I know the title sounds like click bait but it got you to read my post, didn’t it? I’ve read more than my fair share of short stories over the years. I’m currently trying to write my own with little luck. There are a few that I absolutely love that you might enjoy too. The art of the short story is one that takes a while to master. It’s hard to convey a powerful message in just a few pages. These ones I have picked have a made an impact for me and I hope that they make an impact for you too.

  1. “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe – I’ve a been a huge fan of Poe for years now and own several different editions of his complete collections. Though I absolutely love his other famous short stories, I love this one in particular for the sensory picture that Poe writes that creates a sense of impending doom and suspense as you read it.
  2. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – In only 6,000 words, Perkins Gilman provides a scathing indictment of the American mental health system. As told through the diary entries of a woman suffering from postpartum depression, “The Yellow Wallpaper” shows how improper treatment of mental illness in women can have devastating effects on the mind.
  3. “A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri from The Interpreter of Maladies – Lahiri’s bold and intimate writing provides an inside look at the struggles of people’s lives that others might overlook. In this particular story, a young couple must come to terms with the loss of their child and deterioration of their marriage during the nightly blackouts that occur in India. This story is has a heavy and poignant message that is palpable as you read it.
  4. “October in the Chair” by Neil Gaiman from Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Other Wonders – Gaiman is well known for his surreal, humorous, and profound writing. His short stories are no exception. In this story, the personifications of the months gather around to listen to October’s turn to tell a story about a young boy find out more than he wanted when he decides to run away from home. Gaiman artfully crafts a fable-like tale for fairy tale characters who come to life on the page.
  5. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – This story is a classic one that I read back in high school. I was initially confused but soon found out that this story provides a much darker message than it gives away. Jackson paints the picture of a quaint little town built on dark traditions. It is hard to create the perfect plot twist and Jackson doesn’t fail to deliver a shock at the very end.
  6. “The Dead” by James Joyce from Dubliners – Last year, I went to Dublin on spring break specifically for Joyce. One of my professors is a leading Joyce scholar so it would be foolish of me not to mention any of Joyce’s short stories. Dubliners is a tricky read but it is endlessly fascinating. “The Dead” is the final story in the collection and it takes an introspective look into the life of a man who is struggling with his identity. The very last line of the story is profound and brings the whole novel into perspective. Even if you haven’t read Dubliners, the story is still just as powerful.
  7. “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury – I’ve been a fan of Bradbury for a while and, in particular, I remember reading this story in grade school. “There Will Come Soft Rains” follows the daily goings on of an automated “smart house” that continues to operate despite the fact that no one is living there. The story serves as a warning for how technology may develop and how it could change the environment. Bradbury’s haunting and detailed science fiction story is another great example of how to master the plot twist.
  8. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver – One of the more famous short stories out there, Carver’s message of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is just as powerful with each read. When a man wife invites a blind man to their house, he is reluctant to let him stay. However, he soon learns how to understand how other people live as he spends more time with the blind man.
  9. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe – Yet another classic Poe story, this one is a bit more famous. Poe was famous for his unreliable narrators and this story is one that makes the reader question what truly makes someone insane.
  10. “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes – Much like Gilman’s story, this one also calls into question the ethics of how mental health is treated. Though it involves science fiction, Keyes is still not too far off from reality. This story follows Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68, who undergoes a surgery to increase his intelligence. He and a mouse named Algernon who also received the surgery are then subjected to scrutiny as they are thrust into the spotlight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s