A few years ago I had a roommate who was really into reading short stories. They were often the perfect solution for balancing her desire to read with the time commitment of finishing her portfolio. While I was living with her, I would sometimes read stories from her books, and grew to really appreciate them. I only have a few compilations of short stories in my collection, and sometimes I forget about them in the face of more time for whole books, but I still enjoy them a lot.

A conversation the other day reminded me of one of my favorite short stories, Conceived, by David Lawrence Morse, so I reread it. The whole thing takes place among a group of people who live on the back of a whale, Ceta. The style is very visually descriptive and the story is beautiful and sad. It outshines every other story in the compilation.

On a completely different plane from Conceived are Miranda July’s stories from No One Belongs Here More Than You. July strikes the perfect balance between bizarre and universal. Most of the stories involve people who feel like outsiders in some way. Each person deals with this in their own touching or troubling, but always unique, way. In addition to being a great read, I like the book design.

I also recently picked up a book of Roald Dahl’s short stories. Like many other people, I read James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and The Witches as a child, but was not familiar with Dahl’s fiction for adults. When I ran across Kiss Kiss, I decided to read and compare. Although I have not finished the whole collection yet, I was surprised by how dark the stories are. There is humor, but it is dark and sometimes morbid humor. In retrospect, his children’s books have this quality, too, but in a PG sort of way.