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12 Must-Read Short Story Collections for the Time-Crunched Busy Working Professional

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Writer Smita Das Jain recommends the 12 best fiction books for working professionals

In the hustle and bustle of today's corporate world, finding time to unwind and indulge in leisurely reading can be a daunting challenge. Yet, for those who are eager to escape the rigours of professional life, expand their horizons, and discover new perspectives, short story collections can be the perfect literary companion.

Reading fiction has its benefits for working professionals. As an author with corporate experience, I understand the demands of a fast-paced working life, which is why I'm excited to introduce you to an exquisite selection of short story collections that cater to the needs of time-crunched, busy professionals. In an era where time is a rare luxury, short stories serve as the literary equivalent of an espresso shot—quick, invigorating, and capable of brightening even the busiest professional's day.

Short Stories vs. Novels

In the fast-paced world, time is a precious commodity. For the time-crunched professional, finding moments to relax and indulge in literature can be a challenging feat. This is where short stories come to the rescue, offering a distinct advantage over their lengthier counterparts, novels.

Time Efficiency

Short stories, as their name implies, are succinct narratives that can be devoured in a single sitting. Novels, on the other hand, demand a more substantial time commitment. In the brief interludes between meetings and tasks, busy professionals can immerse themselves in a complete story, making short stories an ideal choice for those seeking literary respite without sacrificing productivity.

Faster Pace

The pace of a short story is often swifter than that of a novel. With limited space to develop characters and plots, authors must pack a punch in every sentence. This results in narratives that engage readers immediately, making them a perfect choice for individuals accustomed to the rapid rhythm of corporate life. Short stories deliver instant gratification, allowing readers to experience a full story arc without the extended buildup often found in novels.


One of the most compelling advantages of short story collections is their versatility. These collections offer a smorgasbord of themes, genres, and voices. Whether you crave a slice of suspense, a dash of romance, or a glimpse into a different culture, short story collections provide a curated selection of diverse narratives. This flexibility allows time-crunched professionals to explore various literary landscapes without committing to a single storyline for an extended period.

What to Read?

Cutting through the clutter of choices, I have curated a list of 12 best short story collections, one for each month of the year, specially tailored for the time-crunched, busy working professional. These books transcend nationalities, offering a diverse range of narratives that will captivate and enrich your reading experience. So, let's embark on this literary journey, shall we?

12 Recommended Short Story Collections for Busy Working Professionals

1. The Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez, Argentina

Writer Smita Das Jain recommends The Alchemist for working professionals

Mariana Enriquez's The Things We Lost in the Fire is a haunting collection of 12 dark stories set in the contemporary landscape of Argentina. Delving into themes of witchcraft, possession, and the supernatural, Enriquez crafts narratives that will send shivers down your spine. These tales explore the hidden fears and the eerie underbelly of human nature. It's a chilling reminder that the world is replete with mysteries that defy explanation.

For the rushed professionals, this collection offers a unique escape from the stresses of daily life. Dive into the enigmatic world Enriquez creates, and you'll gain a profound insight into the enigmatic and often unsettling aspects of human existence. As you navigate through stories that touch upon folklore and psychology, you'll find yourself learning new things, broadening your horizons, and appreciating the complexities of the world around you.

2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, India

Author Smita Das Jain recommends this fiction working professionals

Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" is a beautifully crafted collection of short stories that traverse the lives of Indian immigrants and the complexities of their cultural assimilation. Through the eyes of Lahiri's characters, you'll explore the intricacies of human relationships, identity, and belonging.

For the time-crunched professional, this collection offers a poignant and immersive reading experience. Lahiri's evocative storytelling allows you to connect with characters from diverse walks of life, providing a fresh perspective on the challenges of adaptation and the universal quest for connection.

3. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, USA

Writer and Life Coach Smita Das Jain recommends To Kill a Mockingbird for Working Professionals

Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is a gripping collection of interconnected stories that delve deep into the experiences of American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Through vivid narratives, O'Brien explores the weight of emotional baggage and the haunting memories that accompany soldiers long after the war has ended.

For juggling careerists seeking a thought-provoking read, this collection offers a window into the human psyche in the most trying of circumstances. O'Brien's storytelling is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, reminding us of the profound impact of shared burdens and the stories that unite us all.

4. The Collected Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, India

Author and Executive Coach recommends The Kite Runner for working professionals

Rabindranath Tagore, the literary giant from India, presents "The Collected Stories," a treasure trove of narratives that span the spectrum of human emotions. Tagore's stories touch upon love, loss, identity, and the intricate web of human relationships, all set against the backdrop of colonial-era India.

For the time-strapped experts, Tagore's tales offer a rich cultural immersion. You'll find solace in the lyrical prose and timeless wisdom that permeate these stories, providing a glimpse into the complexities of life in a bygone era while resonating with universal themes that remain relevant today.

5. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, USA

Author Smita Das Jain recommends the book thief for working professional

Kevin Powers' "The Yellow Birds" takes readers on a harrowing journey through the experiences of soldiers in Iraq. Through a series of interconnected stories, Powers paints a haunting picture of the physical and psychological toll of war, exploring themes of friendship, survival, and the consequences of violence.

For the bustling careerists seeking an immersive exploration of the human psyche, this collection offers a visceral look into the traumas faced by soldiers in the line of duty. Powers' storytelling is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those in uniform and the profound impact of war on the human soul.

