Everyone I know (myself included) wishes they were a bigger reader. With the world a complete mess right now, in every sense of the word, it’s truly challenging to fight off distractions for long enough to get through a whole novel. So, let’s get back into the swing of things by starting small with some fantastic short stories that encourage a complex, diverse view of the world.
Oftentimes, short stories get the short end of the reading stick. They aren't exactly what publishers would consider market-friendly, and first-time writers are seldom able to publish their own collections. These seven pieces might just convert you, though. Dip your toes into short story reading with these bite-sized literary journeys written by these accomplished writers.
1. “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang (trans. Ken Liu)
Honestly, where would the science fiction genre be without class consciousness? “Folding Beijing” is, while technically, a novella, still short enough to be read in one sitting. If you’re into both futuristic sci-fi and timely social commentary, this is the story for you. Not to mention, it won the 2016 Hugo Award.
2. “Mrs. Fox” by Sarah Hall
A story told from the focal point of a man who doesn’t seem to quite grasp who his wife is independent of himself doesn’t exactly scream “Feminism!” at first glance. Perhaps his inability to understand her is the entire point — a woman is truly a wild thing in “Mrs. Fox.”
3. “The Storm” by Kate Chopin
Although this story is a sequel to one of Chopin’s earlier pieces (“At the ‘Cadian Ball”), it surpasses its predecessor in every way that matters. If you’re more of a fan of proto-feminist classical literature, this should definitely be on your list.
4. “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
This story is what some might call a classic. It can’t really be categorized as sci-fi in and of itself, though Le Guin is a canon author within the genre. Still, it’s short and sweet, as well as highly, highly relevant to the days we’re currently living in.
5. “The Rivals” by Andrea Lee
Aha! You thought you could get through this article without being recommended a story from The New Yorker! Sorry, but it had to happen. I would be remiss to ignore this newly published short story by Andrea Lee, which is almost reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. Read it, if only for Lee’s astounding eye for setting and appreciation for unruly young women.
6. “Down the Market” by Selma Dabbagh
This story is the definition of an impressive narrative voice, told in first person and immediately compelling. This piece analyzes the conflict between Israel and Palestine through a teenager’s eyes, in a remarkably coherent way, and with a fixated gaze.
7. "Speech Sounds" by Octavia E. Butler
Okay, okay, a story about the apocalypse might not be exactly what you need right now. But, a story about the apocalypse with a happy ending? Maybe that’s what everyone needs when it feels like the world is slowly boiling over.
Speech Sounds by Octavia Butler, 1983. A brilliant science fiction short story, it was first published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1983. It won Butler her first Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1984.https://t.co/Se5vVMkMAJ pic.twitter.com/1sganT0YFb— gonzomike (@gonzomike) March 10, 2020
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An intern here at Bust, Vanessa Wolosz is completing her bachelor's degree University of St Andrews, where she studies English and Comparative Literature. Her parents are happy to report that she is an honors student, and are significantly less happy to report that her interests lie in researching body art, reading sci-fi, bleaching her own hair, and not-having-a-boyfriend. You can follow her on Twitter, @memelover100, though doing so is not recommended.