"The Oxford Book of American Short Stories," edited by Joyce Carol Oates, is an impressive anthology. The editor herself is well-known as a master writer of short stories, so you know that she has insights into the genre.
This is a truly sweeping anthology. The authors (56 altogether) range chronologically from Washington Irving (1783-1859) to Pinckney Benedict (b. 1964). Many of the "giants" of U.S. literature, among them a number of Nobel and Pulitzer recipients, are included: Herman Melville ("The Paradise of Bachelors..."), Edgar Allan Poe ("The Tell-Tale Heart"), Edith Wharton ("A Journey"), Saul Bellow (Something to Remember Me By"), etc.
In her introduction, Oates notes that one of her goals in this anthology was to present "[f]amiliar names, unfamiliar titles." Thus, it is rewarding to see stories like "Cannibalism in the Cars," by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). But she does, in some cases, include an author's best-known story (like Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"). A good balance overall.
Oates also includes many authors who represent ethnic currents in U.S. literature: African-American, Jewish, Native American, Latina, and Asian-American. There are also a number of "regional" writers.
There is a wide variety of themes and stylistic approaches represented in this book. I was particularly interested in those stories that represent various forms of American vernacular speech: Jean Toomer's "Blood-Burning Moon," Eudora Welty's "Where Is That Voice Coming From?", etc. I was also pleased at the inclusion of one of Ray Bradbury's masterful science fiction tales (the haunting "There Will Come Soft Rains").
Obviously, an anthology of this nature will not please everybody perfectly; I'm sure many readers will name favorite stories and authors whom they would have liked to have seen included in this collection. Personally, I would have added a story each by Alice Walker, Hisaye Yamamoto, Samuel Delany, H.P. Lovecraft, and Octavia Butler. But overall, this is a fine anthology, good both for classroom use and individual recreational reading.