As college students, we often don’t have a lot of time to get invested in a long novel. Though I know from personal experience that I would like to do this more often. Unfortunately, a lot of my reading is now taken up by required things for classes. Although I do love these, as well, sometimes reading for pleasure is relaxing and freeing. So, here are five short stories for when you want to read something, but just don’t have the time to read a whole book.
1. “The Lottery” (1948) by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” is Jackson’s most well-known story, along with her horror novel The Haunting of Hill House. A classic, chilling story that leaves the reader with questions that can only be answered by one’s own imagination. Jackson critiques the societal tendency to follow what is considered the “norm” as well as questioning blind faith. Beginning on a seemingly lighthearted day in June, citizens gather for the annual Lottery. There are no answers as to where it came from, or why it happens, which makes the story even more frightening. This timeless short story can take about 20-30 minutes to read, but will leave you thinking about it long afterwards.
2.“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (1966) by Joyce Carol Oates
Oates has written an abundance of novels that are considered great works of literature, including We Were the Mulvaneys and The Gravedigger’s Daughter. This short story, only about nine pages long, paints the picture of adolescence and innocence within the main character, Connie. Oates turns the story into something much darker with her diction and imagery that progresses from start to finish. Starting off with one of Oates’s shorter works may lead you to pursue one of her longer pieces, when the impending threat of finals disappears for the summer.
3. “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846) by Edgar Allan Poe
When there is a list of short stories to read, how can one not mention Edgar Allan Poe? A master of his craft, his short stories and poems paved a path for modern writers. Most known for his story “The Tell-Tale Heart” and lengthy poem “The Raven,” Poe continues to demonstrate his skills in the horror genre with his later works. “The Cask of Amontillado” tells a classic yet calculated revenge tale. Poe’s suspense and ambiguity create a creepy atmosphere throughout and brings in the close with a satisfying ending.
4. “The Second Bakery Attack” (1986) by Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s story of a newlywed couple taking a local McDonalds is an overall bizarre sequence of events that encompasses the theme of freedom, either from your own subconscious or from outside forces. As a Japanese author of a handful of novels, such as Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, the culture seeps into his writing naturally and gives readers a vivid and honest outlook on life in Japan. Once you step foot into Japanese literature, your world will be changed forever. Say goodbye to things that seems to make sense, and open a door into something that will keep you rereading to make sure you read it correctly.
5. “The Laughing Man” (1949) by J.D Salinger
Salinger is no short of a genius when it comes to writing. As many of you have probably read, his most known and influential work is The Catcher in the Rye. However, he also tries his hand in short story writing. A collection of his short pieces can be found in an anthology called Nine Stories. “The Laughing Man” has an honest and innocent prose that comes from a young man looking back on himself as a boy. Salinger shows the heartbreaking truth of fantasies coming to an end when reality comes crashing down in a skillful twenty pages.