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The Complete Short Stories

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  995 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Before he trailed off into the wilds of Mexico, never to be heard from again, Ambrose Bierce achieved a public persona as "bitter Bierce" and "the devil's lexicographer." He left behind a nasty reputation and more than ninety short stories that are perfect expressions of his sardonic genius. Brought together in this volume, these stories represent an unprecedented accompli ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by University of Nebraska Bison Books (first published November 1971)
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Best Short Story Collections
121st out of 763 books — 598 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,283)
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Teresa
Este livro termina com um breve resumo da vida de Ambrose Bierce, que é tão estranha e perturbadora como a maioria dos contos que escreveu.
Nasceu no Ohio, em 1842, e foi um dos treze filhos de um casal pobre mas culto. Estudou engenharia topográfica e alistou-se no exército onde foi gravemente ferido. Posteriormente, trabalhou nas Finanças e num jornal. Casou e teve dois filhos; os filhos morreram, a mulher morreu. Um dia, atravessou a fronteira mexicana e desapareceu para sempre.

Este volume co
...more
Eleanore
What a marvelous surprise to discover the wit and pen that sketched-out such wonderful and scathing commentary through the Devil's Dictionary has an equal if not greater ability for vivid, poignant, and in many cases quite thrilling short tales. The same dry voice carves eloquently from such humble subject-matter as miners, farmers, and soldiers a variety (one might even say a perversity) of angles on the human condition - with a sharp clarity that is in no way lessened by its lightness, its hum ...more
Andrew
Hey! You like Kafka, right? Cormac McCarthy? Borges? Then why the FUCK aren't you reading Ambrose Bierce?

This is our own homegrown, 19th Century Gothic/absurd/nihilistic wonder, by turns moody, witty, unearthly, gritty, surreal, and blackly humorous in a way that makes Flannery O'Connor seem like Dora the Explorer. He covers so much territory in so many genres and was so far ahead of his time to really be fully appreciated by us Yanks, and then, when life sucked too bad, had the cojones to actua
...more
Matt
This book is divided into three sections: The World of Horror, The World of War, and The World of Tall Tales. Each section should be reviewed on its own. The World of Horror is an enjoyable collection of ghost stories. They are not terribly frightening, but they good, worth three stars.
The World of War is, obviously, a collection of stories on war, the Civil War to be specific. This section would be given five stars. Taken as a whole, they are a masterpiece of the genre, but also they are not s
...more
Jon Recluse
Ambrose Bierce was a true American original. Civil War hero. Journalist. A true master of the English language who lived by the maxim "Less is more" in his writing. (He defined a novel as "a short story, padded"). Gifted with a razor sharp mind and a wit commonly referred to as "pure venom", Bierce's stories are unique in the amount of power he packed into so few words. In this collection, you will find his excellent ghost and horror stories, his often horrific tales based upon his experiences i ...more
Brent
Jun 04, 2008 Brent rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: American Literature; Civil War/Ghost story fans
The only thing that could make this collection a more perfect union would be to put the 'tall tales' section at the beginning or middle because, there's a touch of anticlimax reading them after the ghost and war stories sections. Oh they're great, they just don't wrench you and break your heart like the other two sections do.
Matthew
So many wonderful, unexpected things to be found in these pages. Probably American literature's most gruesome sense of humor. The civil war stories read like horror stories. The horror stories read like dark comedy, and the tall tales read like the wicked, prolonged jokes told by drunken old men.
Alex
If you only read one Bierce story a day, you’ll be busy for a year. I don’t recommend sitting down with this collection and trying to plow straight through. You need some time to mentally unpack each one and let the impact come through. There are so many works of masterful craftsmanship, that it’s difficult to consider them all.

THE SUITABLE SURROUNDINGS is a thesis statement on the enjoyment of horror fiction. This is required reading for every consumer of the genre. AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK B
...more
Joseph
This book was nearly a decade in finishing. I began reading some of his tales--and subsequently purchased this volume--in high school. Separated into three massive sections, horror, war stories, and "tall-tales", the volume is really three collections and gives the strange impression of three minds to one writer; though one can see clearly how one person could have written all three types of stories, the horror tales are so similar to each other that it's hard imagining the writer ever writing a ...more
Riannon
As soon as I read this quote by Bierce in the introduction, I knew this collection would be worth reading: "I know how to write a story...for magazine readers for whom literature is too good, but I will not do so as long as stealing is more honorable and more interesting." I smiled while reading this, silently agreeing with Bierce that there are a plethora of readers "for whom literature is too good," and respecting the fact that he refused to compromise his literary principles to make money.

