Best British Short Stories 2011, Edited by Nicholas Royle

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The Independent Culture

Slip this lightweight but nourishing anthology into your holiday bag. Editor Royle has selected 20 published stories from British writers. His own (excellent) taste means that little explosions of weirdness or transcendence often erupt amid much well-observed everyday life.

But the collection has no tub-thumping agenda. Predictably fine pieces by Hilary Mantel (twice), John Burnside, Robert Edric or Michèle Roberts strike hard, but then so do (among others) the contributions from Leone Ross, Alan Beard and Christopher Burns.

Odd bursts of fantasy delight (as in Adam Marek's Cambridge danse macabre) but a super-charged realism prevails – always on the brink of a take-off, or a crash.