Linked Short Stories: Short Story Cycles

Short story cycles are related short stories that are enhanced by reading them all. They are often linked by setting, theme, and recurring characters. They are also called story sequences, composite novels, episodic novels or fix-up novels. Sometimes they are simply called novels or short story collections.

Connected or Linked Short Stories

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

A citizen of Winesburg is featured in each story, with George Willard being the most prominently recurring character. Some pervading themes include loneliness, isolation, communication and coming of age.

Olinger Stories by John Updike

The protagonist grows up in Olinger, Pennsylvania, a small town. He’s ten when it starts and we follow him through to adulthood.

Several Olinger stories can be read in the preview of The Early Stories(15% in)

Dubliners by James Joyce

These fifteen stories follow the lives of the citizens of Dublin, from children to mature characters. Several experience an epiphany, a moment of realization about life or themselves. Includes the standout stories “Araby” and “The Dead”.

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

These stories are connected by World War I, bullfighting and the character Nick Adams, who comes of age.

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

Divided into 117 sketches or episodes, this is the story of an upper-middle class woman in the 1920s to the early 40s. Her lawyer husband spends most of his time at work. The Bridges have three children and Mrs. Bridge spends a lot of time at home and at her country club.

If you like this one, a second volume, Mr. Bridgetells the husband’s story in 141 episodes.

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

The story of a boy named Jody Tiflin and his family on their ranch.

Linked Short Stories, Cont’d

The Pastures of Heaven by John Steinbeck

The stories of the families who live in a valley, the pastures of heaven.

Aleck Maury, Sportsman by Caroline Gordon

Aleck Maury recalls his life from childhood through marriage and loss and into his elderly years. He has a lifelong love of hunting and fishing.

Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright

The experiences of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, with recurring racism and violence.

The Unvanquished by William Faulkner

Set during the American Civil War, these are the stories of the Sartoris family, beginning with life on their plantation.

Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paula Marshall

Follows the life of Selina Boyce, from ten-years-old to adulthood. She lives in Brooklyn with her mother, father and sister, Ina. Her mother wants to improve her life in America, while her father wants to go back to Barbados.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

Set in an African-American community with a focus on love and friendship.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Covers the lives of five families with a focus on three of them over six decades, dealing with the balance between traditional Ojibwe culture and white society.

Linked Short Stories, Cont’d

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Covers a year in the life of Esperanza Cordero, a twelve-year-old Chicana girl in Chicago.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

A girl’s coming of age.

Seventeen Syllables by Hisaye Yamamoto

United by the Japanese immigrant experience, these stories have recurring themes of culture clash, prejudice and women’s issues.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Set in San Francisco, these stories focus on the lives of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters. Contains the popular selections, “Rules of the Game” and “Two Kinds”.

Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories by John Updike

Set in 1960s and 70s New York and New England, these stories follow the marriage and divorce of Richard and Joan Maple.

Bech: A Book, Bech is Back & Bech at Bay: A Quasi Novel by John Updike

Henry Bech is a middle-aged Jewish writer dealing with personal and professional challenges.

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

Richard and Sarah Everton move from America to a small Mexican village to reopen an abandoned mine.

Linked Short Stories, Cont’d

Monkeys by Susan Minot

Follows the life of the Vincent family and how they deal with tragedy.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

This book follows a platoon of American soldiers during the Vietnam War and the stories have a common narrator.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

These stories focus on the Dominican García sisters in reverse chronological order, from their adult lives in the U.S., their early life as immigrants, and their life and family’s flight from the Dominican Republic.

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Narrated by Vietnamese-Americans living in Louisiana, these stories focus on the culture clash experienced by Vietnamese immigrants after the war.

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

These stories are linked by theme and setting rather than common characters. Often, there’s a realization brought on by violence.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Humans explore and colonize Mars, and interact with Martians over almost thirty years. Some character appear in several stories.

The One-Star Jew by David Evanier

Bruce Orav, the narrator, is a New York writer involved in philanthropic activities. He ponders his Jewish identity and deals with his parents and stepson.

Linked Short Stories, Cont’d

The Pat Hobby Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Pat Hobby is a struggling Hollywood writer always trying to get ahead.

Going On Like This by John Rolfe Gardiner

These stories deal with small town life in Virginia, divided into five sections, with each section having recurring characters and places.

The Elizabeth Stories by Isabel Huggan

Narrated by Elizabeth Kessler, these stories relate events from her life in the 40s and 50s in rural Canada.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

These stories, unified by a common narrator, follow his life from his ancestry, his training and work as a chemist in wartime Italy and all the surrounding complications. The stories are also linked by the periodic table and relate to an element from it in some way.

The Company She Keeps by Mary McCarthy

Margaret Sargent’s journey of self-discovery is seen from other character’s perspectives. Set among the New York intelligentsia, Meg contemplates her troubled marriage, works in a gallery, explores her love life, meets various fascinating people and discusses her problems with her analyst.

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

These stories track the life of Del Jordan’s coming of age in a small town, from childhood to adulthood.

The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Allusive Comedies by Joyce Carol Oates

These satiric stories linked by academe, with four of them set in a university, feature characters who lack substance and have some recurring characters.

I hope you found some great linked short stories or short story cycles.