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PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011: The Best Stories of the Year

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  242 ratings  ·  33 reviews
The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2011 contains twenty unforgettable stories selected from hundreds of literary magazines. The winning tales take place in such far-flung locales as Madagascar, Nantucket, a Midwestern meth lab, Antarctica, and a post-apocalyptic England, and feature a fascinating array of characters: aging jazzmen, avalanche researchers, a South African wild c ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2011)
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There were a few fantastic stories that make this collection worthwhile:

Diary of an Interesting Year, Helen Simpson
Black Square, Chris Adrian
Windeye, Brian Evenson
Sunshine, Lynn Freed

These stories were extraordinary, some of the best I've read anywhere.

The rest of the collection was pretty mundane - it seems that if you are writing about an exotic locale (Africa, Malaysia, India) and your protagonists are homosexuals, then you had a fair chance of making it into this book. Not that those stories
Kenny Chaffin
I'm catching up on some of my older reading, this being one. I started it when first released but have been distracted by other stuff (writing mostly) and have only picked it back up to finish this week. I've very surprised by the number of excellent (what I would call) speculative fiction stories. Precisely the kinds of stories I have in the past read in Fantasy and Science Fiction and others. Now some may take offense at this but I think it's wonderful. These are along the lines of The Ceiling ...more
Kimberly Faith
As is usually the case with these collections, a fair half were beyond amazing, perfect really. The other half were not so compelling or didn't warrant such a prize for me as a reader. Interestingly, the below top stories are all authored by women.

Here are the standouts:

Pole, Pole - Susan Minot
The Vanishing American - Leslie Parry
Nothing of Consequence - Jane Delury (though that title stinks)
How to Leave Hialeah - Jennine Capo Crucet
These stories appear to have been selected for their diversity rather than their overall merit. It's a good book to read if you want to be sure that you never read two stories in a row that are remotely like each other. (There's one exception--there are in fact two stories in a row written from the first-person perspective of homosexual men.)
45% of the stories contain a death. Death by avalanche, drowning, cancer, car crash, falling, suicide, old age, cancer, baboon girl attack, several pages describing all the ways people can die in a war, death by gunshot, by mysterious black box, and unspecified causes.
Heather Clitheroe
Another great collection. This year's stories were grimmer and darker than I had expected (two tramp/hobo stories? Strange!), but it made for an excellent read. Favourite stories: 'How to Leave Hialeah' by Jennine Capo Crucet and 'Crossing' by Mark Slouka.
Tiny Pants
It took me a long time to get a copy of this O. Henry, and while none of it was genuinely bad (in fact, I think they made a lot more unconventional choices than usual), I just didn't have a strong feeling for any of these stories. It took me a long, long time to decide where to place my bookmark before placing the book on my shelf (for books I own, I always leave a bookmark -- usually something I've picked up somewhere, like a train ticket or a business card from a cute store -- in the part of t ...more
Bojan Tunguz
It’s been well over a decade since the last time I’ve cracked open a collection of O. Henry award stories. I don’t have the time to read short stories as often as I used to, and for the most part I’ve managed to satisfy my cravings by going through the The Best American Short Stories collections. However, over the years I’ve gotten dissatisfied with the increasing penchant of those stories to be high on literary style and low on narrative substance. So I decided to give the O. Henry stories anot ...more
Two strong stories out of twenty assembled in this useless florilegium = a grade of 1.0 on a 10-point scale; however, as Goodreads does not allow for assessment by the half-star it therefore mathematically has earned, I'll give it one in deference to the two authors whose works' inclusion either momentarily lightens the unpleasant task of grimly wading into this morass as might suddenly coming across a pair of tulips thrust up from the depths of some vast swamp of shit, or else wind up being the ...more
This book was a little gold mine I ran across. I love O. Henry, so thought I'd give these stories a shot. Wonderful read and a keeper for my library. I heartily suggest giving this a try.
Prasad BSV
Overall this was a fairly satisfying collection - I must say I enjoyed reading many of the stories, even though the quality was quite variable. The best story is for me Helen Simpson's "Diary of an Interesting Year". The story impresses all the more because of the cute, chick-lit style narration of absolutely horrific events.

