Short Story Spotlight: The Grammarian’s Five Daughters


Growing up, I was never into short story anthologies. I read Goosebumps, Choose Your Own Adventure books, various novels, and the works of Shel Silverstein. And as a young adult, I went through a Stephen King phase, reading about anything of his that I could get my hands on. Which included his short story collections. And that’s when, I think, I discovered the magic of the form. Short stories were, and still are, a box of chocolate to me. Each story was a different flavor and texture, some nuttier than others and some containing a delicious surprise that was unexpected but thoroughly enjoyable.

About ten years ago, or more, my brother gave me The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: The Thirteenth Annual Collection, edited by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. Inside is gathered the stories of many talented writers, the tales steeped in shades of magic or probing the darkness. It is a delight to read, and every so often the volume calls to me from my bookshelf and I once more lose myself within its pages.

One of my favorites, and it so difficult to choose (which is why I will list some more favorites at the end of this post) is The Grammarian’s Five Daughters  by Eleanor Arnason. This story is whimsical, part fairy tale and part grammar lesson, both beautiful and charming. If interested, you can read it here The Grammarian’s Five Daughters

And as threaten–uh, promised, here are some of my other favorites:

  • Crosley by Elizabeth Engstrom
  • The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse by Susanna Clarke
  • Halloween Street by Steve Rasnic Tem
  • Darkrose and Diamond by Ursula K.Le Guin
  • The Girl Detective by Kelly Link
  • Harlequin Valentine by Neil Gaiman
  • You Don’t Have to Be Mad by Kim Newman


Do you read short stories and what are some of your favorites?


10 responses »

  1. An interesting little post, Melissa, with some short story recommendations which I shall look into. It never ceases to amaze me how much quality literature there is out there – if only there were the time to read it all. I do like Neil Gaiman, but have to admit to never being able to get into Ursula K.Le Guin. As for the rest, well, we’ll have to see!
    Take care, Chris.

    • Thank you very much, Chris! I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s work too and must confess that besides Darkrose and Diamond I haven’t read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin, though I plan to. 🙂

  2. Alrighty, I’m geared up to read the Grammarian, but you might give me the head’s up if it’s on the strictly fantasy side, the horror side, or a twofer special. I have to prepare myself. Any horror and I’m going to read it sitting outside in the bright sunshine with my smart phone blasting happy Disney tunes. I’m nervous already. 🙂

  3. I like short stories too. My favorite short story book is by John Grisham called Ford County. There’s a story in there about a man who has a knack for gambling and manages to make a lot of money doing it, but unintentionally. Love that story because it provides a wonderful stepping stone for readers who are looking for an interesting twist on the “get rich quick” theme most often found in stories in the genre!

  4. Fantastic post, Melissa! I remember you recommending “The Grammarian’s Five Daughters” to me, and I greatly enjoyed reading it. And after glancing over my bookshelf tonight, I found that I have the seventh edition of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. (It has a short story by Dan Simmons called “Dying in Bangkok” that is so dark and disturbing, I still remember it vividly, though I read it a good 10 years ago.) I also have a collection of Elizabeth Engstrom’s short stories called Nightmare Flower. Since I’m primarily a short story writer, this is a form that’s near and dear to my heart. I fell in love with the short story when I first read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Another favorite of mine from childhood is William Stafford’s “The Osage Orange Tree.” And who could forget first reading Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”?

    • Thanks, Miranda! Wow! It’s amazing how some stories stay with us for a long time. I read one once that was so disturbing I couldn’t finish it and that horrible baby creature in the story still haunts my mind every now and then. I love Poe’s short stories and remember the fist time I read “The Masque of the Red Death” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is still one of my favorites. I’ll have to check out Nightmare Flowers, I loved Elizabeth Engstrom’s “Crosley”. Thank you for the recommendations, Miranda! 😀

      • Ooh, your mention of a horrible baby creature made me think of another incredibly disturbing story by Joyce Carol Oates called “Family.”

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