My favorite short stories of 2020

Hey folks, it’s that time. Year end posts abound. So here are some of my favorite short stories I read this year. Disclaimer that I really didn’t read a whole lot of short stories this year because…well, this was probably the big area that suffered in my 2020 reading habits. But what I did read I loved. In a way I feel like this selection serves as a strange sort of journal entry for 2020, a progression of my feelings written in other people’s words.

So, without further ado…

St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk

I love bees, and I love urban witches. This story asks the question: What will you give up, and what will you keep, on your journey to becoming? There’s a lot of loss, here, but there’s a lot of love here — the quiet kind that doesn’t end in fireworks. There’s also a sense of constraint that I think very much echoes what many of us has felt during this long year.

A Pale Horse by M. Evan MacGriogair

If you, like me, have needed reminding at least a few times this year that there are beautiful and good things in this world, this story is for you. It can be really hard to stand up under the onslaught of the headlines and our personal tragedies, but you never know what mysteries might be waiting for you.

Ava Paints the Horses by Ville Meriläinen

This story was actually published in 2018 originally, but I came across it this year and it seemed profoundly appropriate for 2020. It’s about grief and how it bends our reality around us, how loss can crush us, and how art can heal us.

Heard, Half-Heard, in the Stillness by Iona Datt Sharma

One of my favorite stories of this year, and one of the only true science fiction stories on this list, this story is about the future. It’s about how our paths twist under our feet, and how you can’t see the end of the road when you’re on it. It’s about faith that the future you’d planned for might not be the future you need. And I can think of no better, more hopeful tale for this year, if hope is a thing you need right now.

The Sycamore and the Sybil by Alix E. Harrow

One of the best stories I’ve read this year, this is about a lineage of resistance. It’s another witch tale, another tale of women helping women escape the clutches of what fate has to offer them. It’s a tale of fire, of burning and of refusing to burn. It’s a tale of resisting the slow march of time, and of looking to our ancestors for paths forward, for the seeds of a new world. Read this one if you read no other on this list.

Dead Girls Have No Names by Claire Wrenwood

This story is about how sometimes we have to leave our quests for vengeance behind. How imperfect we are in our hope to right past wrongs. It’s about how the things we love can hurt us but how we love them anyway. And how sometimes that love can become forgiveness, can become something new, can help us give voice to the voiceless.

Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell

One of the things I have struggled with this year is compassion, for other people and their choices. Another thing is loneliness. I think both of those things are addressed in this tale, which is about a girl and her father looking for a home, and a house that just wants to be loved.

Hearts in the Hard Ground by G.V. Anderson

The last tale I picked for 2020 is one that I couldn’t get out of my head. It’s one about how exhausting it is to be a caretaker, how much of yourself you give to take care of others — a theme that has reoccurred often in my life growing up and then marrying into families deeply embedded in medical careers. It’s no surprise that this year being no exception, and it made this a simultaneously difficult and touching read. This story is about learning to take care of yourself. It’s about healing. Take this into the new year, my dears. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, to be kind to yourself as much as you are kind to others. Don’t forget that grief and resentment can live alongside one another.

That wraps us up for this year, friends. I hope that you enjoy these and I’d love to hear about your favorite stories below. Stay warm out there!


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