Book List, Genre Feature, Staff Post

Seven Superb Short Stories

The short stories that you’ll keep thinking about long after you’ve read them

The art of the short story is a tricky one. You have just enough pages to reach out to the reader and grab their attention, but not enough for a full story and layout of a usual novel. I think short stories are harder to write than long ones, and I also rate them more harshly; if it feels unfinished, I’m not a fan. But these seven on this list are all favorites, some from when I was a young child, and some more recently published! I remember many of these fondly, and there’s a mix of creepy, foreboding, philosophical, and fun mixed in on this list! Enjoy!

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

This story still haunts me to this day. It starts out so innocently, but quickly takes an unexpected turn. This will make you view mob mentality, human nature, and society differently. If you don’t pick up any others on this list, pick up this one!

One of the most terrifying stories of the twentieth century, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker in 1948.

“Power and haunting,” and “nights of unrest” were typical reader responses. Today it is considered a classic work of short fiction, a story remarkable for its combination of subtle suspense and pitch-perfect descriptions of both the chilling and the mundane.

The Lottery and Other Stories, the only collection of stories to appear during Shirley Jackson’s lifetime, unites “The Lottery” with twenty-four equally unusual short stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson’s remarkable range—from the hilarious to the horrible, the unsettling to the ominous—and her power as a storyteller.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

I can’t remember where I first read this story, but I remember it to be sometime in my school years. This story taught us how to spot hidden messages in an author’s work, and pay close attention to the many details in stories. Can you guess the ending?

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge By Ambrose Bierce This short story was adapted for an episode of the television show The Twilight Zone which aired February 28, 1964.

Other People by Neil Gaiman

“‘Time is fluid here,’ said the demon”. Another dark short-story, and this one is the shortest on the list, and free to read online. I loved the atmosphere, and Gaiman’s mastery of descriptions. The ideas weren’t super revolutionary, but I like the dark, gritty way they were represented. A Dante’s Inferno type of story, this one will stay on your mind after you’re done!

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, an astonishing collection of short fiction that stretches the boundaries of imagination, probes the depths of human experience, and reveals how the ordinary and the fantastical are intertwined―one of ten classic Gaiman works repackaged with elegant original watercolor art by acclaimed artist Henry Sene Yee

Fragile Things showcases the distinctive storytelling genius that has made Neil Gaiman one of the most admired literary artists of our time. The thirty-two gems of prose and verse in this astonishing collection stretch the imagination and engage the intellect even as they illuminate the vagaries of human experience. Whether he’s conjuring a mysterious traveling circus, exploring the rarefied tastes of an exclusive epicurean club, or visiting a strangely altered Victorian England, Gaiman reveals how the ordinary and the fantastical are transmutable and intertwined.

With breathtaking clarity, Fragile Things illumines Gaiman’s brilliance as well as his terrifyingly entertaining dark sense of humor. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, this volume is a gift of enchantments that will startle the senses and stir the soul.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

I remember first reading this title in freshman year high school, and by that time, it was decidedly “uncool” to enjoy reading. But I was so happy sitting in class analyzing this piece, reading it several times over. I also grew up listening to my dad’s music, the Alan Parsons Project, and hearing the song named after this story over and over, which just added to my enjoyment of it! It’s short, it’s creepy, and it’s a simple introduction to Poe.

One of the most original American writers, Edgar Allan Poe shaped the development of both the detectvie story and the science-fiction story. Some of his poems—”The Raven,” “The Bells,” “Annabel Lee”—remain among the most popular in American literature. Poe’s tales of the macabre still thrill readers of all ages. Here are familiar favorites like “The Purloined Letter,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” together with less-known masterpieces like “The Imp of the Perverse,” “The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym,” and “Ligeia,” which is now recognized as one of the first science-fiction stories, a total of seventy-three tales in all, plus fifty-three poems and a generous sampling of Poe’s essays, criticism and journalistic writings.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

This is another fond memory from grade school: my first O. Henry story! He’s known as a master of the short-story form, and this story is just a small example why. He’s masterful with his descriptions of the setting, the people, and the objects in his stories. I dreamed about the bejeweled treasures in this story after reading about them. It is a simple but impactful Christmas story.

Here are sixteen of the best stories by one of America’s most popular storytellers. For nearly a century, the work of O. Henry has delighted readers with its humor, irony and colorful, real-life settings. The writer’s own life had more than a touch of color and irony. Born William Sidney Porter in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862, he worked on a Texas ranch, then as a bank teller in Austin, then as a reporter for the Houston “Post.” Adversity struck, however, when he was indicted for embezzlement of bank funds. Porter fled to New Orleans, then to Honduras before he was tried, convicted and imprisoned for the crime in 1898. In prison he began writing stories of Central America and the American Southwest that soon became popular with magazine readers. After his release Porter moved to New York City, where he continued writing stories under the pen name O. Henry.

Though his work earned him an avid readership, O. Henry died in poverty and oblivion scarcely eight years after his arrival in New York. But in the treasury of stories he left behind are such classics of the genre as “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Last Leaf,” “The Ransom of Red Chief,” “The Voice of the City” and “The Cop and the Anthem” — all included in this choice selection. A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The Egg by Andy Weir

This is a VERY short story, the shortest on this list! It is by one of the top-rated authors, Andy Weir, who wrote both The Martian and Project Hail Mary. Those books were both 5 stars and so is this short story. It has his typical humor, mixed with some philosophy and will leave you pondering. My favorite line from this is “Our soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are”. Read this for free down below!

Death by Scrabble by Charlie Fish

This is the last story on my list, and the most recent! Submitted on a popular story blog site, I came across this on social media and just the title had me hooked. It’s a bit creepy, but I think short-stories that leave your skin crawling are the best ones! 

I hope you enjoyed my short list of short stories, and let me know if you’ve read any of these!

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