Today: the best of the brief. The best short stories.
In many ways I prefer short stories to novels. When they succeed, I think they work better than long fiction, and a brilliant, perfect short story contains a standard of craftsmanship and thought and articulation that even great novels don’t necessarily have to have.
There’s just not enough time for filler in a short story. If an author is trying to impart a message in a brief piece, it might be reflect in every single sentence. This is why, for me, short stories can be so haunting and unforgettable. Whatever the mood of the piece, it is sustained throughout and the effect lingers.
Mark Twain famously said that if he had more time he would write more short stories.
Today I want to start a list of the best short stories ever in fiction. No genre or era is off limits. These are, as always, simply my preferences. It’s the beginning of the short story canon according to Josh, and I’m going to do my best to throw in some oddities that you may never have heard of.
Feel free to agree, disagree, scoff, or ignore the list entirely.
And of course, add your own favorites. Maybe you’re the one who actually knows the best short story?
- The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick
- Stone Animals by Kelly Link
- The Nose by Nikolai Gogol
- The Horla by Guy De Maupassant
- The Summer People by Shirley Jackson
- A View of The Woods by Flannery O’Connor
- The Witch by Anton Chekhov
- The Mist by Stephen King
- Exodus by Chuck Palahniuk
- Westward The Course of Empire Takes Its Way by David Foster Wallace
- To Build A Fire by Jack London
- I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
- We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick
- Tlon, Ugbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges
- The Angry Clam by Erik Quisling
- Cannibalism In The Cars by Mark Twain
- The Torturer’s Apprentice by John Biguenet
- In The Penal Colony by Franz Kafka
- The Girl With The Black Eye by Joyce Carol Oates
- Way Down Deep In The Jungle by Thom Jones
- At The Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft
- The Vane Sisters by Vladimir Nabokov
- Atomic Supernova by Scott Wolven
- The Pit by Joe R. Lansdale
- Dread by Clive Barker
- The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
- The Most Dangerous Game by Connell
- Duel by Richard Matheson
- Night Journey by John Barth
- The Sound Machine by Roald Dahl
- The Veldt by Ray Bradbury
- The Silent Men by Albert Camus
- A Small, Good Thing by Raymond Carver
- How To Tell A True War Story by Tim O’brien
- The Blue Rose by Peter Straub
- Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Okay, that’s a good start. I know I’m missing some obvious ones, which I’ll leave to you wondrous readers to add.
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