Short Stories: Where to Start?

Busy people often write off not reading by saying they do not have time to read. This to me is insane. Most people have an option open to them — the morning commute, the time between washing your face and falling asleep, while the coffee is brewing and bread is on the cusp of becoming toast. Even if you want to read on the toilet or at your brother’s soccer game (sorry Nathaniel), there is time to read.

I think the overwhelming feeling of reading comes from the thickness of books. People who don’t make time to read think the only option is novels with 300 plus pages — not true. Short stories are a great option. You get the same satisfaction of finishing a piece in a shorter amount of time. You can read them when you have time without risking a long-term gap. Busy people, I have just the story for you. These stories have a varying level of literary prowess and pure unadulterated leisure reading, but there is something for every type of reader.

Exceedingly Short but Amazing

Incarnations of Burned Children
This story should come with a giant warning sign — you will never be the same. David Foster Wallace’s heartbreaking and haunting story of the accidental death of a child takes you through less than ten minutes of a scene where the mother and father try to rescue their infant. It’s eloquently paced and beautifully written which only make the story more tragic.

Short and Satisfying

51Aa29VGUDL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_Bullet to the Brain
Let’s start you off with a softball, an admittedly brilliant and heavy softball. Bullet to the Brain by Tobias Wolff First, appearing in The New Yorker on Sept. 25, 1995, is about what one man thinks about in the last moments of his life. Starting in a bank with a few snarky remarks from a man named Anders, the story turns into a think piece — fast. In fewer than 2,000 words, it leaves you contemplating what you would have thought about in the same situation, and what that says about you.

Medium Length and Full-bodied

9780618706419The Things They Carried
A story of what soldiers carry, both in their minds and on their back, in the Vietnam war. Tim O’Brien’s story reveals the hardships and psychological toll on men at war. The author walks you through each personality’s underlying burden of the soldiers all coming to the main character’s burden. The story explores the loneliness, isolation, longing and fear of shame with an intriguing and relatable voice. The Things They Carried was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Longest without being a novel: a Novella

Steve Martin’s most underrated talent is writing. Shopgirl is just one of his masterpieces. A story about an anxiety-ridden young girl trying to find love and an emotionally-unavailable older man trying to avoid it. Their relationship gives the reader a window into the single life, the progression expected of both women and men and how romantic relationships evolve as people do. This is an observant and unique description that could only have been written by Steve Martin, and is worth the 130-page commitment.

By Darian Muka

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