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The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin

(Collected Works of Ursula K. Le Guin)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  392 ratings  ·  56 reviews
A collection of short stories by the legendary and iconic Ursula K. Le Guin—selected with an introduction by the author, and combined in one volume for the first time.

The Unreal and the Real is a collection of some of Ursula K. Le Guin’s best short stories. She has won multiple prizes and accolades from the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to the Ne
Hardcover, 715 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Gallery / Saga Press (first published November 1st 2013)
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The Unreal and the Real: Omnibus of anthropological SF and literary tales
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Everyone with even a passing knowledge of SF/Fantasy will likely have heard of Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the giants of the field whose work has transcended genre and literary categories. Her SFF works have ranged from mythical fantasy such as the EARTHSEA CYCLE to brilliant studies of gender, identity, and political ideologies like The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. She pr
Shalini Nemo
I gave this book a four because the good stuff is so good, it cancels out all the less than engaging works.
Part 1
Brothers and Sisters - 3/5.

A Week in the Country, Unlocking the Air, Imaginary Countries - dnf

The Diary of the Rose - 4/5. 1984-ish vibe is great. Shades of V in there too.

White Donkey - 1/5. Always found virgin+unicorn myth stupid and problematic. Set in India, which makes it worse, because Indian myths don't have "magical item/ animal" wielded by virgins nonsense. It's quite jarrin
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthology
4.5 stars. Not quite perfect, but pretty damn close.

Ursula K Leguin is an icon in the speculative fiction field, and rightfully so: she deserves to be ranked up there with the grandmasters like Heinlein, Sturgeon and Dimak.

That said, while all these stories hold up (fairly) well, as with all anthologies, there were some stories that I liked more than others.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
There’s a lot here, and much of it is not to my taste (by which I mean I found it lifeless, plotless, plodding, and dull). Every now and then, though, Le Guin blew the top of my head off with an amazing story (Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight, for example).
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
As with most collections, this one had its highs & lows but overall, I really liked them. Le Guin generally makes me think about various issues in her writing and many of these stories did that :) ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody.
A massive collection of Ms. LeGuin's short stories. Some are her favorites, some are others. Each section of the volume (I believe it was originally published as two) starts with an intro containing her ideas about the two genres and a small bit of history of each story.


Admittedly, Ms. Leguin is one of my three favorite authors (along with Jorgé Luis Borges and Italo Calvino) so maybe I'm a bit biased. She has a way with telling a story that almost makes you still f
Jun 10, 2018 is currently reading it
Orsinian tales were calm, relaxing, and meh.
Imaginary Countries 4/5
The Diary of the Rose 5/5
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Long, rich collection of short stories set on a variety of worlds (countries, eras, planets). Goes beyond the anthropological mission of examining cultures that have been, are, or could be; goes into the philosophical, the spiritual, the empathetic, the playful and the dramatic. Covers a wide range of UKLG’s writings, and every story presents ideas that resonate in your mind long after you’ve put the book down. Example: “I learned that the story has no beginning, and no story has an end. Th ...more
Maggie Roessler
A revelation. A bundled series of revelations shining and raining and sprouting funny-shaped leaves. Yes! As soon as I finished "Brothers and Sisters" I was in the ecstasy of discovery. This is a story! These are characters! They were as distinct as the stock types of a commedia dell'arte farce, but in the details of their masks, they were realer than me or anyone I know.

Le Guin's writing is humble and fierce. Humble because it lacks ego. She executes formal experiments with exquisite deftness,
Rebecca Lefler
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Very much enjoyed the stories in part one= 4 stars. However I did not like part two=2 stars. Therefore the book gets 3 stars from me.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection is a set of 39 short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin. It's absolutely massive, and chosen (as she says) by whether she likes it a lot, how it fits with the others, and how well-known it is already. The result is a lot that I've read before, and a lot of new favorites. I think what really surprised me was how much was fiction, without any element of sci-fi or fantasy; I really had no idea that Le Guin wrote so much of it.

There's no way I'm going to go over 39 stories, plus I kind of
Vel Veeter
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have broken this into two sections because the book itself, whether it’s the one volume version or not was broken into two volumes for the audiobook.

The best thing about both of these collections is that Ursula K Le Guin wrote a sizable introduction to both and explained how she edited these. What came across in these introductions is that she likes and respects her Earthbound stories more so, and I think are maybe closer to her heart, but that she recognizes that her space or science fiction
Overall this anthology was alright. There were some great stories but overall most of the stories were just okay. It was also a huge novel that took me just over a month to finish and by the end I was forcing myself to finish it. Glad I bought it on sale as a ebook.

Some of my favorite stories were The Diary of the Rose, The Fliers of Gy, The Matter of Seggri, Semley's Necklace and The White Donkey.

