Wodke Hawkinson believes a reader should never be tricked into buying a book of short stories believing it is a full-length novel. Some authors unfortunately title their short story collections in a way that obscures the fact that they are indeed stories and not a single book-length work.
That said, short story collections are an ideal reading alternative, and come in handy in certain circumstances. In fact, they are at times preferable to longer works.
Waiting: Whether spending time in a waiting room for an appointment or simply waiting for someone to arrive, short stories can fill the gap. A story is relatively quick to finish and doesn’t require the investment in time and uninterrupted attention that some full-length books do. It’s like a literary snack that fills empty spaces of time and can stave off the appetite for fiction until there is enough time to devote to reading a novel.
Reading in bed: For those of us who like to read to get drowsy, short stories are a wonderful alternative to the novel. A reader can usually hold his eyes open long enough to get to the end of a short story. On the other hand, a novel does not offer this same advantage. If a novel is very engaging, the reader might find himself actually fighting sleep to see what happens next, thereby defeating the purpose.
Between novels: Sometimes grabbing a short story or two makes a nice transition between longer works. It allows a little time to ‘clear the palate’ and fill the small gap before tackling another novel or book.
Sampling an author: Short stories offer a way of finding out if you like an author’s style, without committing time and resources to an in-depth reading project only to discover you and the author do not mesh. It’s not an absolute guarantee, but chances are good that if you like the short story, you will probably also enjoy the author’s full-length works, too. Sometimes authors produce singles for their readers. A mere preview does not allow the reader to see how a writer handles the execution of the plot and brings around the conclusion. A short story can give the reader a glimpse into the author’s complete writing style in a way that a preview simply cannot.
What are your reasons and/or motivations for reading short stories or short story collections? Have you any favorites?