It doesn't really matter how long it is, it is still a story.
I read. I read a LOT. My husband often criticizes me for reading as many different things as I do, often at the same time. Recently, however, I finally worked my way through a novel, and after consuming it in just a few days, I felt the need to nibble on something a little ... different. I decided to try reading short stories, rather than entire novels.
Now, for some people, short stories are just not enough to satisfy them emotionally. They need the intense descriptive paragraphs describing every tiny detail of a room, a dress, a look.
I confess, I am not one of those people who get all wrapped up in tiny details. I like raw emotion, impressions of places, feelings, intense conflict and compelling characters. I guess that's why I'm a big fan of contemporary young adult literature. However, it also explains why I love short stories so much.
Where a novellist might spend an entire page describing a particular setting, a short story writer only writes what they HAVE to write, what is important to the development of the character, the plot, the theme and the story. A short story writer has to learn, very quickly, what is important to the story and what is superfluous.
Right now, I'm reading Winter Tales by Isak Dineson as my bedtime reading. The mythic elements make it an interesting read - and, while it's not my favorite collection of short stories, it is interesting for me to see how a short story writer must take all those things that make a novel GREAT and do the same with a story that has far fewer words. A little while ago I read a collection of short stories about Africa entitled Say You're One of Them. I couldn't finish the book. It was too upsetting for me. Another book I recently read was Imagining British Columbia: Land, Memory, Place. This book was, for me, an incredible synthesis of art, geography and amazing literature by local authors. Each story touched me in some way.
Authors who write short stories have less time to capture you and your attention and make you want to sympathize with their main character; they must GRAB you by the throat (or make your stomach ache) so that you are compelled to read further. An author that writes a novel has more time to get you to commit to their character and their conflict. Not so for short story writers.
I have found a few authors that do that exceptionally well. Ones that take you and turn you inside out, make you laugh, make you cry, make you ache. It's a gift... but it's also something that, as writers, we need to read as many different styles of writing as we can, so that we can learn from these talented writers whose stories inform and transform us.
I believe that we can always learn from eachother; that great writers are ones who learn from others. I invite you to share your favorite short story collections (and authors) here.