Tons of people hate short stories. I get it. Shortness is off-putting. With a short story being anywhere from 3-40 pages, you don’t have enough time to know the characters or world. But that’s only the crappy, convoluted, and pretentious slice-of-life short stories. Good short stories grab you from the first line and don’t let up until weeks, months, even years after you read the last line.
Here are 7 short stories for people who hate short stories.
1 – Guts by Chuck Palahniuk
I think one reason so many people shy away from short stories is that they give off a yawn-inducing vibe. They’re like poetry in that sense. Many feel they are reserved for the elite and effete. People want a story that will make them feel something and they’re much more likely to get that from the latest episode of CSI than something written by a seventeenth-century monk.
But Palahniuk is no monk. And his short story ‘Guts’, which is available to read for free on his website, will definitely make you feel something.
I refuse to give anything away about this story. But I will warn you. ‘Guts’ will make you squirm. This short story may even make you physically retch.
If you’re the sort of person who watched 2 Girls 1 Cup out of curiosity… Then this short story might just be perfect for you.
2 – Understand by Ted Chiang
This short story comes from Stories of Your Life and Others, a collection of science fiction short stories by Nebula, Sturgeon, Campbell, and Asimov award winner Ted Chiang.
These are simply some of the most unique, breathtaking, and inventive short narratives I have ever encountered.
If you’re looking for a collection perfectly suited to slow reading, bound to make you think, and guaranteed to leave its imprint on your unconscious, then look no further.
If you choose just one from this fantastic collection, make it ‘Understand’, which feels like the story Limitless should have been.
3 – The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
The best short stories are like shots of medicine. And this short story collection is an entire medicine cabinet.
I have never been so moved by a collection of short stories in my life. You can’t just read one. They’re all so unique, so touching, so vivid. You can easily breeze through the entire collection in a couple of sittings.
Each story made me evaluate different parts of my life. Each story has a rock-solid metaphor at its core. And each story has a fantastical or SF bent mixed with tropes from a smorgasbord of different genres from folklore to hardboiled noir.
If you read just one short story collection before the end of this year, make it this one. And if you read just one short story from this collection, make it ‘The Paper Menagerie’, a beautiful, heart-wrenching, and magical story about a Chinese immigrant’s relationship with his mother and the paper animals she imbues with life.
4 – The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
There are so many short stories I could have suggested by this master of the form, Ray Bradbury.
I could have gone with something to make you cry and suggested ‘The Lake’. I could have gone with any of his Martian short stories. But I decided to go with this classic: The Veldt.
This is a terrifying, prophetic, and amusing short story set in a dystopian world that feels a little too similar to our own.
I recommend you pick up Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man short story collection and, after enjoying ‘The Veldt’, you read a short story every day. You could even try following Bradbury’s own reading program and read a short story, a poem, and an essay every night.
5 – The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Jackson has a bunch of fantastic short stories but where better to start than with one of the most famous short stories of all time?
‘The Lottery’ is still, even after multiple readings, one of the creepiest short stories I have ever read.
Thanks to a wealth of dystopian narratives clogging up our cinemas and bookshelves, you can probably guess the ending of this short story. But I’ll bet you still get a shiver up your spine.
6 – The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami
I hesitate to recommend Murakami to people averse to reading because he is so divisive. Murakami is Japanese Marmite. And his short stories are even more of a gamble. But I think ‘The Second Bakery Attack’ is the only exception.
This short story shows you what short stories can be. They can be absurd and completely resistant to analysis (seriously, don’t bother).
‘The Second Bakery Attack’ reads like something a stoner concocted in the midst of some potent ganja haze. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you. If you enjoy this short story, you might just fit into the strange Murakami cult. If so, I recommend his book of short stories, Men Without Women.
7 – The Birds by Daphne du Maurier
Creepy, iconic, and a perfect short story for displaying the power of symbolism in an easy-to-read manner. No one does post-war anxiety like du Maurier in ‘The Birds’.
‘The Birds’ is a perfect introduction for many different genre streams: horror, thriller, drama, 50s writing, British writing. If you like ‘The Birds’, there is a lot more out there for you to explore.
Already read these short stories?
Tell me what you thought. Did they change your mind about the short story form? Or did they only increase your hatred?