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The Shell Collector

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,508 Ratings  ·  476 Reviews
The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr's acclaimed debut collection take readers from the African coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties-metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts-and conjures nature i ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 15th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 26, 2015 Regan rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-owned-read
Sep 18, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Man, this guy can write like he's an octogenarian. Bastard. Seriously. Like an octogenarian of the Wallace Stegner-class. Who does he think he is, writing timeless stories that will hold up way past the superficial, self-conscious Study of Self dreck that seems to stream from writing workshops these days. If I have to wallow through one more witless and hapless protagonist who washes his or her grief in some kind of pop culture balm, I will merely think of one of Doerr's stories to refrain from ...more
Jun 17, 2009 Tara rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all-time favorite short story collections. I bought the paperback back when I had very little income. I was browsing in the bookstore (my cheap entertainment) and found this book. I read the first sentence: "The shell collector was scrubbing limpets at his sink when he heard the water taxi come scraping over the reef. He cringed to hear it . . ." and I just had to buy it. The only new book I had purchased for some years. But I couldn't pass it up, and wanted to own it.

It did no
Mar 01, 2016 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe not all the stories in this collection are as brilliant as "The Caretaker" and "Mkondo" (a perfect ending to the book), or maybe it only seems that way because these two set the bar so high. In any case, all of them are beautifully crafted and lovely to read, some taking you to remote worlds you most likely will never go to yourself.

Along with the much larger theme of the force of life in both nature and mankind, other subtle threads run through each story: the different manifestations of
Larry Bassett
Feb 05, 2015 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was lead to The Shell Collector directly by the author’s current best seller All the Light We Cannot See. On a certain level, the books have similarities: blindness and nature and objects with magic properties. But I found my interaction with the two books to be very different. With Light I was easily drawn in by the language and the story whereas with Collector I was immediately put off by the story, confused by the details and uncertain where I was being led. The language was similarly mesme ...more
Jul 03, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Jen, Trev, and Sharon definitely
This is a collection of short stories from a pretty young author--really beautiful stuff. Sharon, this is the book I told you about with the story about the hunter's wife who touches the dying animals to feel their pain and their life. It stems from there to get even more dramatic and metaphysical but seriously.....the stories in here absolutely changed me and made me want to become a writer. There's a story in here about a homeless man who cuts out the hearts of beached whales and buries them a ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
3.75 stars. These stories all share a common thread, which is that they reveal the power and beauty of nature and the relative frailty of human beings. Every time one seemed to fall into a pattern or became a bit predictable, the author turned it on its head and pulled the rug out from under me. I really enjoyed that.

His writing calls to mind Colum McCann, and if you haven't experienced his stuff yet, you might want to think about it. Doerr's prose is spare and precise. He doesn't waste time ge
Tim Storm
Jul 27, 2011 Tim Storm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dude can write. True, his tone is often a bit detached. Even though he's capable of great imaginative riffs, his voice doesn't vary much from one story to the other. He doesn't inhabit the voice of his characters. In the first two stories, the protagonists are called "the shell collector" and "the hunter." Not too intimate.

But his narration, which almost always carries with it a sort of omniscience even when he remains in 3rd limited, allows him to do some great things with landscape and with p
Dec 14, 2007 Libby rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2007-misses
This collection of short stories is lifeless. It's everything I hate about writing: boring stories that take place in "exotic" locations, featuring "interesting" charcters, written by a 29 year old white guy invested in authenticity. Uggh.
Jun 07, 2015 Nola rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
This is the debut short story collection from Anthony Doerr, the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his book 'All the Light We Cannot See'. Published in 2002, the eight stories in this book shows glimpses of Doerr's mastery. His descriptions and imagery are superb. I started jotting down sentences I particularly liked, but I feel I could buy a copy purely to mark up as a study of short-story writing. Here are just a few examples:

'Her mother's face retreats inside itself like a poked sea anemo
Jul 05, 2014 Judy rated it it was amazing
The Shell Collector: such a simple life of peace, but that peace was shattered so quickly by people wanting something from him
The Hunters Wife: Not sure how I feel about this one. Usually I enjoy the mythical and esoteric type of tale, but this one was strangely cold and dispassionate.
So Many Chances: beautiful story of a young starting to find herself. Incredibly written with wonderful word pictures painting the scene. Loved this story

For a Long Time This Was Griselda's Story. Set over a time s
Aug 15, 2007 Nathaniel rated it liked it
This collection starts strong, then it starts to seem like this guy's instrument doesn't have too many strings and then he tries to write about Africans.