So
...more
Brenton Nichol
Ambrose Bierce is considered one of the finest satirists in the English language, and also a perfecter of the modern short story. Of most interest to me was his status as one of the more important precursors to today's horror literature. He was an early practitioner of the short-form tale of terror, and as I understand it did much to till the soil (alongside the likes of M.R. James) for the bloom of horror and weird fiction in the early 20th century. True enough, one will find psychological terr ...more
Bruce Reid
Uneven, as any omnibus will be, but Bierce's precision has the merit of brevity. When he's got hold of a rum idea, at least he doesn't torture it beyond its length. At his full powers--"Chickamauga," "The Moonlit Road," "The Affair at Coulter's Notch" and so many others--I'd probably cite him as my favorite short story writer, acerbic yet still heartfelt, dispassionate but fully invested, formally precise while aware of the horrors that threaten all reason.
John
I've actually only read a few of the stories in here, but I love Bierce's style and humor. Some of the stories are satires, others are twisted little gothic tales--but they all share his peculiar dark wit and sometimes bitter irony. He's great for when you're in a bad mood or just need to laugh at humanity. The stories are fairly short, so it's a good thing for casual reading or to take on a plane ride.
Stephanie
Apr 27, 2013 Stephanie marked it as to-read
I was crushing on Ambrose Bierce from a distance before, but then I read The Old Gringo. Now I want to join the ranks of the obsessed.
Joshua Buhs
I finally finished! I've been dipping into this book for over a year. Mostly because I felt like I _should_ know my Bierce: he's foundational to so many later American writers, even though he is mostly ignored today, with the exception of "An Incident at Owl Creek Bridge," which has become a school-house classic.

And I cannot say that he is unjustly ignored. As always, this is probably a reflection of my own Philistine tendencies. What I see, though, is that so much of Bierce has been picked up b
...more
Michael
Oct 11, 2011 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Horror fans, cynics, satire buffs
Recommended to Michael by: Bob Black
Shelves: literature, satire
As the title suggests, this single volume contains the entire fiction output of one of America’s most interesting writers. Ambrose Bierce was an extremely colorful individual, who is probably best known today for his cynical work, “The Devil’s Dictionary,” a satirical lexicon which irreverently attacked the mores and foibles of the time. He lived during the late 19th and early 20th century, having served in the Civil War and relocated in San Francisco at a time when it could still be considered ...more
Scott A. Nicholson
I picked this collection up mainly for Bierce's horror stories and, although I've heard excellent things about his war stories, have decided to temporarily shelf it upon completion of the former. What follows is a partial review:

Bierce has some truly chilling stories that, given the right mood, can really frighten. His writing style is meticulous and well crafted which is both his strength and his weakness, often shining through his journalistic background; many a time to the detriment of the st
...more
Sean
I had always wanted to read more Ambrose Bierce, since tackling "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge", back in grammar school. I never followed up on that until late last year, when I purchased this anthology from a local indie bookshop. Robert Anton Wilson and a few others piqued my interest in Bierce again, so I thought I'd give the short stories a go.

This edition collects all of his short stories, published in various newspapers and magazines, up until the time of his mysterious disappearance i
...more
Jeffrey
Well, Ambrose Bierce maintains the lead as the best darn short story author the US has produced (and we have produced a lot good 'uns). He is funny, he is insightful, he is terse. As a contemporary of Mark Twain, a Lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War, a columnist for Hearst, and an observer in Pancho Villa's army, he saw it all, and wasn't afraid to speak his mind. His somber stories are powerful even now, and his tall tales would work as well today as then. I've attached a link to ...more
Andrea Santucci
Il problema di quando si fa una raccolta del genere, che comprende la stragrande maggiornaza, se non tutti, dei racconti del soprannaturale di Bierce, è che si finisce per essere indiscriminati. Capisco che il fine di un omnibus non sia quello di presentare un autore ma di raccoglierne la totalità degli scritti, però va anche detto che non tutto ciò che Bierce ha scritto è di alta qualità. Così, accanto alle storie di buon livello, si trovano parecchi pasticci horror che rendono la lettura fin q ...more
Ericpegnam Pegnam
One of the greatest short story writer's the united states has produced. He has a sick sense of humor that allows him to take his horror stories in a different direction than Poe. Bierce is an anti-romantic is horror stories are as dry and witty as Poe's are passionate and at times overwrought. The way he plays with narrative structure in the Death of Halpyn Fraser and Owl Creek Bridge never seems tacked on or flashy but seem integral to the story he's telling.

