When you read 98 short story collections in a year, as we did in 2012, a variety of factors beyond what's on the page contribute to the impression you form of any particular book. These include: the amount of time you have to read each (many arrive close to our July and November deadlines), the order you read them in, where you are when you read them, your own biases (some you're aware of, some you're not), even the state of mind you're in when you pick a particular book up. Although over time a consensus can form about certain authors (e.g., Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, and William Trevor) or short story collections (Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find, J. D. Salinger's Nine Stories, or Dennis Johnson's Jesus' Son) whose excellence isn't in doubt, reading is largely subjective.
That makes it hard to choose three short story collections as finalists, one for The Story Prize Spotlight Award, and a list of other outstanding collections beyond those four. Which is to say that the absence of a book from a list like this isn't a reflection of its quality. Every author who published a short story collection in 2012 succeeded against the odds, accomplished something exemplary, and deserves to take a bow, as did the 65 publishers and imprints that put out the books we read.
Here then are twelve worthy titles, beyond our three finalists and The Story Prize Spotlight Award winner:
- Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie (Grove/Atlantic)
- Hush Hush by Steven Barthelme (Melville House)
- Safe as Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino (University of Iowa Press)
- Little Sinners by Karen Brown, (University of Nebraska Press)
- Astray by Emma Donoghue, (Little, Brown)
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (Alfred A. Knopf)
- Windeye by Brian Evenson, (Coffee House Press)
- She Loves Me Not by Ron Hansen, (Scribner)
- The Doctor's Wife by Luis Jaramillo (Dzanc Books)
- Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo (W.W. Norton)
- The Book of Mischief by Steven Stern, (Graywolf Press)
- Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty by Diane Williams, (McSweeney's Books)