Five Short Stories I Love

1. A Christmas Memory – Truman Capote
Alright, I know Christmas is so over, but I have to give this story a mention because I think it’s pretty much perfect and I’m a sap, because the end always makes me cry a little bit. Sue me. (Text)

2. Good Country People – Flannery O’Connor
I love Flannery O’Connor. So much so that once when I was talking to a guy about books, I knew I couldn’t date him because when I mentioned Flannery O’Connor, he said “Oh yeah, he’s good.” Anyway, this is a great story, and you should read it if you haven’t. (I tried to find the text for you on the internet, but only found essays about it. Sorry.) Set in the rural American South, it’s the story of a girl with a prosthetic leg named Joy (who wants to be called Helga) and a smooth-talking Bible salesman named Manley Pointer. (That’s right — Manley. Pointer.) It is darkly comic and sharply insightful and more than a little uncomfortable and oh so good. O’Connor was a master, and — in case you haven’t picked up on this yet — one of my all-time favorite writers, and I had a hard time picking just one of her stories to put on this list, but I had to go with this one, because well, if that whole Manley Pointer thing doesn’t crack you up, then there’s obviously something wrong with you.

3. Gazebo – Raymond Carver
I’m pretty much in love with the entire collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (the edited version, as previously mentioned), and this may be my favorite story in the book. I was talking to someone about Raymond Carver and why I liked him so much, and I mentioned this story as an example. I said, “I got to the end and I felt like I’d been punched. And I couldn’t breathe for a minute.” And it still gets me that way. It’s just… perfect.

4. The Yellow Wall-Paper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This is a classic short story, about a woman who is put on the rest cure, which makes her slowly go mad. It’s delicious — truly — and it has one of the best last lines of all time. (Text)

5. Going to Meet the Man – James Baldwin
I pretty easily selected the first four stories for this list, but had to debate with myself a little bit about which one was good enough to get this last spot. There were a few contenders which I dug up and reread, and finally, after having just finished this one, I knew it had to make the list. Angry and people-smart — an undeniably forceful combination — this story is about the psycho-sexual power a man derives from lynching and other brutality (it’s the only way he can manage to have sex with his wife). The prose seethes with a tightly-controlled rage, which I think shows what command Baldwin had as a writer. Great story, truly.

17 Responses

  1. O’Conner wrote a short story
    O’Conner wrote a short story called “The Artifical Nigger,” which sums up racism in a powerful way. Choreographer Bill T. Jones created a modern dance piece around it (Jones is Black.) During the piece a man and a woman alternate reading the story in its entirety. The Piece’s entire title is, “Reason, Mercy, and the Artificial Nigger.”

  2. I just finished reading
    I just finished reading Capote’s A Christmas Memory. It makes me want to go back and rewrite recent chapters of my novel-in-progress, because, damn it, Truman’s is better!

    Why couldn’t I think of this:

    . . . we take the bead purse from its secret place and spill its contents on the scrap quilt. Dollar bills, tightly rolled and green as May buds. Somber fifty-cent pieces, heavy enough to weight a dead man’s eyes. Lovely dimes, the liveliest coin, the one that really jingles. Nickels and quarters, worn smooth as creek pebbles. But mostly a hateful heap of bitter-odored pennies. Last summer others in the house contracted to pay us a penny for every twenty-five flies we killed. Oh, the carnage of August: the flies that flew to heaven! Yet it was not work in which we took pride. And, as we sit counting pennies, it is as though we were back tabulating dead flies.


    I guess I’ll forge ahead to the crazy woman in the Yellow Wallpaper. That should cheer me up, as people going mad are almost always fun to read about.

  3. I’ve read quite a few short
    I’ve read quite a few short stories by Maupassant on The Literature Network, moonrat. Are you referring to The Diamond Necklace? That’s a good one.

    Now I’m on a Henry James kick. I highly recommend The Aspern Papers, which might be considered a Novella rather than a short story, but it’s not very long.

  4. Chekhov’s The Bet is a good
    Chekhov’s The Bet is a good life-in-a-nutshell tale of transcendence but the best life-in-a-nutshell story is Hemingway’s Hills Like Pink Elephants. I also like Robert Stone’s Helping, is the title I believe, of an alcoholic who begins drinking again. Crane’s Open Boat is not too bad.

  5. The first three are such
    The first three are such excellent choices. A Christmas Memory is absolutely my favorite. I read it a couple times a year. I’m def going to check out the last two. A suggestion: Roses, Rhododendron by Alice Adams.

  6. I hate to have to say this,
    I hate to have to say this, but I believe the short story is even deader than the poem! I think novels, poetry and comic books/strips and graphic novels all come out on top over the short story these days, with only the published play requiring more life support.

  7. Got to love Sir Arthur Conan
    Got to love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his Sherlock Holmes stories. Sometimes so delightfully twee… I think The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Red-Headed League are amongst my favourites.

  8. Have you ever read Light is
    Have you ever read Light is Like Water by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? I hesitate to bring it up as I feel so strongly about how stunning every word of it is. I’d also like to add that after that one, my next 200 top short stories are all Borges.

  9. I have had no luck locating a
    I have had no luck locating a copy of Chekhov’s The Bet. Perhaps someone can tell me if it is included in another book???

  10. Rubaio — Since you are a
    Rubaio — Since you are a Borges fan, maybe you can answer a question for me. A long time ago, I read a Borges short story in a Spanish class, but I can’t find the book in which I read it and I can’t remember the title, and I want to read it again, but under these circumstances it’s pretty impossible to find. It was about a gaucho in Argentina and I think he gets crucified in the end? I’d be happy to find it in Spanish or English, if only I could remember the name.

    Though now that I’ve written all of that, I sort of feel like I just made the whole thing up.

  11. That is a beautiful story and
    That is a beautiful story and I have two ways you can get it. It is called The Gospel According to Mark. One interesting way to get it is on ITUNES free podcasts. The New Yorker has a series where people, in this case Paul Theroux, pick their favourite stories and read them. Its free, and Theroux talks about it afterwards. Otherwise, I really like his collected fictions (and non-fictions and poems as well) by Andrew Hurley in English.

    The amazing thing about Borges stories is that I do feel afterwards that I had written them or at least thought of them. It is a sensation I have not met with any other author. The closest would be Calvino. I recommend his entire catalog. His collected fictions is my deserted island book.

    Good luck

  12. The Hemingway story is “Hills
    The Hemingway story is “Hills Like White Elephants.” Not pink, as mentioned above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!