William Trevor: Selected Stories. One of the two great fiction writers working today. He writes quiet, chilling and heartbreaking stories about people we usually don’t bother thinking about. And he writes lines like this: “Shame isn’t bad, her voice from somewhere else insists. Nor the humility that is its gift.”
Alice Munro: Collected Stories. The other of the two great contemporary fiction writers. She’s fearless. Writes like a grandmother with a dagger under her cape.
J. D. Salinger: Nine Stories. I read them again every few years and the best of them still break my heart: “The Laughing Man” and “For Esme with Love and Squalor.”
Anton Chekhov: for the body of his work. The master of the short story. Start with “Misery” and The Lady with the Pet Dog” and continue on to “In the Ravine,” “Gooseberries,” and “Peasants.” By then you’ll be addicted.
William Faulkner. The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! The two greatest Southern novels ever written. Anyone writing about the south has Faulkner to deal with. Read him and be slain in the fictional spirit.
John Dufresne is the author of two story collections and four novels, most recently Requiem, Mass., and two books on writing fiction, The Lie That Tells a Truth and Is Life Like This? He teaches creative writing at Florida International University. His short story, “The Cross-Eyed Bear” appeared in Best American Mystery Stories 2010. In 2012, he won a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for his work.