Great Short Stories

Here are some of the best short stories that I’ve encountered over the years. All of them are great examples of classic (or contemporary literary) short stories, but they are all also extremely interesting and actually fun to read. While some are significantly longer than others, all of them are worth a read-through or two. And, I must add, that I highly recommend “Cathedral.” It’s sure to not disappoint.

  1. “A & P” by John Updike-A coming-of-age story that is so much more than a coming-of-age story. It focuses on a young bag-boy/cashier at a small grocery store and how a split-second decision will alter the rest of his small-town life. It is a story that has deeper meaning and becomes more interesting with each subsequent read.
  2. “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville-A long, copiously-detailed story that is extremely character driven. It is all about a strange and quirky employee that refuses to do much of anything, and is told through the interesting and complex point of view of the man’s boss.
  3. “Bliss” by Katherine Mansfield-A story that requires more than one read to be fully appreciated. It explores the blissful ignorance of a seemingly-happy married couple, and what it is like to have your world shattered by lies and infidelity.
  4. “The Bucket Rider” by Franz Kafka-A surreal story (in true Kafka form) that somehow manages to stay grounded in some form of reality, or rather a sense of believability as the reader somehow trusts the narrator. This story is about a character that, for some mysterious reason, can be seen and heard by no one.
  5. “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver-A moving story about a stubborn, prejudiced man who meets a blind friend of his wife’s. The stubborn man, after spending one day with the blind man, starts to break down his wall of prejudice to meet people where they are in life, regardless of their limitations.
  6. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway-A generational story presented mainly through dialogue between two waiters at a late-night cafe, and later on through the thoughts of the older, lonely waiter. It shows how people at different stages in their lives view existence and how we, no matter how old we are, all desire companionship.
  7. “The Crowd” by Ray Bradbury-An eerie story about a man who seems to be haunted by car accidents, whether he’s in them or not, and how he notices the same people gather unnervingly soon after each crash. He starts to piece together the mystery, but his efforts don’t go unnoticed.
  8. “Fiesta 1980” by Junot Díaz-A story of family, a large family, and how generational traditions and cultural backgrounds affect a father-son relationship, most noticeably in a negative way. It’s a story about a young boy and how he constantly analyzes and questions his father’s actions.
  9. “Greasy Lake” by T.C. Boyle-A fun, yet serious, story about teenage boys who want to be all-around “bad boys,” yet are forced to reconsider their lifestyle when a moral conflict confronts them while at a dirty, swampy lake.
  10. “In The Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka-A semi-graphic story about an officer and his beloved machine that cruelly executes people as a form of justice. This story has an overwhelming sense of social commentary.
  11. “Lottery” by Shirley Jackson-A chilling story about societal traditions and mob mentality, set in an everybody-knows-your name small town. It results in the collective murder of a community member, yet the act is not seen as wrong.
  12. “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka-An epic short story (or, arguably, a decent-sized novella) about a young man who wakes up one day as a giant insect. It really is a tragic story, as both the young man and the reader realize that his old life is gone for good, completely inexplicably.
  13. “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol-A bizarre story in which a barber finds the nose of one of his clients in his breakfast food. Later, while wandering the city, the client comes face to face (in a manner of speaking) with his nose dressed in clothes and able to speak.
  14. “Paul’s Case” by Willa Cather-A heartbreaking story about a young man named Paul who is unable to connect with anything in life except music, from which both his father and his teachers try to keep him. The story only continues to get sadder as Paul runs out of places to go and ways to connect with humanity.
  15. “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner-An intriguing story about the life and death of Miss Emily Grierson, told from the “we” point of view of her neighbors and fellow townspeople. It is a finely-crafted tale that is as much about the townspeople and their opinions of Miss Emily as it is about the woman herself.
  16. “She Wasn’t Soft” by T.C. Boyle-A suspenseful story about a dedicated and almost maniacal marathon runner and her relationship with her boyfriend, who will do anything to prevent her arch rival from winning another race. Unfortunately, his plans don’t go as expected.
  17. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway-An intense story that follows three characters, a married couple and a professional hunter, on an African safari. By story’s end, the courage of each person is put to the test, in fateful ways.
  18. The Storm” by Kate Chopin-A hot and steamy, sexually-charged story of love and lust set in the South. It tells the story of a young married mother and her ex-lover who reunite briefly while they wait out a wicked storm together.
  19. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien-A wonderful non-cliché war story that focuses on a group of soldiers during the Vietnam War and studies the different physical, mental, and emotional baggage these men carry. It transcends the genre of wartime literature.
  20. “Viewfinder” by Raymond Carver-A very short story that explores the pasts of two men, one of whom is a photographer with no hands, and how much they have in common. Most of the story is told through extremely well-crafted dialogue.
  21. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates-A chilling and realistic story that delves into the charismatic personality and manipulative abilities of a serial killer, as seen through Arnold Friend’s affect on fifteen-year-old Connie.
  22. “Ysrael” by Junot Díaz-A tragic story about a young boy named Ysrael who has had a tragic life, but is largely a story about childhood. It explores the cruelty of children, as well as an older brother’s influence on his younger brother.
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Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 1:34 am  Comments (1)