Hortense Calisher, a virtuoso of the form, once called the short story "an apocalypse in a teacup." It's a definition that suits the remarkable stories published this year by three literary superstars, and two dazzling newcomers with voices so distinctive we're likely to be hearing from them again. These stories are intense, evocative delights to be devoured singly when you have only a sliver of time, or savored in batches, at leisure, on a winter weekend.
As a lagniappe, begin with Object Lessons, a pairing of 20 contemporary authors with 20 potent classics from the pages of The Paris Review. Among them: Dave Eggers on "Bangkok"; James Salter's time bomb of a love-gone-bitter story; and Aleksandar Hemon on Jorge Luis Borges' cosmic "Funes, the Memorious," about a man cursed with the inability to forget anything.
Then move on to these five, my best collections of 2012: