Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Favorite Short Stories

 I have always enjoyed short stories - both reading and writing them - so this is a topic I like a lot. I used to have a "Short Story Spotlight" feature on my old blog, which I stopped only because of how difficult it was to find short stories for kids. Still, I have my favorites, both for kids and adults, and I thought I'd share a list of them today. (Wherever possible, I have provided a link to the full text of the story.)

  • Good Country People
    by Flannery O'Connor
    This is probably my favorite short story of all time. Its main character is a woman named Hulga who uses a prosthetic leg. Hulga becomes friends with a Bible salesman named Manley Pointer, who charms her out of her usual cynical worldview and then turns the tables on her in a most unexpected way. Anything Flannery O'Connor has written - including her letters - is worth reading at least twice, but this story in particular really sticks with me.
  • The Girls in their Summer Dresses
    by Irwin Shaw
    On a Sunday morning in New York, Michael and his wife Frances go for a walk, during which they discuss Michael's consistently wandering eye, which is always sizing up beautiful women. I read this for the first time in high school and have reread it several times since. I like the interesting dynamic between the characters, but more than that I just enjoy the feeling of Sunday morning in New York which the author perfectly captures in his descriptions. 
  • A Father's Story
    by Andre Dubus
    There is nothing like reading this story for the first time. It's one of those pieces of writing that is so perfect, I just marvel at the way the words are put together. It's the story of a father whose closest friend is a priest, and who harbors a secret that puts him at odds with his religion's teachings about right and wrong. (The secret involves protecting his daughter; hence, the title.)
  • Will
    by Adam Rex
    This is a children's short story from the Guys Read: Funny Business collection. Set in a school for kids with superpowers, it explores what happens when a supervillain breaks into the school looking to destroy its nemesis. The story is laugh-out-loud funny, appealing to boys and girls, and a great read-aloud, especially for grades 5 to 8. It is my number one go-to story for reading on class visits, and I hope to see it get lots of attention when the 2015 summer reading program focuses on superheroes.
  • Winter Dreams 
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Though this short story shares much in common with The Great Gatsby and with Fitzgerald's other works, this story stands out for me much more than the others. A golf caddy at a country club falls in love with a beautiful woman who does not return his affections. The writing is very accessible, especially given the age of the story, and it's a good one to use to introduce teens to the short story form.
  • The Lottery
    by Shirley Jackson
    This chilling account of one town's brutal yearly tradition is best read with little or no introductory comment. This one is commonly taught in high schools and colleges, but anyone who has not read it absolutely must. It's unforgettable and thought-provoking. I also think it would be so interesting to pair with The Hunger Games.
  • All Summer in a Day 
    by Ray Bradbury
    I only read this story once, when I was taking a Teaching of Reading course in college. The story was included in a basal reader we looked at in class, and I believe we read the story as a class to practice a particular teaching technique. Though the lesson intended by the professor has long since been lost, the story sticks with me. The setting is an elementary school classroom on planet Venus, where the sun is only visible every 7 years. A little girl from Earth is looking forward to seeing the sun, as she can still remember it from her childhood. Sadly, through an act of harsh bullying, her fellow students deprive her of the experience. This may not be intended for children, but it is appropriate for them to read, and a nice way to prompt critical thinking about acts of bullying.

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