Monday Musing About Short Story Collections

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

I don’t read many collections of short stories, but I have twice since I started blogging. Each time I begin to write a review, I’m confronted by a dilemma. How do you review a collection with a lot of short stories? Do you review each separately? Or do you try to review them all together?

Personally, I’ve come down on the side of reviewing the book as a whole. In order to convey useful information about specific stories, I look for themes connecting the stories I liked or the stories I didn’t. That allows me to say something more useful that just “some were better than others”. At the same time, I avoid writing excessively long reviews just because the collection had a lot of short stories. If I’m completely honest, the reviews that do go story by story are ones I almost always skim or skip, unless there are just a few stories. The reviews I love are those that either focus on a few favorites and a few least favorites or those I’ve decided to emulate, that focus on larger themes and the feel of the collection as a whole.

How do you review short story collections? When you’re reading someone else’s review of a short story collection, what format do you prefer?

22 Comments

Filed under Monday Musings

22 responses to “Monday Musing About Short Story Collections

  1. This is actually a really difficult issue! I’d requested a book from NetGalley because the cover was awesome and when I went to read it, it was like o.O it’s an anthology. And the stories in it were reaaally short. As in, some of them were 2 pages long. I was like HOW THE HECK DO I REVIEW THAT?! So I ended up just doing an overall review, and mentioning some of the stories that I liked in particular, and then did an individual one sentence summary and rating of each story. To be honest though, I’m still not sure how to review short story collections…

    • Wow, I think something with a ton of short stories would be the hardest kind of anthology to review! It sounds like what you did was probably a really good way to handle it 🙂

  2. I also look for themes that connect the stories, and might mention two or three favorites and talk about the characters. I think it’s more challenging to review short story collections.

    Here’s MY MUSING MONDAYS POST

  3. I imagine that it would be difficult to review a collection of short stories. I don’t typically read those. Thanks for stopping by my blog and regarding the Happiness book…the author even said the book has great info even for those w/o kids…it’s a great read to far.

  4. I look for a theme but then I usually talk about my favorite two. Like you I don’t write long review as I don’t read other peoples long reviews. Here is my post:
    MM

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one! I feel a little bad that I don’t have the attention span for long reviews, but unless one has a really great hook, I’ll usually just skim the long ones.

  5. I usually look for a theme, and then talk about my favorite one and my least favorite one. I find them so hard to review, so I try and steer clear of them!

    • I think that sounds like a great way to review 🙂 I talked about which types of essays I liked best and least in my reviews, but I think I could do more to highlight a few favorites. Maybe next time.

  6. I agree a short story collection is challenging to review. I do the same as the previous bloggers look for a theme and then concentrate on the writing. I also don’t like long reviews if it is story by story. I do however like ‘chatty’ reviews which link stories to personal or thoughts about the whole collection.

    • The two I’ve read were actually all by different authors, which made talking about the writing a lot harder! Fortunately, there were some connecting themes that let me talk about essays in groups anyway.

  7. Valentina

    Yes, I do the same thing. It’s better to review the collection as a whole, I think.

    http://carabosseslibrary.blogspot.com/2013/09/musing-mondays_16.html

  8. I’ve never really thought about this before! It does sound like reviewing an anthology would have special challenges. I guess I’d be interested in reading a review that would mention the general theme of the collection, and how well the selected stories fit into that theme. I think a blow-by-blow description of each story would get tiresome, but I’d probably want to know more specific details about 1-2 of the stories that really stood out.

    • The review you describe sounds like my ideal review 🙂 I hadn’t thought about it until I suddenly needed to do something about it! I suppose there are challenges every time you review a book from a new genre, but anthologies are the trickiest I’ve found so far.

  9. I haven’t reviewed any short story anthologies because I have not read any. I do plan to try a few so I have given thought to what kind of reviews I would write for that type of book. Definitely not a list of the short stories with comments on each. I agree, too long and possibly enjoyed by the readers of the blog. Suggestions above like an overall review and point out some good stories sound like the way to go.

    • I hadn’t read any until quite recently I read one for a tour and one for my Dewey Decimal read-through. I enjoyed both of them, but it did take some thinking to decided how I wanted to review them.

  10. Jennie

    I’ve never read or reviewed such a collection but can see why it’s a challenge / dilemma. Here’s my musing: http://daystarz.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/musing-mondays-8/

  11. I think I take a similar approach to reviewing short story collections. I’ll give highlight a few stories that stood out, look for unifying themes, and discuss how the collection works as a whole — is it cohesive, what’s the tone…

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