I love short stories: Why use three hundred pages to say what only needs twenty? And this is a good collection of them— all of the stories were well-written and there was a healthy variety of genre and subject matter. I enjoyed most of them, and the worst I can say about the few I didn’t care for is that they didn’t hold my attention. And now (since I’m tired of trying to think of a segue), here are twenty-one great stories, summarized in twenty-one words or fewer.
‘War’ by Luigi Pirandello
This story is about war, but it’s more about the dichotomy between what a person says and what he feels.
‘Eve In Darkness’ by Kaatje Hurlbut
Told from a child’s perspective, this one plays with the definition of sin.
‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Ray Bradbury
He’s not dead yet, but I couldn’t very well ignore him. Ray Bradbury is the shit.
‘Tobermory’ by “Saki”
A talking housecat calls rich dinner guests out on their character flaws. The humans’ response is surprisingly sinister.
‘The Two Bottles of Relish’ by Lord Dunsany
A story about murder that’s half Sherlock Holmes and half Alfred Hitchcock: short, sweet, and grisly.
‘Footfalls’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele
I’m usually pretty good at figuring out how a story will end; this one completely surprised me.
‘Hook’ by Walter Van Tilburg Clarke
This one’s about a hawk. It’s good and all, but still…that’s it.
‘Wine on the Desert’ by Max Brand
Some jerk murders someone and then dies. The foreshadowing is a little too obvious.
‘The Lady or the Tiger?’ by Frank Stockton
I’d forgotton that I’d already read this story. I love it, and I love the question it asks.
‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’ by Ambrose Bierce
The twist ending is lackluster. The story is about a guy who gets hanged. It doesn’t really stand out.
‘The Cask of Amontillado’ by Edgar Allan Poe
In eighth grade, this story was ruined for me by an audiobook narrator with a lumbering voice.
‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe
Classic, predictable Poe— there’s darkness, death, and neuroticism. At least it’s well-written neuroticism.
‘So Much Unfairness of Things’ by C. D. B. Bryan
A boy gets expelled from school for cheating. Really good character writing.
‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant
A story about the consequences of being a greedy, vain bitch.
‘The Adventure of the Speckled Band’ by Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes. Enough said.
‘To Build a Fire’ by Jack London
Dude travels alone, on foot, in negative-seventy-five degree weather. Dude freezes to death. Surprise.
‘Leiningen Versus the Ants’ by Carl Stephenson
An M. Night Shyamalan movie where the twist is— wait for it— the bad guys are ANTS.
‘Eveline’ by James Joyce
Girl has hard life, girl gets chance to escape, girl chickens out. Thinking about why she chickened out is fun, though.
‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ by James Thurber
To Walter Mitty, reality is whatever he imagines, and what everyone else calls real is a distraction. Sweet.
‘What Stumped the Bluejays’ by Mark Twain
Exactly what you’d expect from Mark Twain: funny and charming.
‘The Pearl’ by John Steinbeck
A long-winded morality tale. “Riches corrupt” is an old story. But “man = half god, half insane” was a neat idea.