Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Short Stories Of All Time



Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is my favorite short stories ever. Read that sentence again. My favorite short stories ever. How am I supposed to choose! I’ve read approximately three gazillion short stories. When I saw this topic, I immediately thought of a hundred favorites, and my brain overheated, and I melted into an angsty puddle on the floor. This list was agonizing, but I managed to narrow it down to ten.




My Favorite Short Stories Of All Time








10. “Ice Age” by Alexander Weinstein

This is a bite-sized dystopia. A community of igloo-dwelling humans is struggling through a future ice age. The community is tight-knit until a wealthy neighbor melts the ice and rediscovers material possessions. Maybe some things should be left in the past.






The way I figure it: the Paulson kids have plenty. My kids, what have they got? Snowballs and a little fox I whittled out of an oak stub.












9. “The End of Something” by Ernest Hemingway 

Hemingway was a master of the short story. He somehow manages to pack so much meaning into quiet, everyday moments. In this story, a teenage couple goes fishing and decides to end their relationship. The author captures the complete devastation of a breakup while skillfully avoiding eye-roll-inducing melodrama.







She sat there with her back toward him. He looked at her back. ‘It isn’t fun anymore. Not any of it.’












8. “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe 

You could probably argue that this isn’t Poe’s best story, but it’s the first one I read, so it’s “best” to me. I think I was 13 when I read it. I still remember the nightmarish cell where the narrator is condemned to die. He can either stay still and be sliced to death by a razor-sharp pendulum, or roll to the middle of his jail cell and fall into a bottomless pit. That's a decision that I hope I never have to make.







My worst thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night encompassed me.












7. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor 

This was my introduction to Southern Gothic literature. (And Southern Gothic racism.) A family’s summer vacation goes terribly wrong when their car flips over and ends up in a ditch. The strangers who stop to rescue them may be more dangerous than the car accident. As a reader, I’ve never gone from laughing to shocked horror so quickly.




Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.












6. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger

If you want to be a writer, you need to read J.D. Salinger’s short stories. This is how you develop characters, people! In this story, a mentally unstable man is vacationing in Florida with his wife. Several people in the hotel notice signs of serious mental illness in the man, but none of them do anything to help. They’re all too caught up in their own vacations. This is another story where I went from laughing to stunned silence within a few pages.




She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.












5. “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien

I’m usually too critical to get emotionally invested in fiction, but I was invested in this story. In this semi-autobiographical tale, a young man is drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. The man is paralyzed with fear. He doesn’t know if he should give in to pressure and go to war, or follow his instincts and escape to Canada. This story made me anxious! I remember reading it in the commons at my college. When I put the book down, I couldn’t believe that I was freaking out while everybody around me was studying, or eating, or sleeping. I felt like everybody should be freaking out.




All the eyes on me—the town, the whole universe—and I couldn't risk the embarrassment.












4. “Apt Pupil” by Stephen King

Putting this story on the list might be cheating. I don’t know the exact word count, but it might be a novella and not a short story. Whatever. It’s an underrated Stephen King thing. A teenager discovers that his neighbor is an ex-Nazi who’s wanted for war crimes. The boy and the old man spend the next four years slowly torturing and blackmailing each other. I love how King keeps raising the stakes and heightening the tension in this story. You don’t know which character will end up killing the other.




‘No,’ he said. ‘I don't think anyone dies happy . . . but you could die well.’












3. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

If you love dystopias, and you haven’t read “The Lottery,” what are you doing with your life? This tale about a mysterious lottery in a remote village helped launch the dystopian genre. Now that dystopias are everywhere, the end of this story probably isn’t shocking, but it's still an entertaining story.







Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.












2. “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell

Karen Russell is probably my favorite contemporary short story writer. Her stories are weird and magical and make you think about the world in new ways. St. Lucy’s Home is a school where nuns try to turn wild wolf-girls into proper young ladies. As you’d expect, the nuns have varying levels of success with taming wolves.









I felt sorry for them. I wondered what it would be like to be bred in captivity, and always homesick for a dimly sensed forest, the trees you've never seen.












1. “Some of Us had been Threatening Our Friend Colby” by Donald Barthelme

If you’ve read this blog before, then you might know that I love gallows humor. This story is literally gallows humor. Colby’s friends are irritated at him for “going too far.” They decide to make an example of him by hanging him in front of the whole town. The friends plan Colby’s execution like normal people would plan a party. It’s delightfully morbid.







Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he'd gone too far, so we decided to hang him.









What is your favorite short story? 








73 comments:

  1. I'm kind of ashamed, because I've never heard of these short stories before. But you made me curious with a few of them! Thank you so much for sharing. And the quotes your selected are very interesting, enough to want me to check out the stories.