It gave a brief introduction to each story and the reasoning the story was included i
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
ursula k le guin makes you think and re-evaluate long held 'truths' about our lives and existence with her stories in really compelling and poignant ways and is able to take quiet and seemingly mundane moments in our lives and make them significant, particularly in her 'real life' stories. you really get the feeling that she was a very astute observer of everything. in this collection, her short stories are separated into two sections, one about 'real life' and the other based on science fiction ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I read a book and I just feel like I have to share it with those who are closest to me. This is one of those books. Le Guin is a master on so many levels that the anticipation of each story slammed into my brain like a wind and I was just distraught when I finished the book and there were no more.

"One day is the day for moving on, and overnight, the next day, there is no more good in moving on, because you have come where you were going to." From "Gwilan's Harp".

"I have to learn to do
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounded up. I wasn't crazy about the short stories in Volume One. For some reason they mostly made me uncomfortable to read, and took me awhile to slog through. In my opinion, her writing is better suited to sci-fi than realistic or quasi-magical-realism stories. I did like "The Direction of the Road," "White Donkey," "Gwilan’s Harp," "Buffalo Gals," and "Ether, Or" from this section, though.

The second half of the collection, Volume Two, I thoroughly loved. Le Guin's strange imaginati
Deb Oestreicher
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are familiar with Ursula K. LeGuin--and particularly if you are a big fan, like me--you will recognize many of these stories. This is not a collection of new work but an assortment of stories that have never been put together in just this way before. The book includes realistic, fantasy, and science fiction stories.

I first encountered Ursula K. LeGuin via science fiction but I have also enjoyed her fantasy and more realistic and historical work, so I was happy with this collection. I do f
Stephanie Fleming
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's such a mixed bag of stories that it was difficult to give it a rating. If I was to rate it only by the stories in "The Real", I would lean more towards a three or two. I found most of them just left me flat, and I didn't particularly enjoy the linked stories about repeating characters in a Communist country.

The stories in "The Unreal", however are exactly what you read Le Guin for. I'd give the majority of them a 4 or 5. There were a lot of thought provoking stories, mainly centred around f
Claire McNerney
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, collections
Lots of really good short stories and also many that I didn't personally care for. I much preferred the sci-fi/fantasy section to the more realistic one. Favorites included: Buffalo Gals, Nine Lives (the most iconic in my experience and also my top favorite), The Wife's Story (woman goes feral? due to her husband's carelessness? my favorite niche), and Sur. I only DNF one story out of these 39, which I am quite pleased about.

I got this for Christmas and read it slowly over a period of 3-4 month
Dane Bell
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
The title is a reference to the split in this volume between more-or-less realistic fiction and speculative fiction (a distinction she explicitly rejects). Le Guin is great at deciding what details to show and what to leave out, and I love her style. If my rating were just for the speculative fiction stories, I would give it 5/5, because that's where her real inventive genius comes out while still maintaining her always excellent interpersonal modeling.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
I had been looking for the beauty and "what if" playfulness of the Disposessed and Left Hand, but could not really find it among the short stories. Don't get me wrong, the known part (Where on Earth) is high literature proper and the unknown (Outer Space, Inner Lands) _sometimes_ show an interesting spark, but most of the time these writings felt experimental, which are more fun to write, than read.
Michelle Pawlak
Fantastic Selections

An amazing grouping of stories, in both parts. Even though they are all short stories and separate, they flow well together when reading them back to back.
So many fantastic pieces I had never read before!
This is definitely a fantastic book to loan out to those hardly familiar with or not at all familiar with Ursula's writing.
Pam Kennedy
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
These stories confirmed my belief that Le Guin was a wonderful writer no matter the genre. I am not, in general, a science fiction/fantasy reader but have become a big fan of her writing. With this collection of short stories I was able to appreciate her gift for portraying every day, this worldly people
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Too many boring stories in this collection, and the best stories were ones that I've already read in other collections of her work. I'm glad Le Guin eventually turned to speculative fiction, because her realist fiction is pretty pedestrian. She's at her best when she's inventing strange cultures and languages.
Apr 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although of course not every single story in this is a five star, there are definitely enough to make it worth the read and the overall five star rating. If you choose to short cut the full 700+ pages, here are my suggestions:

The Diary of the Rose
The White Donkey
Gwilan's Harp
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Semley's Necklace
The Matter of Seggri
The Flyers of Gy
Jason Vanhee
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Like all anthologies, it's a mixed bag but this being LeGuin the mix is weighted toward good stuff. I especially liked the very last store in the collection, Jar of Water, which is gentle and detailed and drowsy and mystical; also excellently written.
Andrew Cottle
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
fantastic writing. A true original. Makes me want to read everything she ever wrote.

They variety of ideas and voices is astounding. I loved all of these stories and will probably read them again.
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
So much LeGuin all in one place. Kinda like binge watching a TV show. I really enjoyed almost all of the stories, too.
Donna Taylor
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The most outstanding collection of short stories ever collected. The author deserves every major award for literature that can be handed her.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it
There are two repeated stories from The Lost and the Found; and I didn't love the first half of this volume.
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

Collected Works of Ursula K. Le Guin (2 books)
  • The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin

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