The Shell Collector: Stories
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The Shell Collector: Stories

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,303 ratings  ·  187 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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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
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, such as different manifestations...more
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...more
Jul 03, 2007 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Stephen Gallup
In recent years, the short story has fallen on hard times. As evidence of that, I need only point to the websites of literary agents, which indicate that the only kind of writing less in demand is poetry.

I'm sure someday the genre will regain its rightful place, but until then rare collections like this one do a fine job of keeping it alive.

If I have any bone at all to pick with this one, it would just be the title. "The Shell Collector" is the opening story, and a wonderful story indeed; but it...more
Tim Storm
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...more
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
I liked his more recent collection, Memory Wall, better, perhaps because the stories in Shell Collector were a bit more bizarre, or perhaps because his writing became refined over the years. However, even these stories from early in his career were well written, innovative and full of intriguing metaphor. At times dark, at times whimsical, at times even downright uncomfortable, these stories certainly took me to a place I wouldn't have gone on my own. Some common threads in his work seem to be h...more
Dec 04, 2008 Jacob rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Alyson Kral, Nathan Evans, Muna Hijazi, Molly Mooney, res, Lauren, Alena, Alex,
Recommended to Jacob by: Hedda
As far as is possible with literature, Doerr knocks it out the park with this collection. The magical realism is just. perfect. I think he's honed his craft to the point where it genuinely raises the bar or, at the very least, meets the likes of Salman Rushdie or any other master of the genre.

His prose is effortlessly and heart-breakingly poetic. The characters are complex, engaging and lovely. Plots in this book flow naturally, even despite all the fantastic elements.

If you have any heartfelt a...more
Anthony Doerr is destined for a place of honor in the pantheon of short story writers. This is wonderful, moving, beautiful stuff, all the more impressive for his young age. "The Shell Collector" is the kind of story I hope for but rarely find: perfect. I also loved "Hunter's Wife," "Mkondo," and "The Caretaker." But I don't want to diminish the others -- this is a great collection of stories.
Nov 26, 2008 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars 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!
Boy. This man has some serious chops. He wields words with expert grace, care and touch, serving up some of the best writing I've had the pleasure to read. There were moments after certain passages that I'd have to pause and sit with the beauty of his writing.
This collection for me was much less about the stories and plots and so much more about the actual writing, the language used (and used so well). There were some gems of stories, to be sure, but there was something of a theme of man chasin...more
Rosa M.
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.
Doerr is a fabulous writer, and I really liked a couple of the stories, but the others left me feeling flat. The 3 start rating is soley for that. Interestingly enough, the two I liked least were the two that received awards, including the title story. Hmmm.
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.
I read this at the recommendation of Deborah Poe. While I appreciate him as a craftsman, by and large I wasn't engaged by most of the stories. The one standout for me was "The Caretaker."
Shannon Burton
I was a little disappointed in this book, mainly from the raving endorsements from Goodreaders. The stories are good, but not great. They are solid, but not stellar.
Powerful stuff! This definitely isn't an easy read, but the stories and characters linger long after you are finished. As others have said, beautiful writing.
Love love love Anthony Doerr. His prose is magical; his stories lure you in (regardless of plot lines that sound a little crazy when you try to articulate them to someone else); he writes like I wish I could write when I put a pen to the page.

If you haven't read his work, Shell Collector comes in a close second to Memory Wall, but it's absolutely worth the read.

Favorite stories: The Caretaker (try explaining that one to an outsider-- I'll happily discuss with anyone who reads it!) and the titl...more
This was a good collection of stories. They didn't resonate with me as much as I'd hoped they would, but maybe that's just a personal thing. I couldn't help comparing this to the other collection of his that I read last summer, Memory Wall, which earned a solid and enthusiastic five stars from me. I don't know why this one didn't speak to me as strongly, but that's why the 3 star rating for me.
The theme of shells carries through most if not all of the stories, which take place in a variety of se...more
I didn't read all of these stories, just The Caretaker, but I really liked it. It fully contradicted my general feeling that short stories go nowhere, are unsatisfying, and use sadness as a quick and easy way to reach a reader in the short timeframe of the format. True, it was long for a short story, but it was a really quick read. Doerr managed to pack in a real sense of the few characters, which is rare for the genre, and a real sense of movement and growth. I really appreciated it and just mi...more
Nyssa Silvester
I don't know what I was expecting from this book, but I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. I am usually wary of literary fiction that dwells so much on nature; sometimes these stories feel like they abandon story and human resonances for their description and exultation in unqualified nature. But Doerr didn't have this problem, and I think these stories taught me better how to exist. Most of the stories were thoughtful and intricate, and I found myself getting lost in these meditation...more
A new, fresh highly focused voice in American literature

Anthony Doerr is an amazing talent. His chronological age (28) does not match his literary acumen, for here is a new writer who knows his craft so well that he is destined to be one of the more important authors of his generation ... and beyond.

In THE SHELL COLLECTOR Doerr has assembled short stories that are wide ranging in locale and in content. How he is able to convey with such clarity the terrain and atmosphere of Liberia, Finland, Bav...more
I have to agree with the publisher and others that many of these stories are exquisitely crafted. Doerr's prose is gorgeous; his writing at its best is breathtaking, describing poignant relationships between these characters and the natural world. In my favorite stories, Doerr deals here with the almost-magical, those unexpected and inexplicable occurrences that move these stories from typical themes of human vs. nature into another realm. In my opinion, "The Hunter's Wife", "The Shell Collector...more
I read this book for my book club, and I came to it with reservations. When it comes to reading collections of short stories, I've always struggled with them. As a reader, I am rarely swept up quickly in a novel, and therefore, it is even more difficult to sheep hook me into a short story. That being said, I really enjoyed "The Shell Collector."

Most of the stories in "The Shell Collector" use nature as mysterious, unpredictable, and often deadly force--but Doerr's writing is, by contrast, soothi...more
This book was the biggest disappointment that I can recall in my last few years of reading! It got such high reviews, plus I love short stories. But, sadly, these stories were somehow both dull and overdone. The one star I gave it was for the story "So Many Chances" which was the gem in this dry collection. I realize I am in the very small minority with this review, but I just couldn't get into it. The back cover has a comment that Doerr writes as precise and elegant (or something) as calculus,...more
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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 Discover Pr...more
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“You ever hope for something so much? So much you can't sleep, so much your skull hurts? But the thing is, you don't even know if the thing you're wishing for is possible? You don't even know if it could happen? And it's all out of your control?” 8 likes
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