Recently I’ve been really into writing and reading short stories. While they’re not as popular as they used to be, short stories are a fantastic way to learn how to make each word count – plus you can finish them in your lunch break. Here’s 10 of my favourite.
#1 The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe
Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and The Black Cat is probably his most well known. First published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1843 the story is an exploration of the psychology of guilt.
#2 The Landlady by Roald Dahl
A short horror story which first appeared in print in The New Yorker and then as part of his short story collection Kiss Kiss. It centres around a young man named Billy Weaver who travels to Bath and stays with a little old landlady who’s much more sinister than she seems.
#3 Cold Snap by Cate Kennedy
One of my favourite short stories by one of my favourite contemporary short story writers. When I think about what makes a good story, this one has it all; a strong voice, economy of words and a chilling twist. The story was published in The New Yorker as Black Ice.
#4 Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Technically a novella but too good not to include. A writer suffering writer’s block visits Venice and at the site of a beautiful youth is liberated, inspired but eventually consumed by lust.
#5 Complicity by Julian Barnes
This story centres around the delicate beginnings of a love affair and in true Barnes style focus on tiniest details to reveal . The fact the narrator’s love interest has a circulation problem and is forced to wear gloves provides the most beautiful metaphor, as he fantasises wildly about what it will be like to hold her hand. You can read it in The New Yorker.
#6 A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
A family from the south is in a car accident and encounters a dangerous trio led by an escaped convict known only as ‘the Misfit’. And that’s not the worst of it.
#7 The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The story centres around a young Nigerian girl who moves to America only to discover her new home is far removed from what she imagined. Adichie is a master at depicting cultural miscommunications and the human desire to reconcile internal and external worlds.
#8 A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A couple discover a winged gentleman in their courtyard but can’t communicate with him because he can’t speak their language. Unfortunately their greed gets in the way and the poor angel ends up in a chicken coop.
#9 Runaway by Alice Munro
True to Munro’s style Munro Runaway is a story that has the ability to convey an entire lifetime worth of experience and emotion in just a few pages, exploring complex truths in simple language. No wonder she received the Nobel prize for literature in 2013 for her extraordinary work as “master of the contemporary short story”. You can read it in The New Yorker.
#10 A Calendar of Tales by Neil Gaiman
A really awesome example of fan collaboration, these short takes are inspired by replies to fan tweets about each month of the year. My favourite one is about an igloo made of books – sounds amazing huh?