Best Short Stories of 2023

The best short stories of 2023 provide bite-sized but potent looks at life, loss, grief, oppression, isolation, and, of course, wonder and joy.


Atkinson, Kate. Normal Rules Don’t Apply: Stories. Doubleday. ISBN 9780385549509.

From a man and his dog facing unexpected apocalypse and a young woman with a sharp memory finding death unaccountably blithe to a queen who wants a baby and a princess who must work to support a child she stole, Atkinson finds the fantastical in the everyday. Atmospheric stories that consistently upend.

Brinkley, Jamel. Witness: Stories. Farrar. ISBN 9780374607036.

After bursting on the scene with an astute debut collection, Brinkley takes risks in a looser-limbed new work with stories set in New York City. Even as his characters help others, resist help themselves, or find solace in unexpected places, they must ultimately decide whether to take action, and the narratives can wind up in surprising places.

Hadley, Tessa. After the Funeral and Other Stories. Knopf. ISBN 9780593536193.

A family copes (or does not) in the years after a funeral, while a woman encounters someone connected to her father’s long-ago demise. Another woman runs into her former husband, whom she at first doesn’t recognize, and estranged sisters studiously ignore each other when they inadvertently meet. In bright, exacting language, Hadley shows how events can reverberate for a lifetime.

Li, Yiyun. Wednesday’s Child: Stories. Farrar. ISBN 9780374606374.

Parents who have lost a child, individuals seeking comfort in uncertain relationships, a nanny who refuses to get attached to her charges, a mother struggling to guide her offspring in a treacherous world—Li writes penetratingly sorrowful stories reverberant with an understanding of isolation, grief, and loss.

McIlwain, Jolene. Sidle Creek: Stories. Melville House. ISBN 9781685890414.

A father and daughter bond while fishing, a woman hopes for a baby after four miscarriages, a husband builds a cherry-stained box that his wife icily rejects, and a widower falls in love with a doe that recalls the wife he lost. In fresh, bristly language, McIlwain tells affecting stories that explore the hard-scrabble life of Pennsylvania’s rural landscape as few writers have.

Millhauser, Steven. Disruptions: Stories. Knopf. ISBN 9780593535417.

In well-paced, distinctively written stories that cast suburbia in an eerie light, a woman drinks alone in her well-appointed home, a caller is drawn into heartfelt meditations by a prerecorded customer service message, and a teenage boy spends a disturbing evening with his girlfriend’s mother. No one evokes a quiet sense of malice like Millhauser.

Norris, Kelsey. House Gone Quiet: Stories. Scribner. ISBN 9781668016312.

Women sent to a conquering country to keep the peace by marrying the enemy become restless in their role, and a group of joggers who have stumbled across a dead body support one another, focusing more on their part in events than on the victim. Debuter Norris offers unsettling, wholly original stories in eye-catching language.

Orhan, Kenan. I Am My Country: And Other Stories. Random. ISBN 9780593449462.

Orhan’s striking, nuanced stories are set in a Turkey framed by oppression and sometimes the absurd. A young woman resists her brother’s admonishments to remove her veil, a struggling florist trains a stray dog in an act of resistance, and a garbagewoman who finds a banned instrument, and then its player, in the trash hosts a secret orchestra until the government cracks down.

Watkins, LaToya. Holler, Child: Stories. Tiny Reparations: Random. ISBN 9780593185940.

In vivid, edgy writing, Watkins tells powerfully affecting stories centered on a Black Texas community. An ailing woman refuses to give up her secrets to a series of clueless young white reporters, a victim of rape who adores the grown son that resulted calls out his predatory behavior, and a wife fed up with an emotionally careless husband pulls a gun on him that may or may not work.

Yoon, Paul. The Hive and the Honey: Stories. S. & S./Marysue Rucci. ISBN 9781668020791.

From a boy’s search for his prison-guard father on Sakhalin Island and a woman’s search for a prizefighter who could be her estranged son to civil servants in Edo-era Japan shepherding a Korean orphan and a couple with North Korean fathers facing pervasive prejudice, Yoon investigates shifting identities and cultures in crisp, low-key writing, the better to see the stories’ ribs.

Yu, E. Lily. Jewel Box: Stories. Erewhon. ISBN 9781645660484.

Yu’s writing is indeed jewel-like, but her stories aren’t just for decoration. A man who encounters the angel Gabriel is taken on a highflying journey that lets him die contented, a lamppost expresses deep feelings for the lives around it, and a series of wasp’s nests open to reveal intricate cartography and a community with a sobering organization.

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