Book Review: The Uncanny Reader

The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows
Edited By: Marjorie Sandor
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Page Count: 576
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Short Fiction Anthology

The Uncanny Reader, edited by Marjorie Sandor, is a collection of thirty-one deliciously disturbing short stories by a variety of authors throughout the last two hundred years. Beginning with the anchor text, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sand-Man” (1817), this volume takes the reader on a wild ride of automatons, doppelgangers, ghosts, insanity, and mysterious things that go bump in the night. The reader will find familiar names like Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, Franz Kafka, and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as contemporary authors like Joyce Carol Oates and China Miéville. There is plenty here to tingle the spine and taunt the imagination. 

I loved the breadth of this collection of short stories. Because Sandor included stories from over almost two centuries, it was enlightening to see how some things that scare people have changed over time and some have not. I was particularly taken with the opening story, “The Sand Man,” and its consideration of love, perception, and willful blindness. Sandor has also been geographically wide-ranging in assembling this collection; the stories represent authors from nearly every continent. The authors themselves span a range of genres as well. 

I have two (admittedly small) problems with this book. First, I wish that Sandor had given us more information about why she selected each story for inclusion. There is an introductory essay discussing the nature of the uncanny, the evolution of the word, and how the anchor text inspired others, but I found myself wanting to know more about her choices on an individual level. Second, I cannot for the life of me figure out why this book was published in late February. This book would be so unbelievably perfect for reading late on an October evening. 

A superbly creepy read!

From the deeply unsettling to the possibly supernatural, these thirty-one border-crossing stories from around the world explore the uncanny in literature, and delve into our increasingly unstable sense of self, home, and planet. The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows opens with “The Sand-man,” E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1817 tale of doppelgangers and automatons—a tale that inspired generations of writers and thinkers to come. Stories by 19th and 20th century masters of the uncanny—including Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, and Shirley Jackson—form a foundation for sixteen award-winning contemporary authors, established and new, whose work blurs the boundaries between the familiar and the unknown. These writers come from Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Russia, Scotland, England, Sweden, the United States, Uruguay, and Zambia—although their birthplaces are not always the terrains they plumb in their stories, nor do they confine themselves to their own eras. Contemporary authors include: Chris Adrian, Aimee Bender, Kate Bernheimer, Jean-Christophe Duchon-Doris, Mansoura Ez-Eldin, Jonathon Carroll, John Herdman, Kelly Link, Steven Millhauser, Joyce Carol Oates, Yoko Ogawa, Dean Paschal, Karen Russell, Namwali Serpell, Steve Stern and Karen Tidbeck. 


  1. I love short stories, and especially dark ones. I think I would sink deep in this collection. Great review!


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