacks their bodies … The sense of simultaneous, furious upwelling into text and retraction into shame or reticence gives the stories a powerful undercurrent, as if they were constantly wrestling with themselves. Inherently self-contradicting, they wobble interestingly on their axes, pulled between outraged individualism and the restrictive Janteloven.”

–Lauren Groff ( The New York Review of Books )

9. Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti (Graywolf)

12 Rave • 1 Mixed Read an interview with Nana Nkweti here

“The pure energy of the words strikes first, the thrumming, soaring, frenetic pace of Nana Nkweti’s expression … None of these stories end with a miraculous healing. Even where revelations occur, they never erase scars. Nkweti uses genre tropes to subvert our expectations. She employs the zombie story, the fairy tale, and the confessional in order to invert conventions … The levity of Nkweti’s writing can make even passing descriptions a delight … Occasionally the writing veers into the overwrought … But the sheer speed of Nkweti’s expression allows for correction in midair, and her keen descriptive eye provides more pleasures than missteps … Her inventiveness dazzles.”

–Lee Thomas ( Los Angeles Review of Books )

10. My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (Henry Holt)

9 Rave • 4 Positive 1 Mixed Read Jocelyn Nicole Johnson on how writing “vengeful fiction” can make you a better person, here

“Jocelyn Nicole Johnson uses history to spectacular effect in her debut fiction collection … What makes My Monticello particularly resonant is that it does not stray far from life as we know it today. In the near future conjured by Johnson, there are the heat waves and wildfires that bring climate change into view. There is fallout from a fraught election. There is the vile replacement theory rhetoric of the right wing. But the lives of Johnson’s richly drawn characters—their personal stories—are always in focus. And, because of it, the storytelling is propulsive, as we follow these refugees along a harrowing journey, with danger ever at their heels. My Monticello is, quite simply, an extraordinary debut from a gifted writer with an unflinching view of history and what may come of it.”

–Anissa Gray ( The Washington Post )

Our System:

RAVE = 5 points • POSITIVE = 3 points • MIXED = 1 point • PAN = -5 points

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How to Write a Story Review

Deciding whether you like a short story or not is pretty simple. Writing about it requires skill and a well-thought-out plan. A story review reveals your opinion regarding the core aspects of the story and addresses the author’s intent. The review gives a reader insight as to your reaction, and whether or not the story made an impact. Being able to condense all this information in a clear and concise manner requires strong writing abilities. Structuring your piece can be easier if you follow a few guidelines.

Write your impressions. As you read the story take notes about how it made you feel, whether or not it fascinated you, what you liked and what you felt was missing. Jotting down the information as you read the story provides a better recollection of your first impression, and helps you synthesize the information once you finished reading it.

Evaluate the writing style. Whether it’s a mystery, romance, thriller, comedy or literary piece of work, each genre has its own structure and pacing plan. Familiarize yourself with the basics of each category before reviewing the piece so as to adequately address the structure.

Construct a thesis. Organize your thoughts and narrow your focus. Concentrate on a central idea like the author’s intent, theme, character arc or plot. Exploring one of these elements in your thesis provides a well-crafted and synthesized review.

Offer your perspective. After introducing the author, the story and basic publishing facts, discuss the overall message of the story, its significance and whether or not you would recommend it. Be specific and provide details for your reasoning.

Summarize the plot. Highlight the different aspects of the story that piqued your interest, such as the beginning, the rising action or the climax. Include the character’s development and reflect on whether or not the character possessed depth. Analyze the ending to the story and describe your reaction. Did it satisfy you or let you down?

Discuss the author’s purpose and whether or not you feel she achieved it through the characters, storyline or style. If the story was meant to be an inspiring tale of overcoming the odds, but failed to motivate you or engage your interest, then the author was not successful in that respect.

Give constructive advice. If you didn’t appreciate the author’s story do not criticize the author on a personal level, but instead focus your advice on the story elements themselves. List specific examples, such as story, plot or character development that could have improved the piece.

Draw your conclusion. Tie your piece together in the final paragraph. Give your overall opinion of the story and whether or not you would recommend it.

Anel Laj began her professional writing career more than 10 years ago as a sports journalist for the Los Angeles Daily News. Currently, she is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Laj received her Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from UC Berkeley. She earned her Master's in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.


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