6. Tenth of December by George Saunders, USA

Writer Smita Das Jain recommends this book for Working Professionals

George Saunders' "Tenth of December" is a masterful blend of satire and empathy. These stories transport readers to a not-so-distant future where the mundane collides with the extraordinary. Through sharp wit and keen observation, Saunders explores the quirks of human behaviour and the complexities of our society.

For the time-crunched professional, this collection provides a thought-provoking escape from the corporate grind. Saunders' unique storytelling style challenges conventional norms and encourages readers to question the status quo. Engaging with these tales allows for fresh perspectives and newfound insights into the world around you.

7. A Twist in the Tale by Jeffrey Archer, UK

Writer and Coach Smita Das Jain recommends The White Tiger for Working Professionals

Jeffrey Archer, the master of suspense and intrigue, presents "A Twist in the Tale." This collection is a rollercoaster ride of unexpected turns and thrilling plots. Each story is a testament to Archer's storytelling prowess, keeping readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.

For the time-strapped professional, Archer's gripping narratives offer the perfect antidote to a hectic workday. Dive into these stories, and you'll be whisked away into a world of suspense, mystery, and cleverly crafted surprises. This collection is a reminder that even in the midst of chaos, there's room for intrigue and excitement.

8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, UK

Writer and Personal Empowerment Life Coach recommends this book for writing professionals

Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Complete Sherlock Holmes" is a literary masterpiece that needs no introduction. This iconic collection features the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusty companion, Dr John Watson, as they solve baffling mysteries in Victorian London.

For busy professionals, this collection offers a timeless escape into the world of deductive reasoning and logical thinking. Join Holmes and Watson in their adventures, and you'll find yourself honing your problem-solving skills and gaining a deeper appreciation for the power of critical thinking.

9. A Slice of Life: Every Person Has a Story by Smita Das Jain, India

Author and Executive Coach recommends this book for professional development of working professionals

Smita Das Jain's "A Slice of Life" is a collection of heartwarming stories that delve into the lives of ordinary people, uncovering extraordinary moments. These narratives celebrate the beauty of human connections, resilience, and the power of small gestures that can change lives.

For the time-crunched professional, Jain's stories offer a dose of optimism and a reminder of the goodness that exists in the world. Reading these tales will inspire you to appreciate the everyday moments and the profound impact of kindness, even in the busiest of times.

(Disclosure: The author of the book and the writer of the article are the same person.)

10. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver, USA

Smita Das Jain recommends this book for professional development for working professionals

Raymond Carver's "Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?" is a collection of minimalist yet profound stories that explore the nuances of human relationships and the quiet desperation that often lurks beneath the surface of everyday life.

For bustling careerists seeking introspection and a deeper understanding of human emotions, Carver's narratives provide a meditative escape. These stories encourage self-reflection and a recognition of the complexities that define our interactions with others.

11. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria

Executive Coach and Personal Empowerment Life Coach Smita Das Jain recommends The Hunger Games for Working Professionals

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "The Thing Around Your Neck" offers a collection of poignant stories that traverse the experiences of Nigerians both at home and abroad. Through her powerful storytelling, Adichie delves into themes of identity, displacement, and cultural adjustment.

For the overwhelmed workers, these stories offer a unique perspective on the immigrant experience and the universal quest for belonging. Adichie's narratives are a reminder of the shared human experiences that connect us across borders and cultures.

12. Runaway by Alice Munro, Canada

Writer and Author Smita Das Jain recommends The Shadow Lines for Working Professionals

Alice Munro's "Runaway" is a mesmerizing collection of stories that peer into the lives of women facing various challenges and dilemmas. Munro's writing is known for its depth and insight into the intricacies of human emotions and relationships.

For swamped professionals, Munro's stories offer a chance to explore the complexities of human nature and the choices we make. These narratives provide an opportunity for self-reflection and a deeper understanding of the choices we all must confront in our lives.

The Last Word- Short Story Collections are Literary Havens for Busy Working Professionals

Delving into fiction isn’t just an escape from the daily grind; it’s a strategic tool for working professionals. While reading a novel is a significant investment of time, short stories provide a sanctuary—a brief respite that allows you to escape, reflect, and recharge. They offer a gateway to new perspectives, a deepening of your understanding of the human condition, and a reminder that amidst the chaos of daily life, literature stands as a beacon of solace and enlightenment.

So, set aside some precious moments each month, and let these short story collections accompany you on your literary journey. Let the curated list of books serve as your compass. Embrace the magic of storytelling and find solace in the captivating narratives that await you in these pages.

Twisted Tales and Turns by Writer Smita Das Jain

What if reality was a carefully crafted illusion, and every truth you thought you knew was a mirage?

Find Out in Twisted Tales and Turns

Happy reading, fellow professionals, and may these short stories be a source of inspiration, relaxation, and personal growth in your busy lives.

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion and writes every day. Her debut short story collection, 'A Slice of Life', was named among India’s top three fiction works by Writefluence, and her debut novel, 'A Price to Love', found a mention in DelhiWire’s Top 50 books of 2022. She is also the first-prize winner of the prestigious Bharat Award for Literature-2023 for her short story ‘Purchased Love’, and the only Asian to be named in the Top 20 flash fiction winners list in the Spring 2022 contest of the prestigious US-based Women On Writing (WOW!) magazine for women writers. Her award-winning short stories have been featured in prominent anthologies and literary ezines around the globe. You can learn more about Smita’s writings at

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