The first three stories are memorable and rewarding, pleasantly removed from day-to-day circumstances and romantically committed to unlikely pairings and second shots--"So Many Chances" I might read again just for pleasure. But, Doerr is hung up on female characters who aren't human (or female)--one dimensional fantasy objects for boy poets who
Maya Lang
Aug 26, 2014 Maya Lang rated it it was amazing
I've recently been experiencing short story fatigue (with my own shorts more than anyone else's). Then along came Anthony Doerr. If I tried to describe any of his plots to you, you'd conclude that they sound absurd. My only conclusion is that Doerr has held onto that impulse that gets us to tell stories in the first place. These are not quiet, formulaic stories told in a certain hushed workshop voice of restraint. These are stories of the improbable, stories that break the mold, imbued with magi ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Scottaggart rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow! They say you should only write about what you know, well this guy must know everything. Amaaazing writer!
Lana Svitankova
Aug 21, 2015 Lana Svitankova rated it it was amazing
Абсолютно неймовірна збірка. Як намисто зі строкатих намистин. Як коробка цукерок асорті - всі різні, але всі смачні. Яка мова, які описи, які порівняння, мову відбирають і вмикають кінопроектор в голові, бо бачиш все, наче сам стоїш поруч. I'm in awe. Розкішно, бентежно і хвилююче. Давно мені не хотілося кинути все і сісти перекладати, але дайбо шоб я була так впевнена у своїх силах, щоб за це взятися. Дуже рекомендую оригінал.
Jul 19, 2015 Pavle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: takozvano-ostalo
Zbirka neverovatno lepih i dirljivih priča. Divan, elegantan stil koji se ne zaboravlja lako.
Mar 17, 2016 Christy rated it it was amazing
I haven't read a lot of short story collections, so I don't know if I know the good from the bad, but I really enjoyed this collection a lot.
Jennifer Louden
Aug 12, 2015 Jennifer Louden rated it it was amazing
Like a collection of shells, each similar and yet exquisitely different. His sentences astound in their sheer sensuality, making me feel I can perceive and maybe understand the world in a fresh and deeper way. Most of the stories follow hope or joy into despair into redemption or a return to hope or joy, but I found that arc mostly believable and certainly uplifting. The Hunter's Wife will be a story I reread regularly.
Karen Mardahl
Mar 02, 2016 Karen Mardahl rated it really liked it
The writing in this book is exquisite. I listened to the audio book version and was entranced by the beauty of the craftsmanship of the writing. The writing itself helped lift it up to 4 stars. Some of the stories didn't work for me, but that is the chance you take with short stories. However, I wanted short stories. I was not in the mood for one long story, so I was happy to move along, savouring one story and shrugging my shoulders at the next. All were beautifully written. Some had well-const ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Anna marked it as dnf
I gave it enough time, but it doesn't work out.
Boring story after story, with no personal connection and, in some cases, no understanding of a purpose means I don't want to spend any additional minute with this collection.

I've found an interesting article from Alison Flood (The Guardian) via Vintage's Twitter. It tells about a new way of judging a book - by page 112. Basically, what Alison says is you don't need to read a whole book to understand if it's good or not, you only need to read page
Anthony Doerr's Memory Wall is a favorite, and this earlier collection of Doerr's short stories very much stands up to it. This collection also has a theme that ties the stories together. Here, that theme is the amazing and sometimes magical results of a human's connection to nature.

From the last story, Mkondo: "He hadn't seen that what he had in common with the world -- with the trunks of trees and the marching columns of ants and green shoots corkscrewing up from the mud -- was life: the firs
Cheyenne Blue
Jul 05, 2014 Cheyenne Blue rated it it was amazing
A wonderful collection of longish short stories. The loose theme that weaves this collection together is water, the sea, love of nature, and finding your place in life, even if it means severing ties with those you love.

