Short Story Help Needed

As the heading says, I am looking for some help here.  Six months ago I started a Readers Group in the retirement complex where I now live.  We meet once a month and share our reading experiences since we last met over tea, coffee and a large box of biscuits.  It’s been very successful, not least because it has brought some people out of their apartments who would not normally join in with other activities.  One of these is my friend Graeme, who is in the early stages of dementia.  I think he is so brave to come and join in our discussions despite the fact he is finding it increasingly hard to recall what he has read.  I have suggested that he makes a few notes about what he wants to say to bring with him and that has helped but the time is coming when getting pleasure from a full length novel is going to be more difficult and so I tentatively asked if he would be interested in reading some short stories.  The problem is that, like me,  Graeme primarily  reads for plot and short stories don’t always fit with that type of reader’s tastes.  Furthermore, his real passion at the moment is Dan Brown and with my very limited knowledge of the genre I can’t think of a collection I could recommend that would fit his preferences.  I brought very few volumes of short stories with me when I came here and they are nearly all written by women.  I certainly don’t have anything I think would be suitable. Can anyone suggest anything that might be appropriate?  I would be very grateful and I know Graeme and his wife would be as well. Thank you in advance.

36 thoughts on “Short Story Help Needed

  1. A Life in Books July 12, 2019 / 9:08 am

    Unfortunately, I can’t offer any help with recommendations but I do think this is an excellent idea. We did the same thing for my partner’s stepmother which kept her reading for longer.


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 9:17 am

      I’m wondering, if there are no obvious collections in his preferred genre if science fiction might work. I’m sure there must be something in that area.


      • A Life in Books July 12, 2019 / 9:27 am

        I’m sure there must be some crime anthologies available. Not quite Dan Brown but perhaps they might interest him. Perhaps a librarian could help.


      • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 9:32 am

        Our librarians are all up to their eyes in a new IT system which is going to be installed next Monday. They blithely tell me that everything will be transferred and up and running by Thursday. I’ve seen this happen before; I’ve told them it will be a month next Thursday – if they’re lucky! When Birmingham did this it was weeks before anyone could find anything. But your suggestions are very welcome and I will explore both.


      • A Life in Books July 12, 2019 / 9:45 am

        Oh, dear. I hope it goes better than expected. Booksellers are also excellent for this kind of question.


  2. timmasonproject July 12, 2019 / 9:17 am

    I would suggest Anton Chekhov. I think his short stories are very engaging. Also, Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday was something I read earlier this year that was three separate stories in one novel length book. Perhaps novels like that with discrete stories might still be manageable. I’m sure others would be able to suggest more examples of that.


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 9:34 am

      I agree that the Chekhov stories are very good, but I don’t think they would engage someone like Graeme who enjoys rather more popular works. Linked collections are a good idea and I will explore that further.


  3. Maureen Hunt July 12, 2019 / 11:06 am

    A lot of the early SF authors, like Asimov, wrote some very engaging and easily digested short stories. They published in the SF magazines of the time. If you want more information, like where to get free electronic copies of the magazines, contact me.


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 12:18 pm

      That is really kind of you Maureen. I’ll talk to Graeme about the SF genre and get back to you.


  4. Annabel (AnnaBookBel) July 12, 2019 / 11:55 am

    As Karen suggests, there are plenty of crime anthologies – particularly golden age – in the British Library Crime Classics series, plus Agatha Christie. Michael Connelly has done a couple of volumes of Harry Bosch shorts, but they’re Kindle/Audiobook only at the moment. Stephen King has written plenty of short stories too.


      • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 12:19 pm

        King is definitely a possibility, Annabel and Lee Child even more so; one of our other members knew him as a child – he was the son of their next door neighbour. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 12:25 pm

      They would be too literary for him, Karen. He really needs something more action based. But thanks for the thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Calmgrove July 12, 2019 / 2:07 pm

    I remember reading a collection or two of Isaac Asimov’s Black Widowers short stories when I was in my teens, but I don’t know if they’re still available—Agatha Christie type conundrums with an East Coast flavour, short and sweet and mostly instantly forgettable.


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 2:33 pm

      Forgettable might not be the best solution in the circumstances but I’ll certainly give them a look. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Calmgrove July 12, 2019 / 5:23 pm

        When I meant forgettable I didn’t mean one would lose the thread, just that after several decades I can only remember odd details (an analysis of ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ for example) and atmosphere rather than that they were frothy and not worth the bother.


      • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 5:29 pm

        Ah, I understand. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask, do you know Amanda Hemingway’s Sangreal Trilogy? Think a sort of cross between Diana Wynne Jones and Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising. If not, I think you might enjoy them. I’ve got them stored away for a re-read next week while I’m recovering from dental surgery.


      • Calmgrove July 12, 2019 / 5:36 pm

        I didn’t, but I do now! Sounds an irresistible combination. 🙂 Good luck with the surgery.


