Electric Lit’s Favorite Short Story Collections of 2022
Collections by Ling Ma, K-Ming Chang, Jonathan Escoffery, and Morgan Talty shine among the year’s best
When it comes to short fiction, the past year has been filled to the brim with stellar collections that have opened our eyes and hearts to worlds beyond the one we inhabit. These stories are liminal, surreal, and global. They celebrate families—both chosen and biological—as well as ambition, desire, myths, and the bodies that house and protect us. Broken hearts are portrayed with compassion and care, even when they aren’t mended. Characters time travel, both forward and backward, and friendship is held in the highest esteem. You’ll race through these stories, unable to put them down, and you’ll be smarter, more imaginative, for having read them.
Here are Electric Literature’s top four short story collections, all of which tied with the same number of votes, followed by additional favorites listed in alphabetical order.
The Top Four Short Story Collections of the Year
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma
Bliss Montage explores the surreal and uncanny in true Ling Ma fashion with its brilliant, striking prose and memorable characters. While cohesive in voice and vision, the eight stories that make up this collection are wildly distinct, ranging from the messy ethics of storytelling as a young Chinese American pursues an M.F.A. to a tale about a woman who lives in Los Angeles with one hundred of her ex-boyfriends. As Ma discussed in her interview with EL’s Alyssa Songsiridej, the story premises were largely inspired by dreams: “I was trying to combine the swampy intelligence of dreams with narrative logic and see where that took me.”
Gods of Want by K-Ming Chang
Centering myth, memories, bodies, desire, and relationships between Asian women, Gods of Want is an astonishing debut story collection. Chang’s writing, as seen in her highly acclaimed debut novel Bestiary, is whip-smart, funny, and continually surprising and enthralling at the sentence level. The sixteen stories explore themes of hunger, family, queerness, transformation, and diaspora with vividness and delicate nuance. Get a taste of this brilliant collection by reading “Xífù”, published in Recommended Reading.
If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery
Jonathan Escoffery’s vibrant debut collection of linked stories (longlisted for the National Book Award!) follows a Jamaican American family in Miami in the 1970s as they deal with the aftermath of hurricane Andrew and the many other obstacles and heartache life throws their way. The stories beautifully explore relationships between fathers and sons and questions of identity, social mobility, belonging, and forgiveness. In “Pestilence” , brothers Trelawny and Delano take it upon themselves to exterminate the pests in their neighborhood of Cutler Ridge only to have the neighborhood, and their family, be plagued by much bigger problems. Read more about this wonderful collection in EL’s interview with Escoffery here.
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
Set on the Penobscot Indian Nation in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is composed of twelve incredibly crafted stories that explore the particularities of boyhood, intergenerational trauma, and grief with a voice that feels both fresh and deeply truthful. The stories are linked through the character of David, a Penobscot boy living on the reservation, and his brazen and loving voice that illuminates life and death in this changing community. Experience the brilliant tenderness of this collection by reading “Smokes Last”, which was one of Recommended Reading’s most-read stories of the year!
Electric Lit’s Other Favorite Short Story Collections
A Calm and Normal Heart by Chelsea T. Hicks
A Calm and Normal Heart is a sharp and often-surprising debut story collection that illuminates the lives and desires of contemporary Native women. The twelve stories that make up this collection reckon with questions of belonging and home, asking what these promises hold, especially when one is of an identity that is constantly pigeonholed or overlooked. In an EL conversation between Chelsea T. Hicks and Morgan Talty, Hicks discusses her process and intentions behind writing her debut. Riveting and full of imagination, this collection is full of smart wit and deeply tender characters who pull the reader in from the first page.
Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung
Translated from Korean by Anton Hur, this genre-defying collection by Bora Chung blurs the lines between magical realism, horror, and science fiction. The strange and thought-provoking stories in Cursed Bunny explore the cruelties of capitalism, patriarchy, and other modern injustices in prose that is both chilling and absurdly funny. Experience the originality of Chung’s style by reading “The Frozen Finger” recently published in Recommended Reading!
Dead-End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto
First published in Japan in 2003 and translated into English by Asa Yoneda, Dead-End Memories tells the story of five women who each have experienced unexpected, painful events and are working their way towards healing and recovery. Yoshimoto gracefully explores the beauties and sorrows of everyday life, offering an overall feeling of hope and gentleness that is refreshing in our current times. In 2018, Recommended Reading published Yoshimoto’s story “A Strange Tale From Down by the River.”
Entry Level by Wendy Wimmer
Wendy Wimmer’s debut story collection is composed of fifteen stories centered around everyday characters just trying to navigate life’s everyday obstacles and cruelties. Both hilarious and heartfelt, Entry Level explores the real and surreal in prose that is surprising, vivid, and unafraid to engage with big topics such as class, gender, and race with delicacy and emotional precision. The story “Ghosting” from this collection was Recommended Reading’s most read story of the year!
Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho
Following two friends Fiona Lin and Jane Shen from childhood to womanhood, Jean Chen Ho’s debut linked story collection is an intimate portrait of friendship, sexuality, identity, and heartache spanning two decades. The stories are told nonlinearly and occupy a wide array of points of view, creating a full and nuanced portrait of the main characters. All of Chen’s characters are so real and complex that readers will be thinking about them long after the collection concludes. Recommended Reading was thrilled to publish “Kenji’s Notebook” from Fiona and Jane back in January. Read the story here.
Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker
Set in California’s Central Valley, Heartbroke is a moving short story collection that balances heartache and humor in understated yet lively prose. The characters in this collection are brimming with desire—to be loved, to be seen, and to be on better footing than they currently are. Bieker’s compassion for her characters is felt on the page, even though she may not mend their broken hearts. Read the stunning story “Fact of Body” from the collection, published in Recommended Reading.
Liberation Day by George Saunders
New work by George Saunders is always cause for celebration, and Liberation Day is no different. Saunders’ newest story collection is made up of nine stories written in the trademark Saunders style we’ve come to know and love—hilarious, weird, morally complex, and deeply heartfelt. The stories explore ideas of power, ethics, and justice while taking readers to unexpected places: a Hell-themed underground amusement park, the middle of a hailstorm, a years-long brainwashing scheme. Fiercely funny and compassionate, Saunders remains one of the best in the game.
Manywhere by Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas’s debut collection Manywhere features nine dazzling short stories that center the experiences of Southern queer and genderqueer characters. Thomas’s writing is elegant and kaleidoscopic, exploring themes of desire and belonging through vibrant interiority and stories that delve into the past, present, and future. Recommended Reading had the pleasure of publishing two of their stories, “Alta’s Place”, and “The Daring Life of Phillipa Cook”, from the collection.
Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman
Longlisted for the National Book Award, Nobody Gets Out Alive is an exhilarating collection set in Alaska that features women struggling to survive. Newman’s characters face the natural world, but also the wildness of interpersonal relationships that make up a marriage, a family, and everyday life. Psychologically rich and well-crafted, this collection is perfect for lovers of adventure and complex realism. Experience the elegance and electricity of this collection by reading “Valley of the Moon”, and “An Extravaganza in Two Acts”, both published in Recommended Reading.
Rainbow Rainbow by Lydia Conklin
A highly anticipated debut, Rainbow Rainbow is a vibrant, heartfelt, and incredibly crafted collection about queer people navigating the the rocky terrain of growing up, seeking connection, and merely existing in the modern world. Ranging from middle school to adulthood, Conklin’s characters are endearingly awkward, misguided, funny, and intelligent, their interiority beautifully rendered. In an EL interview with Jessika Bovier, Conklin discusses their work and the multiplicity of queerness and transness. You can also read “Laramie Time”, the first story in their collection, in Recommended Reading.
Seeking Fortune Elsewhere by Sindya Bhanoo
This rich debut collection of short stories by Sindya Bhanoo explores the complex and diverse experiences of South Asian immigrants in prose that is beautifully detailed and full of emotional truth. Spanning many geographical settings, from Pittsburgh to Eastern Washington to Tamil Nadu, Seeking Fortune Elsewhere considers diaspora and displacement and how characters grapple with what is missing or left behind. Recommended Reading published the beautifully wrenching “Nature Exchange” from the collection in February.
Self-Portrait With Ghost by Meng Jin
Moving between San Francisco and China, realism and the surreal, the ten stories in Self-Portrait With Ghost are page turning and thought provoking. Jin’s writing is intoxicating and elegant, exploring the lives of women who are complex and often contradictory, capturing the richness of their interiority with precision and pathos. Read “Phillip is Dead” from the collection, published in Recommended Reading.
Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby
As Rachel Yoder wrote her in introduction to Gwen Kirby’s story “Here Preached His Last” (one of Recommended Reading’s most popular stories of 2022), Kirby writes vibrant and refreshing stories that “undo how a woman should be and instead articulate how women are, in all their greedy, horny, callous, messy, exuberant glory.” Shit Cassandra Saw explores the lives of mythic women from the past and present in stories that are smart, playful, expected, and a true delight to experience. Learn more about the collection by reading EL’s interview with Kirby in which she discusses her process and the stupidity of the patriarchy.
Stories From the Tenants Downstairs by Sadik Fofana
Set in a Harlem high rise, this collection explores the tangled lives of Banneker Terrace tenants in eight interconnected stories. The characters in this collection are under pressure, whether emotionally, financially, or socially, and Fofana inhabits each character with equal vibrancy and compassion. In turns humorous and heartfelt, Stories From the Tenants Downstairs takes the idea of a linked story collection to new and deeply enjoyable places. Read “Tumble” from the collection, published in Recommended Reading.
The Consequences by Manuel Muñoz
Primarily set in the 1980s in small towns surrounding Fresno, The Consequences explores the lives of Mexican and Mexican American farmworkers and the struggles and tenderness that make up their everyday lives. Full of nuance and heart, Muñoz’s writing is honest and unforgettable, marking him as a master storyteller. Read Muñoz’s beautiful story “Compromisos” about family, desire, and sacrifice.
Tomorrow in Shanghai by May-Lee Chai
In vibrant and illuminating prose, Tomorrow in Shanghai explores the Chinese diaspora and the complexity of family, belonging, and yearning. In one story, a doctor harvests organs to fund a wedding and a promising future for a family. In another, a white mother and her biracial daughter visit France and struggle to connect due to their fraught relationship. The characters in these stories are complex and vivid, Chai’s collection a testament to the multi-faceted experiences of characters living in an increasingly globalized world.