His war stories like Chickamauga ar
...more
Jim
he was a very good writer & his stories are worth reading. Some are absolute classics (Occurance at Owl Creek) & some didn't click at all. His english is very precise & sometimes the way he uses words aren't exactly the way we use them now - makes for an occasional double-take. I would suggest having a copy of his "Dictionary" handy & skim through it first. It explains some of his attitudes & allusions.

I only gave this 4 stars since it was pretty much a 'read once' for me. I
...more
James Neve
Bierce is fabulous. Love his Devil's Dictionary, too.
Jake
I had read and loved "The Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" and "The Damned Thing" when I was a kid. A few that I actually liked better reading this book of short stories were, "The Secret of Macarger's Gulch" for it's initial scare and humorous ending, and "The Watcher of the Dead" which also had a fun ending. Bierce's writing is straight-forward and descriptive, and one of the few from the turn of the century to have dealt with the supernatural. A fun read for me.
Junio
I have a really old edition of this book. Ambrose Bierce was a war reporter during the civil war. Afterward, he wrote short stories about it, as well as The Devil's Dictionary(which defines affianced as being fitted. He lived until the Mexican Revolution, where he traveled with Pancho Villa and is assumed to have died.

The stories are remarkably realistic, and succinctly worded. Reporterly. The pathos invoked in his style is impressive.
Chandler
Bierce has become one of my favorite authors -- and mostly because of my college-lit students. "...Owl Creek Bridge," if taught effectively, can open jaded students' eyes to the beauty of writing that was written way before they were born ("I'm not reading anything that was published before I was born"....LOL). Then it's just a short hop to his other atmospheric stories, especially those with the Civil War as setting. I love this guy's stuff!
Kecia
May 22, 2007 Kecia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Edgar Allen Poe fans
I am no longer a twerp Mr. Vonnegut! I have now read An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge. I must have been sick the day it was assigned in 8th grade. I am glad that I've read it now. It is an amazing story. Bierce strung me right along (no pun intended). Wonderful surprise ending.

I'm surprised Bierce and these stories are not more popular. They are ghoulish and macabre. Excellent material for campfire story telling.
Bob
This collection of short stories is fabulous! This is Twilight Zone before anyone even had a hint there were such things. Also his stories of the Civil War are remarkable! Bierce's irreverent, off-beat, descriptions of surreal situations look at the Civil War in a very ugly, personal, human way long before anyone else would attempt to do so. These stories are must reads for anyone interested in the American Civil War!
Tom Dolan
Mostly comprised of Bierce's ghost and war stories (the latter being--in this reader's opinion--of generally superior quality to the former), the whole collection is worth the price of purchase for the sublime and ever-classic "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," which still blows me away with each re-reading. Apart from this collection, his "Devil's Dictionary" is an absolute must-own.
Marco
Una piacevole scoperta Brice!
Un paio di racconti da soli valgono il voto: La ragazza e il carnefice e sopratutto Haita il pastore.
Come sempre leggere una raccolta di racconti sminuisce un poco il volo valore a causa della ripetitivit dello stile e di alcune trovate ma non mi perito di dire che questa raccolta alla altezza dell'omonima raccolta di E. A. Poe
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Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist and satirist. Today, he is best known for his short story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and his satirical lexicon, The Devil's Dictionary.

The sardonic view of human nature that informed his work – along with his vehemence as a critic, with his motto "nothing matters" – earned him the nickname "Bitt
...more
More about Ambrose Bierce...
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary Ghost and Horror Stories Civil War Stories An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge and Other Stories

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