Monday Musing About Short Story Collections

September 16, 2013 Monday Musings 22

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 Responses to “Monday Musing About Short Story Collections”

  1. Nara

    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…

    • DoingDewey

      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 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I’m glad it’s not just me 🙂 I feel like a lot of people give more detail than I do while I prefer to make my reviews short and sweet.

  2. Krystyn

    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.

    • DoingDewey

      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.

  3. Kendra @ Champagne and Books

    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!

    • DoingDewey

      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.

  4. cleopatralovesbooks

    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.

    • DoingDewey

      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.

  5. bookmammal

    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.

    • DoingDewey

      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.

  6. TracyK

    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.

    • DoingDewey

      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.

  7. Leah

    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…

    • DoingDewey

      It’s starting to seem like the consensus is that’s the best way to go. I’m glad it’s not just me who doesn’t like to review story by story 🙂

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