Short stories are a favorite genre of mine. I devour short story collections, anthologies and literary journals with their succinct capsules of literary gold in them like sweet and sometimes bitter confections. Ever since I was little and read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, I fell in love with the art of short stories and the way they make me feel something so intense in such a small amount of time.
I still love ghost stories, but as I have grown older I have found more short stories that explored everyday life and painted pictures of our humanity in shared experiences. Some short stories can also be dark and disturbing and make you question our world while exposing you to the dark thoughts and truths that exist.
The fact that you can often finish reading a short story in one sitting and that it does not require as much time to devote as a novel is also gratifying. Not that I don’t love a good novel…getting lost in the pages of a long book that steals hours of your life and replaces it with the author’s world is also an immersive experience. The novel, however, is a conversation for another day.
Short stories are an art form all their own. Here are a few collections we have at our library with some of my favorite story recommendations from each to help you on your expedition into the world of short stories. Now, I can get long-winded on the subject of short stories, so let us dive in!
More Stories We Tell
The best, in my humble opinion, contemporary short stories by North American women is an anthology that explores the range of topics and experiences of women in all ages and stages of life. Some of my favorites from this collection are A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara, and The Floating Bridge by Alice Munro.
The House on Mango Street
The title story illustrates the way the author feels disparaged by a teacher’s comment on her home and how she dreams of something better.
Algernon, Charlie, and I
My co-worker and friend recommended the short story Flowers for Algernon. She said that it was perfect the way it was and didn’t need to be made into a novel. Upon reading it, I agree. A truly heartrending story through a man’s journey during an experiment to enhance his intellect, but my review does not do it justice. Highly recommended!
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
Nothing beats this title story or anything by Joyce Carol Oates in my opinion. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? made my college experience all the richer. The feeling of teenaged-angst and dread in this piece, I have never gotten out of head and you won’t either.
A great collection by a master at women’s fiction and family life. Ordinary Life explores women’s lives as vignettes and moments from women of every stage of life and experiences. A unique collection with the title story about the 79-year old protagonist who wants a little solitude from her husband and her own life so she barricades herself in the bathroom for a week long retreat, much to the surprise of her husband of many years. So many gems in this collection!
Another Place You've Never Been
This one is technically a novel, but I am including it because it is more of a novel told in stories. Each chapter is a different short story and tells the story of a girl who is hard on her luck and very misunderstood.
The Yellow Wallpaper
The title short story is a 1st person account of a woman in Victorian times who is struggling to write but is put on bed-rest by for hysteria. It is the tale of a woman going mad, or is she?
The Lottery and Other Stories
Another title story about a seemly ordinary and quiet town with a lottery. The results of the lottery are not typical, you will also have to read this one.
The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
The Horror master, of course! After the Scary Stories collection my journey brought me to Edgar. My telltale heart still beats for him and yours will, too...if you like that sort of thing. The Telltale Heart is a tale of madness and draws you into the dread and doesn’t release you until the end. The Fall of the House of Usher weaves the story of a crumbling castle, estate and family with some dark secrets. The Cask of the Amontillado gave me my first Latin phrase and tells of revenge, perfect for an angsty teenager like I was. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe owns a cherished space on my bookshelf to this day.
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones
And, of course, I have to include what started it all. This is the third in the series and the only one we have at the St. Tammany Parish Library. But, the Scary Stories Treasury which includes Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991) also inhabits a cherished space on my bookshelf, next to my Edgar.