    My <a href="http://rubys-books.blogspot.com/2018/07/top-ten-tuesday-5-favorite-novellas-5.html> Top Ten Tuesday</a>

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  2. I haven't read most of these stories yet, but all of them sound really good.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

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  3. I have only read #3 on your list and I thought that story was kind of sad and a bit scary.

    I've not read any of J.D. Saligner's work but the 'a perfect day for bananafish' story sounds intriguing, I might check that out.

    have a lovely day.

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    1. Salinger was a really good short story writer. I think that a lot of the people who hate his novels would like his stories.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND, YES. I read it for my English class sophomore year and I remember it being one of my favorite pieces that we rad. I have to admit that's the only short story off your list that I've read, but I really enjoyed it.

    claire @ clairefy

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    1. I’ve read all of O’Connor’s short stories, and that one is by far my favorite.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. I don't read many short stories, but these all sound amazing and there's definitely a few I'll be adding to my (very long) TBR list! Gorgeous post Hun :)

    Grace Louise || www.gracelouiseofficial.blogspot.co.uk/

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  6. I really liked Apt Pupil and The Pit and the Pendulum as well. I think I need to check out the Karen Russell story.

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  7. The only ones I've read are "The Pit and the Pendulum" and "The Lottery," so I'm using the rest of this list as suggestions! “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” in particular really grabs my eye. Great picks!

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    1. “St. Lucy’s” is funny and surprisingly relevant to modern society, which is weird to say about a werewolf story.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. I read "The Pit and the Pendulum" for school and didn't really enjoy it. When presented with the choice between light and dark, I'll choose light, although I do like my light stories to have meaning and depth.
    I love "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry. My mom used to read this aloud to my family and me every Christmas. I almost have it memorized.

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    1. I really wanted to put “The Gift of the Magi” on this list, but I tried really hard to limit myself to 10.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  9. I haven't read any of these but interested in a couple. Here's my Top Ten: https://myendlessshelf.weebly.com/home/toptentuesday-top-ten-favourite-novellasshort-stories

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    1. If you read any of them, I hope you like them!

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. I am sort of surprised to hear that Hemingway had it in him to write a short story, because it took him like 20 pages to have a character mail a letter. 😝

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    1. I know! I’ve never finished a Hemingway novel because they’re tedious. His short stories are pretty good, though. I guess he needed a word limit to keep him sensible.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. Wow these sound good! I haven' read any of them but I'm just realising how many short stories there are, and so many sound really good!

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    1. There are A LOT of short stories in the world. I know because I used to get paid to read them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. I came to check out your TTT list, but can I just say that I really love the imagery and coloring of your site? Coming across The Lottery and J.D. Salinger brings back some high school nostalgia for me--since that was when I was introduced to those.

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    1. I’m glad you like the site! I’m also glad that a lot of people are reading Jackson and Salinger short stories in high school. My high school mostly stuck to novels.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. Holy wow to that last one?!? That sounds seriously grim. But I never read short stories and you're making me question all my life choices!! That Stephan King one too sounds REALLY good. *starts adding more things to the TBR*

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    1. Yes! You should question your life choices. There are a lot of really good short stories in the world.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  14. Oh Flannery O'Connor, I do not miss reading her work, as I had to in pretty much every AP and Honors English class in high school. Good call on Poe, I dig that short also, no matter if it is not his "best"!

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    1. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I think Flannery O’Connor is kind of overrated. She wrote two or three really good stories and a million very “meh” stories.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  15. Ice Age sounds like something I might like. And Hemingway... I'm kinda ashamed to admit I've never read any of his stuff, but he spent time in his youth in northern Michigan so I feel like I should have?

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    1. I haven’t read much Hemingway, either. I’ve tried, but most of his stuff is pretty tedious.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  16. These all sound so good! I've heard of The Pit and the Pendulum before, but if I've read it, it was so long ago that I've forgotten.

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    1. Honestly, a lot of Poe’s stories have merged together in my mind. I’ve read A LOT of them, and I read them a long time ago.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  17. I read Apt Pupil years ago but it isn't my favourite of King. I liked his Quitter's Inc!

