Best Short Stories 2020

Historical corrections, a fascination with science, burdens of the past. The best short stories published in 2020.

See all of our 2020 Best Books lists


Bynum, Sarah Shun-lien. Likes. Farrar. ISBN 9780374191948.

Bynum is wise to the ways one’s world can change in midstream and here turns her deeply kind—yet unsparing—gaze on ordinary people in shifting circumstances. From young girls learning to navigate relationships to adults recalibrating their expectations of race, love, and class, each of these well-told, human-scale stories is as quietly surprising as life can be.


Evans, Danielle. The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories. Riverhead. ISBN 9781594487330.

A contemporary Black scholar working in government finds her life upended when asked to investigate racial violence in 1930s Milwaukee. A singularly unaware white student tries to redeem herself after an image of her wearing a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral, even as she struggles with her mother’s death. Throughout, Evans offers issue-rich tales of race, history, and human relationships featuring emotionally complex characters.


Kenan, Randall. If I Had Two Wings: Stories. Norton. ISBN 9781324005469.

Keen portraiture, incisive language, and fully developed scenarios blend effectively in this long-anticipated, mostly North Carolina–set new work from Kenan. Stories range from a Black plumber retaining his dignity in an exchange with a slick white pop star to an architect reflecting on relationships both professional and personal as he argues with his dying uncle about inherited land.


Krauss, Nicole. To Be a Man: Stories. Harper. ISBN 9780062431028.

Offering a first collection whose characters range from an elderly scholar watching his understanding of the world slip away to an Israeli woman learning that the apartment she’s inherited from her semi-estranged father is used by her father’s old friend whenever he’s in town, National Book Award finalist Krauss deploys superbly controlled language to explain how we become who we are.


Mason, Daniel. A Registry of My Passage upon the Earth: Stories. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316477635.

Bringing a polymath’s fascination with science, medicine, and history to an engaging range of stories, Mason animates his debut collection with warmth and wonder. This cabinet of curiosities imagines what moves a lonesome telegraph operator in the Amazon, a young English bare-knuckle fighter, a woman balloonist confronted with a tear in the firmament, a 19th-century epileptic physician, and more.


Serizawa, Asako. Inheritors. Doubleday. ISBN 9780385545372.

Though each story in O. Henry Prize–winning Serizawa’s seamless debut collection is entirely distinctive, they are linked—partly by family connection, as indicated by a family tree in the opening pages, but more by issues of heritage, identity, and the burdens of the past. Elegant language that perceptively renders the consequences of cross-culturalism binds them as well.


Van den Berg, Laura. I Hold a Wolf by the Ears: Stories. Farrar. ISBN 9780374102098.

These well-crafted, complex stories explore the many ways a life can be haunted. Van den Berg’s women, often less successful younger sisters or slightly flawed daughters, have missed some benchmark in life and in their search to right the balance encounter loss, mistaken identity, buried family secrets, and threatened violence. The author’s deft touch keeps these slightly gothic tales propulsive and intriguing.


See all of our 2020 Best Books lists

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