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The Shell Collector

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  6,367 Ratings  ·  814 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
Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 15th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Popular Answered Questions

Dr E Foremost, you would have to define what "appropriate" is and for whom? The question, broadly asked, implies that one is shut-off from new experiences.…moreForemost, you would have to define what "appropriate" is and for whom? The question, broadly asked, implies that one is shut-off from new experiences. Certainly, avid readers are open-minded to all new experiences an artist has to offer. But, let's indulge ...

Are you asking if there is "sex"? The answer is yes (as there is in real life). Now, is it gratuitous? The answer is no.

Are you asking if the content is advanced: I would say no. Any literate adult should be able to enjoy this. Though it has elements of science as it's springboard, it never becomes bogged down in jargon.

Are you asking if it asks complicated philosophical questions?
The answer is yes.

If you are concerned about a child, the best option would be for you to read the book and then decide whether to pass it on to a child or not. This way, you are also prepared for discussion (instead of allowing a child to try to process art on his/her own).

Are you asking for a YA book club? Again, any teacher/leader first reads the book, formulates questions about the text, and ONLY then offers the selection to the group.

My hope, obviously, is that you are not asking for yourself. If so, I might suggest grabbing up a few random books from well-respected authors and investing faith in the fact that whatever they have to offer (no matter how "inappropriate") has purpose.

If anything, try to make your questions specific so that we can help. (less)

Community Reviews

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Sep 18, 2007 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
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-owned-read
Violet wells
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
It’s like Anthony Doerr aspires to be the David Attenborough of literature. Always seeking to inspire us to remain goggle-eyed by the beauties of the natural world. Pretty much every story in this collection has as its theme an individual’s relationship with the natural world. And the natural world is always called upon to act as a guru – because Doerr, you suspect, is something of an old hippie at heart. He’s deeply attached to ideas of escapism and rainbow endings. Drifting dangerously close t ...more
Jun 17, 2009 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 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2016
Very well done collection of short stories by Anthony Doerr, written a dozen years before his Pulitzer Prize winner "All The Light We Cannot See." If you read "All The Light," you will recognize little bits and pieces of that lovely book in some of these stories, especially the title story. Remember Marie-Laure's fascination with shells and mollusks? Straight from "The Shell Collector."

All of the stories are engrossing and quite different from one another. They are all written in his signature l
Description: A remarkable collection of stories from a young American writer of huge potential: 'A show-stopping debut, as close to faultless as any writer could wish for' Los Angeles Times 'His fingers dug the shell up, he felt the sleek egg of its body, the toothy gap of its aperture. It was the most elegant thing he'd ever held. "That's a mouse cowry," the doctor said.

"A lovely find. It has brown spots, and darker stripes at its base, like tiger stripes. You can't see it, can you?" But he co
Nov 16, 2011 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 01, 2015 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
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think reading the stories more than once helped me enjoy them a little bit more than my first take on them. I can't say that I have a favorite story, but I think I liked the last one the best. I am looking forward to reading All the Light...
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, kindle-special
2.99 today
This was my first book by Anthony Doerr. Each story was made up of rich, dimensional characters and beautiful prose. This collection of short stories tempers hope with despair and you will find yourself thinking about them long after you finish. All The Light We Cannot See has been on my TBR list for sometime, I am looking forward to reading it. This has been an awesome year of reading for me with many new authors!
Immediately drawn to this cover!
Feb 11, 2016 rated it liked it
A collection of short stories by Anthony Doerr, whose All the Light We Cannot See left a lasting impression on me. I must preface my next comment by saying that I am not always a fan of the short story. I often feel it is just getting interesting and it is gone. This might be why I was less than moved by this collection. The stories were good, the ideas were strong, but the connection just never materialized.

Of the eight stories, I most enjoyed For a Time This Was Griselda’s Story. The relations
Dec 14, 2007 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.
 Lisa A
Initially I purchased this book on sale without referring to a description, but instead based on the author and lovely book cover. All the Light We Cannot See received a five star rating from me, but this collection of short stories was published well over a decade before Doerr's Pulitzer Prize winning historical fiction novel was released.

Short stories and magical realism genres are usually hit or miss with me. Well, usually more miss. The majority of these stories had a common thread involvin
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Doerr is magnificent writer of breathtaking prose, poetic descriptions of nature's beauty and sudden harshness, and evocative characterization of uniquely interesting yet all too human characters. The Shell Collector is one of the richest short stories I've ever read. It has more weight than many a novel. The richness of the points of view, the dynamic between unexpected characters reminds me of Chekhov. I am not a frequent reader of short stories but I picked this up after reading a review of D ...more
Aug 30, 2013 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
Jul 03, 2007 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
Tim Storm
Jul 27, 2011 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
Oct 26, 2014 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
Alice Lippart
A good collection with some really strong stories, especially in the beginning. Lovely atmosphere and writing. Unfortunately though, by the end, the stories got a bit repetitive and I felt myself getting a little bored.
Jul 09, 2014 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
Apr 28, 2014 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
Maya Lang
Jul 31, 2014 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
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
In each of these 8 gratifyingly longish stories we have time to bond with the mostly floundering oddball characters that populate them. AD has a talent for pulling a reader in from the first sentence, and he lays things out without fuss, yet it would be a mistake to take things for granted and prepare for a twist on the anticipated twist, and maybe a few deep laughs.

She was learning that in her life everything- health, happiness, even love- was subject to the landscape. p199
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tak jsem se pouze a jen utvrdila v tom, že Doerr má opravdu neskutečný talent. Osm příběhů, které reflektují lásku, kroky do neznáma a neskutečné krajiny. Mimo to všechno musí být Doerr naprostým génium, takový přehled o biologii, neprobádaných krajinách a ještě to sepsat ve čtivé podobě?
Feb 25, 2015 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!
Aj Sterkel
If I was forced to make a list of my all-time favorite books, All the Light We Cannot See would probably be on it. Since I love that giant novel so much, I wondered what Anthony Doerr could do with a short story collection. The Shell Collector was published over a decade before All the Light We Cannot See, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was (mostly) impressed. These world-spanning stories are beautifully written. They take place on beaches and mountains; in sunny Africa and snowy Lapland; in
Tammy Parks
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Doerr’s short stories, like his novels, are very concerned with science and the natural world. Various plants, animals, and even seashells and the occasional weather event populate his stories. He is also a keen observer of the human condition, and his stories are filled with people struggling with heavy emotions, particularly grief, regret, and longing.
Doerr is an incredible writer and constructs the most beautiful sentences. I enjoyed this collection, and some passages are truly bre
Jessica McCann
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely collection of stories. They each have a tie to nature, feature lush description and character depth, and explore the relationship between humanity and the natural world. There were a couple stories that didn’t necessarily grab me, but I enjoyed most of them. My favorite was The Hunter’s Wife. I would love to see it expanded into novel length, because I wanted to spend more time with the characters.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this books of short stories by Anthony Doerr. To his credit, Doerr exhibits the same colorful descriptions more fully developed in "All the Light We Cannot See," but the characters lack the warmth and interest so dramatically drawn in the book that garnered him the Pulitzer prize. I think it is only fair to recognize this as a precursor to his later work. One thing in the book's favor is the variety of settings that comprise the stories. Hindering my enjoyment is that a short st ...more
Aug 15, 2007 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
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What was your favorite story? 1 10 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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“He wants to tell her that when things vanish they become something else, in death we rise again in the blades of grass, the splitting bodies of seeds.” 7 likes
“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
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