The volume of short stories can be daunting. Most novelists, after all, wrote dozens, maybe even hundreds, of short stories before they ventured into the world of novel writing. If you feel frustrated by the sheer weight of short story collections collecting dust on the library shelves, don't worry - there's a way to begin your short story adventure without much headache. The way in is simple: start with the best. Here are some of the most beloved short stories of both the classical and contemporary varieties.
Some Classic Shorts
- "The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville
- "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe
- "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce
- "The Yellow Wall-Paper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Some Contemporary Shorts
- "Battle Royal" by Ralph Ellison
- "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
- "The Gilded Six-Bits" by Zora Neale Hurston
- "A&P" by John Updike
- "Killings" by Andre Dubus
These are all quite different from one another, but they provide a wide range to familiarize readers with the various genres, points of view, and other literary elements short story writers experiment with to create their own unique style. Once you get started, you'll be able to determine which styles and genres appeal to you and which ones don't. This can then lead to other authors of that time period, in that particular genre, or from certain publications.
For instance, you may discover that you enjoy the classic stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe, who both focus on spiritual or divine what-ifs. This might lead you to read more horror, suspense, or fantasy works of more recent days, from writers like Isaac Asimov or Robert Jordan. If, on the other hand, you find women writers appealing, you might continue reading Flannery O'Connor, while adding Kate Chopin, Alice Walker, Joyce Carol Oates, and Toni Morrison to the list.
In other words, the possibilities are endless! Everyone can find a genre of short fiction that is appealing and, usually, quite attainable. Most libraries have dozens of short story anthologies in many categories and time periods. All you have to do is seach, read, and enjoy!