5 Short Stories You Can Read Right Now
For short story lovers like myself out there, there's a distinct pleasure in picking up a collection and reading a snippet of fiction in a few minutes that is as powerful and emotionally or intellectually compelling as a whole novel. The short story is a delicate form of writing because of this brevity that allows only the very best writers to capture the reader's heart and mind in just a few pages. For the very best short story writers, a five page story can be more powerful than a seven book series (who said George RR Martin? Not me.)
So, here's a list of 5 short stories that can easily be read in one short go, but will have you thinking about them for hours or days to come.
"Murder in the Dark"
by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has an undeniably rare talent to create astonishing characters and plots, and you may have been caught in this years craze of reading, or rereading, The Handmaid's Tale, I assume because of the TV adaptation and not for some other reason. Murder in the Dark is a great collection of short stories, but the title story is one of my all time favorite short stories. Its ending alone will make you go back and read it again. It's not a cheap plot twist, by the way. It's just such masterful writing that will make you realize that maybe you weren't paying as close attention as you should've been.
" -- All You Zombies -- "
by Robert Heinlein
A little change of genre, and while it may not be as short as some of the other stories here, I dare you to not finish it in half an hour, it's that captivating. Granted, it's a bit old and it won't have the same effect on you as it on its original audience in 1959, but it's still a great example of great science fiction by one of the masters. If you like time travel and complicated mindfk plots as much as I do, this is a classic, and it lends itself so easily to multiple rereads. Anything else I can say about it is probably going to spoil it, so just go read it and thank me later.
"The Universal Story"
by Ali Smith
One in three of my reviews here on the site is of an Ali Smith book, so it's no surprise that I'm including this one on the list. I haven't read all her short stories, but I've read quite a few, and while Smith is almost always pushing the envelope of fiction writing, I doubt I'll find another short story of hers that does such a splendid job at providing the reader with an original take on the genre. You'll notice from the first paragraph that the story is as much about the characters in it as it is about the writer trying to tell you that story. Inventive form, affection for the literary world, lovable characters, personal insight, this is as Ali Smith as an Ali Smith story can be.
by Kurt Vonnegut
As far as sci-fi short stories go, "Harrison Bergeron" is quite short, but then again, it's not the kind of story you'd think about as strictly sci-fi. It does contain elements of a dystopian future, but in its heart it's a very contained and intimate story. The story sees two parents watching ballet on television as their son, Harrison, has escaped from prison. The reason why he was in prison is that he is of an above-average intelligence, in a future where all Americans are required by law to be identical in every physical and intellectual way. It's a great example of biopunk fiction, and I'd suggest you go watch Gattaca if you like this story.
by Raymond Carver
This one is a bit of a weird one. It appears in the famous (or infamous, depending on what you've heard) collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love under this title, but it also appears in Cathedral and a couple of other publications under the title "A Small, Good Thing." You can read "The Bath" in 20 minutes, and it's a great story that will leave with the kind of sadness that ties all What We Talk About stories together. But I'd suggest you follow it up with the much more expansive and heartwarming "A Small, Good Thing," just to see what Gordon Lish's editing did to Carver's voice.
I had a lot of fun collecting these stories here. The selection is a bit random, just based on my personal taste, but I'd love to see your own short short story recommendations, so leave a comment below to let me know!
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pendora since Jan. 2016. Successfully impersonated a student of English literature and now a Publishing student in Edinburgh. Interested in the direction English literature is taking in the 21st century, noir comics, beautifully shot films. Can bore you to death with Hollywood trivia, extensive knowledge of Leonard Cohen, and La La Land. TWITTER INSTAGRAM