Of the rest, obviously Mark Slouka's "The Crossing" is the best. As with many of Slouka's stories, extremely vivid & well-told, and intuitively familiar to most men - wh
Stephen Dorneman
A more-depressing-than-usual year's best collection - in subject matter and tone, not in writing skill. Standouts for me were Kenneth Calhoun's "Nightblooming," a story of a young musician who enters the world of a troupe of old jazz men, and Chris Adrian's "The Black Square," a surprisingly optimistic story about suicide and the death of relationships. Many of the other stories here are studies in hopelessness, sudden violence, and loss. All well written (except for the one or two that are over ...more
Peter Hines
Reading this anthology was like falling down a long flight of stairs, with each story being one more step in a series of painful landings. I don't mean that they were all bad stories, but pain was a dominating theme. The memorable exceptions were Jennine Capo Crucet's "How to Leave Hialeah", where there were some laughs mixed in with the sadness, and likewise Chris Adrian"s "The Black Square". Mark Slouka"s "Crossing" was gut-wrenching and still relevant to ordinary life. Helen Simpson's "Diary ...more
Loved it. The second short-story compilation I've read in a short time, and I'm counting on buying all past and future editions.
An up and down selection of stories from 2011, some of which I liked and some of which I did not like. This is not to say that any of the stories are bad (they're all good enough to be chosen for this), rather that some of them just weren't my style. Overall, a good read, and especially good for those interested in what all's published now in the short story world.
This collection is notable for its diversity of points of view. There are running themes of dread and/or looking back which are fairly satisfying.

I skipped a few & didn't love them all but the highlights are really high:
"Diary of an Interesting Year" by Helen Simpson
"Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" by Jim Shepard
"The Junction" by David Means
Karen Carlson
Detailed comments (with possible spoilers) at A Just Recompense, including introduction, summary, and entries on each individual story
This seemed like an uneven mix of stories to me. However, there is enough really nice stuff in here to make it worth looking at. "Your Fate Hurtles Down on You" by Jim Shepard and "Milinda" by Judy Doenges made this well worth the read for me.
Not a bad story in the lot so far...sadly so overdue from library it must go back to be renewed at a later date (renewed too often right now as also reading other things). Diverse collection of stories with vigorous and vibrant voices...
A fascinating collection. Each of the stories was (naturally) gorgeously written, and all of them seemed to have a certain delicacy. Some of them were a tad disturbing, and I was interested in how many of them were semi-futuristic.
Seriously? One or two stories in this collection were reminiscent of O Henry. The rest had no proper ending and expected us to appreciate stuff like the author chose to use the word conscripted instead of drafted.
Of course there are wonderful stories in this collection. But this was a disappointment. I would argue that too many of these should not be called "the best".
My favorites from this one: Melinda, Nightblooming, How to Leave Hialeah, Windeye, Never Come Back.
Drew Jameson
Jul 15, 2011 Drew Jameson marked it as to-read
Just finished the opening story, "Your Fate Hurtles Down at You" by Jim Shepard--fantastic
Some were great. Others were so-so. But overall it was very entertaining.
Denise Towers
Great collection. Short stories are my favorite read.
I love short stories and these were excellent.
Hit or miss, sure, but the hits were amazing.
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Laura J. Furman (born 1945) is an American author best known for her role as series editor for the O. Henry Awards prize story collection. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Mirabella, Ploughshares, Southwest Review.

She has written three collections of stories (The Glass House, Watch Time Fly, and Drinking with the Cook), two novels (The Shadow Line and Tuxedo Park), and a memoir (Ordinary P
More about Laura Furman...
O. Henry Prize Stories 2007 O. Henry Prize Stories 2008 (Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories) PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012: Including stories by John Berger, Wendell Berry, Anthony Doerr, Lauren Groff, Yi The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013

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