  6. buriedinprint July 12, 2019 / 3:03 pm

    As others have said, the new issues of Asimov and Ellery Queen would be great because their mandate encourages them to accept a variety of themes/styles but always with readability and quality in mind. You are supposed to want to turn the pages.

    And maybe just as important as what’s in them, they would also be great sources of other authors to seek out (say, they have one of that author’s stories in the magazine but that author has an entire collection or more in publication too). They usually have a few well-known writers and one or two emerging authors in each issue.

    Stephen King’s stories are terrific because there is a lot of human dynamic in there too (not only mystery/horror elements) so they please a wide variety of readers. Skeleton Crew and Night Shift are both very good (and a little older, but still definitely in print, so they might particularly suit him). Ray Bradbury’s stories are similar in their versatility too (not all sci-fi elements): A Sound of Thunder or I Sing the Body Electric (or any number of compilations). And if he desires a little more complexity, but still in the short form, there are two collected volumes of Ursula K. LeGuin’s short stories, many of which take place on common worlds, which might also be nice because that could be constant, but the characters/situations would change (her real-world short stories would probably be dull for him, so avoid Searoad).

    If he enjoys genre plot-driven fiction, is a fantastic source overall and they also have a podcast which includes these works too. I am incredibly far behind with them…there are hundreds!

    Good luck!


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 3:09 pm

      This is really useful. Thank you so much. I can certainly see the King and the Ellery Queen working well.


  7. stargazer July 12, 2019 / 5:42 pm

    I don’t normally get along with short stories, but I think some of Agatha Christie’s are great. If these are too cosy for your friend, I agree with other commenters about Stephen King.

    David Baldacci writes in the same adrenalin-inducing style as Dan Brown, but without the secret societies, ancient symbols/riddles or the ‘religion vs science’ theme. Don’t know if his short story ‘Bullseye’ can live up to his full-length novels.

    What about du Maurier’s The Birds?


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 5:44 pm

      I think Christie may be a bit on the cosy side, but I will certainly follow up on the Baldacci suggestion, thanks.


    • Café Society July 12, 2019 / 8:38 pm

      Possibly, Karen, but I think he probably needs something more recent.


      • BookerTalk July 13, 2019 / 4:48 am

        Understood. In that case I don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t already been covered by other contributors sorry


  8. Laila@BigReadingLife July 13, 2019 / 8:12 pm

    One of my favorite authors, Jess Walter, has a great book of short stories called We Live in Water. He writes great characters, usually sort of shabby people on the margins of society but who are mostly sympathetic even with some bad choices. The stories have plots too, not all character-driven as many short stories are. Perhaps this would entice your group mate.


  9. Desperate Reader July 14, 2019 / 1:06 pm

    I’ve just been eyeing up (and temporarily resisting) some Raymond Chandler short stories. Some of the British Library anthologies might be fun too – they cover a range of genres, I’ve also just finished a Michael Gilbert short story collection which is more in the spy thriller genre. Penguin did some good collections of gaslight crime and early lady detectives which are good as well. Don’t know if any of that’s quite what you’re after.


    • Café Society July 29, 2019 / 9:59 am

      The spy thriller stories definitely might work, thanks.


  10. Kat July 17, 2019 / 5:46 pm

    W. Somerset Maugham’s short stories are fascinating and all about plot. The book jacket on my edition of Collected Stories says, “In the adventures of his alter ego Ashenden, a writer who (like Maugham himself) turned secret agent in World War I, as well as in stories set in such far-flung locales as South Pacific islands and colonial outposts in Southeast Asia, Maugham brings his characters vividly to life, and their humanity is more convincing for the author’s merciless exposure of their flaws and failures.”


    • Café Society July 29, 2019 / 10:00 am

      I love Somerset Maugham, Kat, but I think they are a bit dated for what I’m looking for. Thanks for thinking about it, though.


  11. mlegan July 18, 2019 / 4:24 pm

    How about this: Dead Simple, edited by Harry Bingham About the book
    Dead Simple is a thrilling collection of short stories from some of the best crime writers around. Interesting, it is part of series Learning with Quick Reads Bite-sized books by bestselling authors
    Search domain
    Quick Reads is a charity that publishes easy-to-read books by best-selling authors to get adults into reading.


    • Café Society July 29, 2019 / 10:01 am

      Now the Quick Read books really are a good idea, Mary Lou. And I love Bingham’s writing.


  12. Jeanne July 29, 2019 / 1:55 am

    Short stories by Fritz Leiber and Robert Heinlein might be just the thing. My favorites are Leiber’s “Space-Time for Springers” and Heinlein’s “The Menace from Earth.”


    • Café Society July 29, 2019 / 10:02 am

      I don’t know how he’d get on with anything not firmly based in the world he knows, Jeanne, but I can certainly suggest them.


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