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    1. I haven’t read that one. It’s on my list.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  18. 'Apt Pupil' was the creepiest thing I've ever read - but it's so hard to stop reading! Really made me want to try some more Stephen King. The Ernest Hemmingway and Flannery O' Connor ones sound great, the problem with short stories though is having to get whole collections just for one good story :/

    My TTT: https://basedonthebook.blogspot.com/2018/07/top-ten-er-wednesday-films-based-on.html

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    1. Agreed. A lot of short story writers write a few good stories and a lot of terrible ones. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t read more collections. I don’t like wading through the junk to find the good stuff.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  19. My favourite short story is the Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. That one is freaky :)

    Ronnie @ Paradise Found

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  20. These all look so interesting! And also kind of scary. On the Rainy River sounds really intriguing-- I can't imagine what it would be like being drafted into a war you don't know if you want to fight.

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    1. The author does a really good job of making the reader imagine it. It’s not something I ever want to imagine again. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  21. I also LOVED The Lottery back when I read it! Ice Age sounds like a story I'd definitely enjoy, so I'll need to go check that out!

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    1. Alexander Weinstein’s collection is one of my favorites. There are a lot of good stories in it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  22. OH thank you so, so much for sharing all of these short stories - I feel a bit ashamed that I haven't read any of these just yet, but some sound really great. I'm especially curious about The End of Something, as well as Salinger's short story. Will have to keep these in mind! :D

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    1. If you read any of them, I hope you like them!

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  23. I remember reading The Lottery when I was in school. And while I've read many of Poe's stories, I can't believe I haven't The Pit and the Pendulum. I'm gonna have to read that one sometime.

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    1. I was completely shocked by the ending of “The Lottery” when I read it in school. Now I’ve read so many dystopias that I can see that kind of ending coming.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  24. I've heard of some of these, but have never read any except "The Pit and the Pendulum," which (sorry) I hated, because I really don't like horror. Growing up, much of my out-of-school short-story reading was found in various science fiction and fantasy magazines, or in SFF anthologies. So I vividly remember reading "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov (later turned into a novel, which wasn't as good), "The Star" by Arthur C. Clark, and Ray Bradbury's "I Sing the Body Electric" (all in anthologies) and two new-at-the-time novellas that were released serially and later turned into very good full-length novels: "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card, and "Stardance" by Spider Robinson.

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    1. I read a few sci-fi anthologies when I was a teen. That was so long ago that I don’t remember them very well anymore.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  25. Karen Russell's short stories are pretty fantastic. :) Great picks!

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  26. I don't read a lot ofshort stories or novellas but The Lottery sounds interesting for sure!

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    1. “The Lottery” is a classic. I think everybody should read it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  27. I don't really read a lot of short stories but I remember reading a bunch of Edgar Allen Poe and they are EVERYTHING! I love The Fall of the House of Asher and The Telltale Heart!

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    1. YES! Poe is my favorite short story writer.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  28. I had to tweak the topic this week so I'm not a big short story fan, but when I started trying to make a list, The Lottery and several of Poe's stories including The Pit and the Pendulum were on it.

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    1. I had to stop myself from making the whole list Poe. It was tempting. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  29. I've been meaning to pick up St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves for so long. Glad to find it on your list. And I love all of Poe's short stories that I've read.

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    1. Karen Russell’s collections are some of my favorites ever. She’s written a lot of weird, beautiful stories.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  30. I think The Pit and the Pendulum was one of my first Poe reads too, and it definitely left an impression!

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    1. Yep. I don’t remember much about middle school, but I remember reading that story.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  31. Is it bad that I've never read anything by Edgar Allan Poe? I've heard a lot about him from people who adore dark poetic stories and I've always been on the outs where he's concerned. The only reason I can come up with to justify why I've never read anything by him is that I'm in Brazil. Maybe he's not as popular here and wasn't included in my curriculum because of that? Who knows at this point! :)

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  32. It's so nice finding a short read that speaks to you and is enjoyable :)

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  33. Not much of a short story reader, but oh my, you got me with Flannery O'Connor. I want to try that one.

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  34. I've read a couple of these...but you've intrigued me with Hemingway and Salinger. I've got to get to their short stories.

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  35. Oh Ice Age sounds really interesting. I'll have to remember that one.

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  36. Oh man, I also loved so many of these. The Pit and the Pendulum, On the Rainy River, Apt Pupil, The Lottery.. I'll definitely be checking out the others that I haven't read yet! Great list. :)

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  37. The Lottery is something I read in college and it left SUCH an impression on me. It's one of the best short stories. I totally need to re-read it sometime. I also would love to read more Poe. Great list!

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  38. I've read five of these, I'll have to check out the Stephen King story and the Ice Age title. Speaking of gallows humor... along that line have you seen The Last Supper with Cameron Diaz? https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113613/

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  39. Glad you have so many short stories you've enjoyed - though I feel the pain of narrowing a list down. That is tough when it's a topic you have MANY favorites for. :)

    Thanks so much for visiting Finding Wonderland.

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