One of the most delightful, relaxing, and enlightening activities that can happen in bed at night is not the one defined in the dictionary by a three-letter word which conjures up spicy images, naughty, but that which passes with the lamp on and with a cup of tea nearby – reading a short story.
What I like most about short stories is that they’re short. You can read them in a sitting. No commitments, few to no descriptions, and often no plot, just a scene. Their shortness makes them concise. Their conciseness makes them powerful. And while it’s true that short stories tend to moralize, I often find that their message is quite sensible and worthy to be remembered.
A short story is sometimes only a scene. But it can be a succession of closely related scenes, more close together in time and space than those of a novel. Some short stories paint a scene and let you draw your own conclusions, Chekhov’s for example. Some carry a moral lesson: ‘look what happens if you do this!’ Two examples that come to mind are the Canterbury Tales and Boccacio’s Decameron. Others are something in between. Maupassant’s short stories and S. Maugham’s for instance.
I like them all. They are short. They are easy to read. They are fun. They make me think.
There are some short stories that I return to. Most of these are in the public domain so you can read them online or download them to your e-book reader. I bet my hat you won’t regret reading any of these.
- The Diamond Necklace by Guy de Maupasant
- Mr. Knowall by Somerset Maugham
- A Legend of Old Egypt by Boreslaw Prus
- A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud by Carson McCullers
- The Chemist’s Wife by Anton Chekhov
- The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn’t Come to Grief by Mark Twain
- Il Conde by Joseph Conrad
- The Lottery in Babylon by Jorge Luis Borges
- Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway
Do you like short stories? Have any favorites?