February 08, 2024

Short Stories For a Short Month

Blue background with white letters and scrabble letter squares spelling out "short story"

By Kelly M.

January has come and gone, and many of us have bid farewell to resolutions about healthier eating habits and regular gym attendance. Cold weather and lack of sunshine have made everything seem more challenging—even curling up on the couch with a book can be daunting. So many pages to read till that rush of finishing something! Where can you find that elusive hit of dopamine? The answer can be found in short stories. There is no long-term commitment, and each one provides a satisfying feeling of accomplishment upon completion.

Short stories come in all shapes and sizes, and almost every genre. They may be just a few pages long, like Shirley Jackson’s famous “The Lottery” or run to almost the length of a novel, like James Joyce’s “The Dead.” If you enjoy mysteries, P.D. James will solve the problem. Fantasy fans will discover Ray Bradbury and Ursula Le Guin are fantastic storytellers. Animal lovers will find comfort in stories by James Herriot. Horror stories by Edgar Allen Poe and the twisty tales of H.H. Munro provide thrills to keep even the bravest reader up all night.

Short stories are popular all over the globe. Russian Anton Chekhov, Indian Jhumpa Lahiri, and Canadian Alice Munro have authored stories that transcend the boundaries of their countries. There are classic stories by classic authors like Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, and O. Henry—all masters of the form. But, if these names make you think of dusty high school English textbooks, you might want to try a collection by one of these contemporary authors:

Normal Rules Don’t Apply by Kate Atkinson

Normal Rules Don’t Apply by Kate Atkinson

Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny

Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny

Liberation Day by George Saunders

Liberation Day by George Saunders

You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead

You Have a Friend in 10A by Maggie Shipstead

Angel of Rome by Jess Walter

The Angel of Rome by Jess Walter

Dead End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto

Dead-End Memories by Banana Yoshimoto

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

February may be the month of love, but there are no commitment issues with short stories. You don’t have to choose a single author; you can pick an anthology. There are collections by year, by genre, and by subject: The Best American Short Stories of 2023, Never Whistle at Night, Dog Stories by James Herriot, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. If you still have trouble deciding what to read, the authors themselves can help. “Bite-Sized” in the February 2, 2019, issue of The Guardian offers a look at the favorite stories of several short story writers. So, along with your chocolates this month, try a sampler of short stories. That hit of dopamine that comes from finishing something may just trigger a lifelong love affair with this literary form.