Selected Shorts

Our greatest actors transport us through the magic of fiction, one short story at a time. Sometimes funny. Always moving. Selected Shorts connects you to the world with a rich diversity of voices from literature, film, theater, and comedy. New episodes every Thursday. Produced and distributed by Symphony Space.

All Episodes

Best American Short Stories 2021 with Jesmyn Ward

Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents two stories from the Best American Short Stories 2021 anthology selected by guest editor Jesmyn Ward. Both involve adolescents facing displacement or rejection, but the stories are set in very different environments: One takes place in a surreal, Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, and one inside a junior high school in Tennessee. First, Leo Solomon reads “Playing Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain,” by Jamil Jan Kochai. Then we hear “Biology,” a beautiful story by Kevin Wilson, performed by Mike Doyle. And Ward comments briefly on her approach to creating this year’s diverse anthology.

Modest Expectations

Host Meg Wolitzer presents four stories in which characters shape their expectations and dreams to a manageable size in collaboration with Belletrist Book Club. So if you’re “Medusa,” as in our first story, by Tania James, you try to figure out how to live in the world instead of turning it to stone. The reader is Constance Zimmer. Parents in our second story, “We Only Wanted Their Happiness,” by Alexander Weinstein, make a tactical choice about technology. It’s performed by Randall Park. The narrator of Honor Levy’s “Good Boys,” read by Annie Hamilton, understands that infatuation is a phase. And a man and a woman sidestep romance in “Arrangements” by Charlie Watts, performed by Laura Harrier and Will Harrison. The show was recorded at the Getty Center in Los Angeles and features commentary by Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss of Belletrist Book Club.

Since 2017, Belletrist Book Club has chosen more than 75 titles for the book club and dozens more for myriad content features across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and the newsletter The Belletrist Brief. In 2019, Emma Roberts and Karah Priess spun out Belletrist Book Club into a production company called Belletrist Productions.

Bonus: A Conversation with Elizabeth Strout

Host Meg Wolitzer talks with author Elizabeth Strout about her story “Home” and the fictional family Strout has created.

Save the Date with Belletrist Book Club

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about social occasions for introverts and extroverts alike, curated with the Belletrist Book Club, founded by actor Emma Roberts and producer Karah Preiss. The show was recorded at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Humorist Samantha Irby asks “Please Invite Me to Your Party,” but does she mean it? The reader is Richa Moorjani. Victoria Lancelotta’s “The Anniversary Trip,” performed by Judy Greer, is, and is not, about the married couple making the trip. And Jen Spyra takes it to extremes to get to the altar in perfect shape in “The Bridal Body,” performed by Erinn Hayes.

This is Selected Shorts’ first collaboration with Belletrist. Since 2017, Belletrist has chosen over 75 books for the book club and dozens more for myriad content features across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and a newsletter: The Belletrist Brief. In 2019, Emma and Karah spun out Belletrist Book Club into a production company called Belletrist Productions.

What’s Your Story?

Host Meg Wolitzer presents three stories about the act of writing and how it can remake us–a prankish skit; a playful and tender investigation of creating with words; and a fraught social encounter between two characters who don’t ‘get’ each other’s stories. B.J. Novak takes on the old saying “Great Writers Steal” in a short piece read by Novak and Aasif Mandvi. In Etgar Keret’s “Creative Writing” a wife writes her way out of grief. It’s read by Alex Karpovsky. A dinner party becomes a scene of personal and political tension in Lorrie Moore’s “Foes,” performed by Joan Allen and Kyle MacLachlan. And Moore joins Wolitzer to talk about the story and creating fiction.

Elements of Nature

Host Meg Wolitzer presents four works in which nature and the out-of-doors drive both plots and character. Humorist Jenny Allen does battle with her stubborn plants in “Garden Growing Pains,” read by Kirsten Vangsness. The majestic Canadian border separates an Indigenous family in Thomas King’s “Borders,” read by Kimberly Guerrero. A housewife masters one of the elements in “Flying,” by Alyce Miller. The reader is Kirsten Vangness again. And a sudden storm creates a sense of abandon in the Kate Chopin classic “The Storm,” read by Jane Curtin. “Garden Growing Pains,” “Borders,” and “Flying,” were presented in cooperation with CacheArts and Utah Public Radio, KUSU-FM.

Too Hot for Radio: Erin Somers “Variations on the Same”

Paget Brewster and Andy Richter perform Erin Somers’ masterly comical and sardonic story about an overwhelmed mom who acts on her fantasy of getting away from it all.

Selected Shorts Goes to the Movies with the Tribeca Film Festival

Host Meg Wolitzer presents stories so compelling that they were adapted for the screen. Selected Shorts and the prestigious Tribeca Festival collaborated and came up with three works that crossed the boundaries between fiction and film. An eerie game has unexpected consequences in Richard Matheson’s “Button, Button,” performed by Marin Ireland. The story inspired the horror film “The Box” starring Cameron Diaz and Frank Langella. Michael Stuhlbarg gives a rousing performance of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky;” and Andrea Martin reads the story that inspired the Hollywood classic All About Eve—Mary Orr’s “The Wisdom of Eve.”


Host Meg Wolitzer presents two humorous stories about marriages not made in heaven. In James Thurber’s classic “The Breaking Up of the Winships,” a long-married couple fall out over Donald Duck. The reader is Kristine Nielsen. And in Louise Erdrich’s “The Big Cat,” read by Keir Dullea, two powerful wives, a bemused husband, and a symphony of bone-jarring snores. The program also features an interview with Erdrich.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter