21 votes

What are your favorite short stories?

What are some of the best, most influential, memorable, or otherwise impactful short stories that you've read throughout your life? If possible, please link to a PDF or other text so that we can enjoy it too.

28 comments

  1. [4]
    teaearlgraycold
    Link
    The Egg by Andy Weir - now best known for his novel The Martian.

    The Egg by Andy Weir - now best known for his novel The Martian.

    10 votes
    1. cableclasper
      Link Parent
      Kurzgesagt animated this recently. It was the first time I had come across it.

      Kurzgesagt animated this recently. It was the first time I had come across it.

      5 votes
    2. CrunchyTabasco
      Link Parent
      Every time I see this posted, I consider it mandatory to reread it in full.

      Every time I see this posted, I consider it mandatory to reread it in full.

      2 votes
    3. hamstergeddon
      Link Parent
      Wow that was fantastic, thank you for sharing that!

      Wow that was fantastic, thank you for sharing that!

      2 votes
  2. [6]
    petrichor
    Link
    I suppose I'm obligated to start. Short stories were a staple of my childhood - I frequently checked out several collections from our local library that I'd read over and over. The structure and...

    I suppose I'm obligated to start. Short stories were a staple of my childhood - I frequently checked out several collections from our local library that I'd read over and over. The structure and content of most short stories lend themselves to sticking in your head in a rather unique way.

    The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges is my single favorite short story. It deals with the eponymous Library of Babel - a structure containing every book ever written, to be written, or that possibly could be written. Constructing the Library systematically at first, his prose fades into the biographical, detailing the lives of the seekers who show up at the infinite Library in search of knowledge, power, or vindication.

    The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is likely the best short story I've ever read. And I will say no more.

    Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut is set in a world where the remotely talented and beautiful are forced to wear handicaps to bring everyone to a common denominator. The titular character, Harrison Bergeron, is taken and locked away, but eventually escapes and frees others on live television, to be shot in the chest with a ten-gauge double-barreled shotgun.

    All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury is another classic that was one of the earliest pieces of not-YA fiction I read. It's about a group of children on Venus, where the sun shines for just one hour every seven years. One child had recently moved to Venus from Earth, and shares her memories of the sun with the others.

    There are plenty of others, buried deep in my memory, that I've forgotten the title and author of. Hopefully they'll surface in this thread!

    8 votes
    1. [3]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. [2]
        hamstergeddon
        Link Parent
        Having just read it for the first time, it feels like an incredibly out-there conservative strawman argument against equality as proposed by liberals. Something you'd see in some half-assed...

        Having just read it for the first time, it feels like an incredibly out-there conservative strawman argument against equality as proposed by liberals. Something you'd see in some half-assed Facebook meme from a racist grandmother or something.

        Although politics in the US have shifted around so much since it was written, I can't imagine that was the intent.

        3 votes
        1. OhGarraty
          Link Parent
          Vonnegut was a staunch liberal, so I can't see him making the sort of conservative strawman argument. I see Harrison Bergeron as a criticism of human nature, of the crab mentality sort of idea...

          Vonnegut was a staunch liberal, so I can't see him making the sort of conservative strawman argument.

          I see Harrison Bergeron as a criticism of human nature, of the crab mentality sort of idea that drives people to drag other people down. As well as a criticism of media culture, shown by the Bergerons watching the events unfold on TV then immediately forgetting about it.

          4 votes
    2. AugustusFerdinand
      Link Parent
      This was the story I chose to read in front of the class in one of my favorite years of school; the 2009 short film 2081 was a good film adaptation of it and brought in some realism that the short...

      Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut is set in a world where the remotely talented and beautiful are forced to wear handicaps to bring everyone to a common denominator. The titular character, Harrison Bergeron, is taken and locked away, but eventually escapes and frees others on live television, to be shot in the chest with a ten-gauge double-barreled shotgun.

      This was the story I chose to read in front of the class in one of my favorite years of school; the 2009 short film 2081 was a good film adaptation of it and brought in some realism that the short story lacked. I feel the movie is the actual event and the short story is the retelling of the legend in a post-handicap society or handicap resistance group.

      2 votes
    3. eve
      Link Parent
      The Lottery is a classic, I was going to suggest it lol! I read it in high school for my English class and it left quite the impression even then. I've re-read it a couple of times since then.

      The Lottery is a classic, I was going to suggest it lol! I read it in high school for my English class and it left quite the impression even then. I've re-read it a couple of times since then.

      2 votes
  3. [2]
    mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    The Fog Horn, by Ray Bradbury. Such a sad, beautiful, haunting tale. My memory is terrible, but Bradbury is a very important author for me. Many things I try to write are somehow an attempt to...

    The Fog Horn, by Ray Bradbury. Such a sad, beautiful, haunting tale.

    My memory is terrible, but Bradbury is a very important author for me. Many things I try to write are somehow an attempt to write like him. His science fiction is pure poetry, his nostalgia captivating.

    All You Zombies caused a profound impression in me. What a mindfuck!

    For a long time, all I did was read Edgar Allan Poe. The very short The Oval Portrait left me dumbfounded. How can he cause so many emotions using so few words? How can he give so much depth to such a rarefied premise?

    And I don't think Conan Doyle ever surpassed the original detective genius from The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

    7 votes
    1. Sand
      Link Parent
      Apples and oranges. Some people prefer detective stories where the riddle could actually be solved by the reader. I think Conan Doyle was one of the first authors to write that kind of story.

      And I don't think Conan Doyle ever surpassed the original detective genius from The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

      Apples and oranges. Some people prefer detective stories where the riddle could actually be solved by the reader. I think Conan Doyle was one of the first authors to write that kind of story.

      2 votes
  4. [2]
    whbboyd
    (edited )
    Link
    Two very different favorites: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin. A lot of thoughtfulness packed into a few thousand words, and easily-digestible, to boot. This was one of my...

    Two very different favorites:

    • The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin. A lot of thoughtfulness packed into a few thousand words, and easily-digestible, to boot. This was one of my favorite works to discuss in high school English class (a topic that was definitely not my forte).
    • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, by Larry Niven. Niven essentially does a deadpan analysis of the implications of a sexual relationship between Superman and one of his human paramours. It's one of the most hilarious things I've ever read.

    As an aside, what's our policy on linking to the full text of still-copyrighted works? Obviously I've chosen not to for this comment; both stories can easily be found by searching, or I would recommend patronizing your local library: they are collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters and N-Space, respectively.

    7 votes
    1. mrbig
      Link Parent
      There's no actual policy AFAIK, but in my experience sharing excerpts, chapters and short stories is okay, but copyrighted video is frowned upon.

      There's no actual policy AFAIK, but in my experience sharing excerpts, chapters and short stories is okay, but copyrighted video is frowned upon.

  5. [2]
    Grendel
    Link
    I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison is my all time favorite short story. It's a bit graphic but is truly fantastic

    I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison is my all time favorite short story. It's a bit graphic but is truly fantastic

    7 votes
  6. grahamiam
    Link
    As of right now, there are ~20 stories or writers suggested in this thread, ~3 written by women. So, in that vein: Shirley Jackson is most known for "The Lottery" and her creepy novels, but she's...

    As of right now, there are ~20 stories or writers suggested in this thread, ~3 written by women. So, in that vein:

    • Shirley Jackson is most known for "The Lottery" and her creepy novels, but she's actually written some hilarious and pointed realistic fiction as well. Check out the collection The Lottery and Other Stories, or read "Charles."
    • It's linked short stories, so I can't share one, but Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge is one of my all-time favorites. It's had a few sequels since but the original is the best.
    • "Children of the Sea" by Edwidge Danticat is devastating and will stay with me for a long time.
    • For word play and cleverness, Lorrie Moore (here's her most recent) and Amy Hempel ("In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried")
    • Karen Russell "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" catches you by the title and that
      should be enough.
    • Some of my favorite writers are science people. This includes Yiyun Li, who got an MS in immunology before seriously writing. Here's "All Will Be Well".
    6 votes
  7. eladnarra
    Link
    The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman I don't know if it's my favorite short story, but it's certainly the one that made the longest, strongest impression. I read it in a literature...

    The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

    I don't know if it's my favorite short story, but it's certainly the one that made the longest, strongest impression. I read it in a literature class, and I remember several of the guys didn't get it. At the time I found it difficult to explain to them, but it left me with a deep dread.

    5 votes
  8. [3]
    acdw
    Link
    I wouldn't say it's my favorite story, but a story that sticks in my head and that I think of all the time is An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge[PDF] by Ambrose Bierce. There's also a short film...

    I wouldn't say it's my favorite story, but a story that sticks in my head and that I think of all the time is An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge[PDF] by Ambrose Bierce. There's also a short film with a drum soundtrack.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      petrichor
      Link Parent
      Ooh, I second this. Very much in the vein of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.

      Ooh, I second this. Very much in the vein of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.

      2 votes
      1. acdw
        Link Parent
        Oh yeah, that's another one that just .. sticks with you. I feel like I read that one in 8th or 9th grade too. What is it about reading really intense stories in like, middle school?? LOL. There's...

        Oh yeah, that's another one that just .. sticks with you. I feel like I read that one in 8th or 9th grade too. What is it about reading really intense stories in like, middle school?? LOL.

        There's another story, the title of which I don't know, about (spoiler alert) a disembodied head reattaching itself. Like, it was a doctor who figured out how to cure death and he took a serum, but his wife and her lover cut off his head and threw it in a closet. The big twist was that was what happened -- it was all from the point of view of that head and you didn't know it til the end. Really spooky.

        2 votes
  9. rogue_cricket
    (edited )
    Link
    The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado is one that stuck with me, although it is verging on "Novelette" territory. It can be a difficult read. EDIT: Oh, and uh, very NSFW.

    The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado is one that stuck with me, although it is verging on "Novelette" territory. It can be a difficult read.

    EDIT: Oh, and uh, very NSFW.

    3 votes
  10. etiolation
    Link
    "A Sense of Shelter" by John Updike is so well-written I can hardly stand it. A beautiful capitulation to the closing of a volume of one's life, with the sense of where it will be shelved among...

    "A Sense of Shelter" by John Updike is so well-written I can hardly stand it. A beautiful capitulation to the closing of a volume of one's life, with the sense of where it will be shelved among other failures and capitulations. Maybe nostalgia is the appreciation for the death of possibilities, and some eulogies are so good that you want to climb into the casket too.

    3 votes
  11. Amarok
    Link
    The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler and After Life by Simon Funk come to mind. Greg Egan also has a little archive with about twenty stories in it if you're feeling more adventurous. All scifi,...

    The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler and After Life by Simon Funk come to mind. Greg Egan also has a little archive with about twenty stories in it if you're feeling more adventurous.

    All scifi, of course. ;)

    2 votes
  12. Wishkah
    Link
    I read To Build A Fire years ago and it's always stuck with me.

    I read To Build A Fire years ago and it's always stuck with me.

    1 vote