Standouts for me were "For a Long Time This Was Griselda's Story" (best title ever!) about two sisters: one runs away with the metal eater from a carnival, the other stays at home. Both found their happiness and made peace with their decision, but the stay-at-home sister feels th
Sep 05, 2014 Mckinley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy short stories try reading this. I found this a delightful collection of stories whisking me from beach front Kenya to frozen pine forests of Montana and beyond. Nature plays a key role in each piece. His characters are richly developed. They deal with issues ranging from dealing with fractured relationships to self-discovery. And many have a mystical connection to the earth. In this way, Doerr weaves together the human condition and the miraculous wonders of nature. His characters i ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Alan rated it really liked it
review will follow - bit hectic at the moment (in a good way)...

still haven't got time to do it justice, and had to take the books (this one and Winter's Bone) back to the library, so I'll try and sum up what I remember feeling about this book.

It is exquisitely written, full of nature - fish,sea, mountains, animals feature heavily. There is some humour but maybe the stories take themselves a little too seriously, and not normally my kind of stuff - a blind shell collector becomes a sought out he
Oct 17, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a great collection of stories. It's one of those books that I keep getting absorbed in, to the exclusion of what I probably ought to be doing. My kids keep asking me about the stories now, because I keep talking about them.

Even though there are similar themes to the stories, each one seems fresh and unique. The writing is beautiful, and the stories are magical. Those parts that are tragic are written with care, so the reading is not painful, but provides insight. And I feel uplifted by
Jan 23, 2016 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Utterly fantastic in every regard. Every story is truly special, and many will stay with you long after you've finished them.

Doerr's order here, too, is especially spot-on. The title story hooks you in and "The Hunter's Wife" and "So Many Chances" keep the momentum going. Unlike so many short sorry collections that fizzle out, this one roars to the end. "Mkondo", the final story, is my personal favorite. It is so good, in fact, you will hang on every word, not wanting it to end.

Also impressive
Carol Stanley-Snow
Apr 26, 2016 Carol Stanley-Snow rated it it was amazing
A collection of short stories that will leave you breathless.

Mr. Doerr is a prolific, Pulitzer Price winning writer who grabs your attention and keeps you wanting more.

A fabulous read.
Nov 26, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Erin, Pat
Recommended to Jennifer by: Trina, Dana
Short stories sometimes don't engage me enough to finish the collection, but I loved these moving, memorable stories that dealt so eloquently with recurring themes: loss, searching, nature, taking chances, empathizing, understanding, and the mysteries of life, love and nature. They seemed each so distinct and yet together created an almost tangible mood of mystery, nature, wonder. Bravissimo!
Penny Margaret
Sep 17, 2015 Penny Margaret rated it really liked it
I went looking for something more by Anthony Doerr because I loved All the Light We Cannot See so much. I enjoyed these stories a lot, certainly some more than others ("The Caretaker" and the title story were my favorites). But it didn't disappoint, and I'll be checking out his other collection soon.
Rosa M.
Mar 09, 2012 Rosa M. rated it did not like it
I bought this book because of its amazing reviews, boy was I disappointed. Yucko! I found the stories very blah and depressing.

The imagery and writing is quite beautiful, it should be called poetry. The beauty of the scenes were ruined by really dreary plots. Couldn't finish it.
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What was your favorite story? 1 5 Aug 25, 2015 11:19AM  
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Anthony Doerr is the author of five books, The Shell Collector , About Grace , Memory Wall , Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See . Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discov ...more
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“Memory gallops, then checks up and veers unexpectedly; to memory, the order of occurrence is arbitrary. Winkler was still on an airplane, hurtling north, but he was also pushing farther back, sinking deeper into the overlaps, to the years before he even had a daughter, before he had even dreamed of the woman who would become his wife.” 2 likes
“Between them was fifteen or so feet of frozen space, bounded by his window and hers, but it was as if the windows had liquefied, or else the air had, and his vision skewed and rippled and it was all he could do to put the Newport into gear and ease forward to let the next car in.” 2 likes
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