Mike & Shelly 2012

25 Great Short Stories

Novels are great, but I’m more of a short story junkie; comes with the territory of being an English teacher, I guess.  I’ve crafted my own bucket list that every reader should tackle at some point. One of my litmus tests starts with the kids at school. You know … it’s that moment when they look up, wrinkle their nose and say, “Hey, remember when we read that one story? What was it called?”

Be forewarned. These are not all happy tales.  If you decide to check any out (I’ve included links), be prepared for a mental heart attack from a few.

So here’s my English Teacher’s list of short stories that one should read at some point in a lifetime, listed in no particular order.  I’ve starred (*) the ones most worth looking up if time is limited.

1. *Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – “The Red-Headed League” I love this for its cleverness.

2. Jack London – “To Build a Fire” You’ll want to be wrapped up in a nice warm blanket when you read this one. 

3. William Faulkner – “A Rose for Emily” Odd and sad, yet unforgettable. (And yes, the famous movie you will think of when you read this, likely found its inspiration here.)

4. Edgar Allan Poe – “The Cask of Amontillado” 

5. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”       I took on a dare in High School to read the full volume of all the Sherlock Homes stories in a week.  For some reason, this story stands out most.

6. Ernest Hemingway – “Hills Like White Elephants” A pro-life story by Hemingway?

7. *Ray Bradbury – “The Pedestrian” How did he know?

8. *Guy de Maupassant – “The Necklace”  For those of you familiar with Veggie Tales, this makes a great pairing with the Madam Blueberry “Stuff Mart” episode.  I love the looks on my kid’s faces when I let them watch a cartoon and ask them to make the parallel.

9.  *Dylan Thomas – “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” Love, love, love this! Saw it adapted into a play.  Wonderful!!

10. Edgar Allan Poe – “The Tell-Tale Heart”Super creepy and unforgettable. Makes you wonder how anyone can claim that people are basically good.

11. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman – “The Revolt of Mother” There are  some characters who win you in an instance … you’ll find a couple of those here.

12. Thomas Hardy – “The Three Strangers” I should have figured this out, but I didn’t. That’s why I love it.

13. Eudora Welty – “A Worn Path” One of those stories that makes you stop and say, “What?” 

14. **O. Henry – “The Cop and the Anthem” Contains the best character name ever!

15. Stephen Crane – “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky”  I never enjoyed The Red Badge of Courage, so was skeptical when I came across this story, but was delightfully surprised.

16. *Jack Finney – “Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket”  For years, I remembered the events of this story but not the title.  Thank goodness for Google.  Had my heart in my throat the second time, even though I knew what was going to happen.

17. Geoffrey Chaucer – “The Pardoner’s Tale” You’ll be proud of yourself for wading through the old English, although you can find some abridged versions if your brain just isn’t up to an earlier version.

18. Frank O’Connor – “The Drunkard” Local color with a twist.

19. Ginny Swart – “Top Chef Negotiable” Likely to make you hungry.

20. Shirley Jackson – “The Lottery”  An unsuspecting story that stirred endless controversy at its release. I love asking kids how realistic the events of this story are.

21. *Max Brandt – “Wine on the Desert” Poetic justice at its finest. Boys love this story.

22. *O. Henry – “The Ransom of Red Chief”  He gets on the list twice because I love just about anything O. Henry. I suspect that this is another story that gave inspiration to a famous movie.

23. Washington Irving – “The Devil and Tom Walker” Irving seems obsessed with revenge for nagging wives and foolish men.

24. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Did you know this was part of the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?

25. *Ambrose Bierce – “The Occurrence at Owl Creek”  My English teacher in HS owned a reel to reel version of the French made film based off this movie.  We got our kicks out of watching it in reverse.

So how many of these have you read and what would you add?

My favorite out of all?  Think I have to toss a coin between “The Cop and the Anthem” and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.  Heads !  It’s … The Cop and the Anthem. I really do love O. Henry. I also have a recent fascination with Bradbury’s writing.  I find it intriguing, even chilling, that he so closely predicted much of the world we live in, over half a century ago.  Be on the look out for my recap of one of his stories that I don’t list here.

Also coming soon …

BeingSausy’s Picks for favorite Children’s books, Children’s series, and  Inspirational books.





2 thoughts on “25 Great Short Stories

  1. Good list! I’ve only read about a third of them, but I’m happy to see links so I can fill in the gaps. Have to say, though, that I have always found The Lottery disturbing, ever since I was traumatized by it in eighth grade.

    1. Stephanie, you’ll have to let me know which stories you read and what you think. I agree on how disturbing The Lottery is. Wow … 8th grade … that seems too much. I include it in a unit Junior year and we explore whether people in the 21st century could choose something so barbaric. A student once asked whether we should allow the sacrifice of the innocent in exchange of a perceived better life for others … then she gave examples of how she still sees this happening. It’s amazing to hear 17 year-olds take on the world.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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