Anthology of the Best Short Stories
September 11, 2014 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Anthology of the Best Short Stories
In a 1914 New York Times article, twenty-six of the most prominent writers of the day were asked what was the best short story in the English language. Among those naming what they considered the best story were Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, Edna Ferber and Booth Tarkington. I have compiled these stories (approximately 1,500 pages) into a three volume series.

When I first came across the article, I thought, I'd like to read these. Yes, the stories are public domain, but not all proved to be readily available. After spending a couple of weeks assembling them from on-line and from brick-and-mortar libraries, I realized I wished this had been done for me. And I wished some of those which were available online but in a crude format had been checked for scanning errors. This process took me several more weeks.

After this was done, I contacted a publisher, Rook's Page Press, an imprint of Açedrex Publishing, and we put this compilation together for a moderate price. (I wanted the price to be a little lower.) The stories total over 550,000 words.

In August Volumes I, II, III became available in electronic format beginning at $5.99.

This month, Volume I became available in print form for approximately $20 (depending on source) and II and III will be available in the next couple of weeks.

The original article named 49 short stories (some are novellas). To round the number up to fifty, I included James Joyce's The Dead, published in 1914 and considered one of the forerunners of modernism.

These stories include many of the acknowledged canon of great short literature along with, what was even better from my perspective, some all-but-lost treats. I fell in love with the work of A. Neil Lyons who seems nearly forgotten today.

I wrote introductions for each of the three volumes including a perspective on literature from the standpoint of 1914 and a look at some of the now archaic forms of writing such as dialect, incorporating poetry and songs into stories.

As an author, it was quite a learning experience to read these. Some have not aged well, but all are masterfully-told stories.

As an added bonus, I have made available online seven stories from a different survey which asked "Which is the Best Short Story by O. Henry?"

I've had a love-meh affair with O. Henry. Loved him as a teen, thought he was too slick and sentimental for a number of years, but have recently become to appreciate him again.

The Best Short Stories in the English Language

Volume I, Table of Contents

A Lodging for the Night—A Story of Francis Villon by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Pavilion on the Links by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
Will o’ the Mill by Robert Louis Stevenson
Wolfert Webber; or, Golden Dreams by Washington Irving
The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells
Gifts of Oblivion by Dorothy Canfield

Volume II, Table of Contents

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte
The Brushwood Boy by Rudyard Kipling
Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
An Unfinished Story by O. Henry
The Claws of the Tiger by Gouverneur Morris IV
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Providence and the Guitar by Robert Louis Stevenson
Bread Upon the Waters by Rudyard Kipling
Marjorie Daw by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Love in a Mist by A. Neil Lyons
His Wife by Stephen French Whitman
Rebecca and Rowena by William Makepeace Thackeray
Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Piece of String by Guy de Maupassant
Cinderella by The Brothers Grimm
The Story of Ruth Anonymous

Volume III, Table of Contents.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Haunted and the Haunters; Or, The House and the Brain by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
A Municipal Report by O. Henry
The Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale
The Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
The Cricket on the Hearth, A Fairy Tale of Home by Charles Dickens
The Story of Richard Doubledick by Charles Dickens
The Belled Buzzard by Irvin S. Cobb
An Incident by Sarah Barnwell Elliott
A Journey by Edith Wharton
Beyond the Pale by Rudyard Kipling
Without Benefit of Clergy by Rudyard Kipling
The Stolen Story
by Jesse Lynch Williams
The Dead by James Joyce
Role: Anthologist, copyeditor
posted by dances_with_sneetches (6 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

The Amazon Kindle site has some bits of confusion. Yes, we've contacted Amazon to clear it up. No, they haven't been helpful.

For Volume I they have reviews for an O. Henry anthology that came out a long time ago. If you click on the button that says Series you go to a general page with "Best of" short stories."

Volume II doesn't have the problem with the O. Henry anthology review but has the same problem with the series button.

Other notes and personal prejudices. Although asked for the best short story in English, five responses were from other languages. I tried to find the best contemporary translation. In my opinion, Margaret Hunt did Cinderella correctly, making it a darker story than some of the more Disney-fied translations.

I had read about fifteen of these before. It was pleasant to read with fresh eyes Brett Harte, Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, The Dead and O. Henry.

Other joys came from finally getting around to catching up on Dickens (four stories, each novella-length), discovering what a great storyteller Stevenson was (seven stories, although Jekyll and Hyde was my least favorite here), how modern Thackeray sounds, and how good some not-so-famous stories such as His Wife and Love in the Mist turned out to be.

Disappointments were most of Poe (I found The Gold-Bug unpleasant), Washington Irving, and most of Kipling (He had six stories chosen. The ones I found best were The Man Who Would Be King and The Maltese Cat).

Sometimes the racism was hard to handle. In The Gold-Bug, the main character is regularly beating his know-nothing slave. In contrast, some stories look at injustice to minorities.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:51 PM on September 11, 2014

In the spirit of the promotion of availability of great literature, here is a sampling of the stories, free online. I chose some of the better stories and those with fairly good copyediting and reader friendly sites. At the sites you will find enough books for several lifetimes.

These are not the raw files I used for my compilation. I tended to start with Gutenberg to avoid any question of changes or issues of copyright if the material was derived from more recent editions.

A Lodging for the Night—A Story of Francis Villon by Robert Louis Stevenson via the fairly comprehensive

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad via sparknotes which includes many study aids.

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling from the Kipling Society.

The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells. has a lot of books, even if they have to be found via the wayback machine.

Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens
From the Australian public domain ebook site, eBooks@Adelaide
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:20 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

These look great, thank you.
posted by dng at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2014

This looks great, will it be possible to order in the UK?
posted by Ned G at 2:27 AM on September 15, 2014

It is available in ebook format from Amazon UK, for the Nook and for Kobo.

Since there are three volumes and a variety of links for US, Canada, UK, India, Australia and Japan, I'll refer you to the links here. Scroll down for each of the three volumes.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:16 AM on September 15, 2014

Since the profit is razor-thin on the bound volumes and the page count on Volume III was up to 550 pages, the bound volume will not include James Joyce's The Dead (which was not part of those selected by the NYT, rather, it was a bonus).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:46 AM on September 22, 2014

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