Adopting new system for reading short stories, and an outrageously ambitious reading project

As my desire to spread a passion for short fiction deepens and widens, I’ve been fretting these past few days over how long it takes me sometimes, to work my through a short story collection/anthology. Often I find myself lumbering my way through a collection and I get massively frustrated because 1) I see myself losing the initial impetus and fervour that I have for a collection/anthology 2) I fail to synch final reviews around publication dates and 3) I fail to represent myself anywhere close to the level I aspire to, as an ‘ambassador’ of the short story form.

So to address my shortcomings in this respect I’ve come up with a new reading strategy that will hopefully see me whipping through collections and anthologies at a more tidy pace. I’m not ready to reveal this strategy right now – mainly because I have to see if it works out first (I am confident that it will though) – but I will say that this ‘improved’ strategy centres mainly on focus, and on the way that I allocate my time for short story reading. It’s a radically different system to that which I’m employing already, and I’m kind of excited to see how it works out.

Thing is, I doubt you’ll notice much of a difference. I still consider it absolutely essential to review a collection/anthology on a story-by-story basis and I will continue to do this, and I also stick steadfastly by my rule of reading every short story twice. What you will notice I hope, is an increase in urgency when it comes to my short fiction reviewing at RobAroundBooks, and this in turn will hopefully bring more pace and excitement to the proceedings.

-=Tackling the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award=-
There’s another reason why I’ve decided to significantly speed up my short story reading at this time (aside from my undying desire to absorb as many short stories as possible, of course :)). These past couple of days I’ve spent a lot of time with this year’s recently announced Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award longlist, and I’ve somewhat fallen in love with it.

I said on Twitter a few days ago that I particularly loved this literary award because it highlighted many new short story collections that I was never previously aware of, and this year is no different. As one of the world’s richest prizes for the short story form, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award deserves to be revered. And with so many delicious short fiction treats being highlighted, word needs to get out to other short story fans just how expansive and glorious this longlist really is.

So I thought I would do something a little special (read: crazy), and immerse myself completely in the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award by reading all 77 of this year’s longlist titles.

Now, even with my cunning new short fiction reading strategy in place there’s no way I’m going to be able to read all of the longlisted titles before the winner is announced in July (or even before the winner picks the Award cheque at the Cork International Short Story Festival in September), so I’m giving myself almost a year – until the 2013 longlist is announced next March – to read and review the 2012 longlist in its entirety.

I will add very quickly that my decision to take on such a lofty reading project didn’t totally come out of the blue. I have a number of the collections listed on the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award longlist already, and by resolving to read the longlist only helps to give me more of a framework for reading and reviewing the outstanding collections that I have.

Does this mean for the next year that I’m going to ignore all other short story collections or anthologies? No, far from it. I’m still committed to journeying through the stories of the classic short fiction writers, as I am with the many collections and anthologies that continue to be published monthly. Nothing changes in this respect, and neither does my reading and reviewing in other areas of RobAroundBooks i.e. in translated fiction, essays, general fiction etc. will also remain unaffected.

Finally, note that I have a number of short story collections/anthologies that I’m currently working my way through, so I won’t be starting this reading project straight away, until I’ve got those out of the way (we’re talking a week or two at most). I hope that you’ll stick around to see how this one pans out, and that you even consider joining me in reading a collection or two.

So there we go, a new short fiction reading strategy, together with a resolution to read the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award longlist in its entirety. Not a bad day’s work for a Wednesday, eh? :).

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. stujallen (Twitter: stujallen)

    look forward to seeing how it works out ,all the best stu