1) They are perfect for the reader pressed for time.
Making time for reading is sometimes difficult. Some days you barely clean up the dinner dishes before you fall asleep, so who has time to read 700 pages of The Goldfinch? The short story collection was written just for you. Do you have a few minutes while waiting for the kids to get off the bus? Maybe your doctor is running late for your appointment? It's short story time! Most stories are under 30 pages, which means you can feel the accomplishment of actually finishing a story in a short amount of time.
2) You can experience old favorites and new authors all in one place.
The short story collection that I most recently read - The Best American Short Stories 2013 - features respected authors like Junot Diaz and Alice Munro, but I also got to experience writers like Joan Wickersham and Steven Millhauser, who I had never read before.
3) It's the best place to experience a plethora of styles and stories.
Where else can you read one book and find a story about a couple hoping to get pregnant, a teen who sleeps with an older woman while worrying about the impending apocalypse, and a woman trying to get a donation from a wealthy author for an organization at-risk for teen girls? In one place, you can find stories told in stark prose that break your heart in just a few pages and gorgeous descriptions that take you to new and distant places.
4) It stretches you as a reader.
Your reading brain can grow complacent if you only ever read one sort of book. If you only ever read historical tomes about WWII or fantasy featuring dragons, your reading might need a bit of a shakeup! I find short story collections a great way to break out of a reading slump or just give my mind the opportunity to experience a different length and a different kind of writing.
5) Short stories force authors to work at the top of their games.
Have you ever read a book where you wish a discerning editor had cut 150 pages or so? It can happen easily in novels or nonfiction, where there is no page limit. In short stories, every phrase has to count. Writers craft some of their greatest sentences and most ingenious plot twists within the parameters of 30 pages.
I just saw that the ladies at the Socractic Salon have been discussing short stories too! Make sure to stop by and see what they think.
Do you read short story collections? Why do you enjoy them?