Literature doesn’t just come in giant, dusty tomes. It’s not that I have anything against giant, dusty tomes. Those are actually some of my favorite types of tomes, but not all of my favorite literature is a few hundred pages long. Some of my favorite pieces of literature actually come in the form of short stories.
To get your summer started out right, I thought I’d compile a list of some of my favorite literary short stories. If you want to become more familiar with literature, or you just want some good, short things to read this summer, start here!
What You Pawn I Will Redeem by Sherman Alexie has long been a favorite short story of mine. This story explores the life of a homeless Native American and chronicles his adventures of trying to recover his grandmother’s regalia. I know that sounds like it could be sad or dark, but it’s actually really funny and gives great insight into the perceptions and attitudes of those mainstream society marginalizes.
Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood is a story I use all the time with my students. This not only tells a great story, but teaches readers and writers alike what goes into telling a good story and how the ending, well, you’ll see once you get to the end.
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway is short and dense, but entertaining all the same. This story makes me feel like I am a voyeur—eavesdropping on a conversation that is painful for both parties involved but keeps me critically engaged and thinking the entire time, much to my pleasure.
The Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin explores what marriage does in a woman’s life. We’re not even talking about bad marriages—just marriage in general. Let me just say, even happy marriages can take their toll on a woman.
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx was made famous by a mediocre movie featuring two A-list hunky actors, but that movie does not do this short story justice. Don’t take my word for it—I encourage you to read this twenty-six page short story yourself, and see how beautifully love can be illustrated in words rather than on the big screen.
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