Short Stuff

I’d like to read more, but I don’t have time to read a long, involved story.

There’s a solution for that. It’s called a short story.

 Short stories are those that can be read in under an hour – often not more than 5,000 words (beyond 7,500 is called a novella, and they are often published alone in little books, like Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption,  J.A. Jance’s The Old Blue Line, or Shirley Goodness and Mercy by Debbie Macomber) and they are often grouped together in anthology volumes, anthology meaning, literally, a collection of stories, the same way a CD album is a collection of individual songs.

Short stories are an art form of their own, still carrying the same structures of their longer novel cousins (plot, themes, metaphors, etc) but in a very short package. Some are complete stories (think of Ray Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day, or Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery) while others might just give you a slice of life, a few hours in the life of an individual with no clear beginning and no clear end, leaving you to wonder what might come next (some stories by Anton Chekhov, or Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants). They can be happy or sad, comic or dramatic, or full of irony (The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant). Sometimes an anthology might consist of short stories on a single theme (love, loss, westerns, adventure), or they could be a mix of anything. And the beauty of an anthology is you can read one or two stories, or the whole thing, depending on your time and interest.

But short stories don’t carry the same weight as novels.

Of course they do! Many writers are known more for their short stories than for their novels – Alice Munro is considered one of the premier short story writers, having won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature in part for her short stories. Ray Bradbury is another prolific short-story writer, not quite horror, not quite science fiction, not quite fantasy, just imaginative. His philosophy was to write one short story a week, because out of 52 short stories, you were bound to have three or four that were really good. Short stories are easier to sell, if not to anthologies then to magazines – many a writer got their start in The New Yorker, Collier’s, or Atlantic, let alone Good Housekeeping and Readers’ Digest. Some of the most popular authors – Isaac Asimov, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler – carved their name writing for pulp fiction magazines.

Short stories don’t always stay short, either. Many popular films started out as short stories – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (published in The New Yorker) (Did you realize this one takes place in Waterbury, Connecticut?), All About Eve, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 3:10 to Yuma, Shawshank Redemption, Minority Report, Brokeback Mountain, Rear Window, Total Recall, and many, many others.

A little story can go a long way. If you’re pressed for time, check out the stories in these collections, and more!

Best Short Stories of Jack London

Ray Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales

Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour, Vol. 4

Children of the Night: Best Short Stories by Black Writers

Dancing Through Life in a Pair of Broken Heels

No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories

Beautiful Days

Amish Front Porch Stories

Bring Out the Dog: Stories

Complete Stories of Edgar Allen Poe

Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers

20th Century Ghosts

June is National Bathroom Reading Month

Yes, you read that right. June is actually National Bathroom Reading Month. I never knew a month was dedicated to this, but I guess everything has a special time set aside to celebrate it’s uniqueness these days.

So what kind of list do you think I will offer up here? It took me awhile to decide myself. Should I offer up books about bathroom renovation, dirty jokes, short stories, potty training, or something else completely? There are just so many options! I decided to go with reading material, mostly of a humorous bent including some memoirs, that are portioned out in short tidbits, stories, or facts, best suited for reading in short periods of time. Not that I promote reading library books in that particular room of course, but these books would do well while waiting in the car or for any short reading time spans.

1. The Ten, Make that Nine, Habits of Very Organized people. Make that Ten: the Tweets of Steve Martin

2. Napalm & Silly Putty by George Carlin

3. Our Dumb World: The Onion’s Atlas of the Planet Earth by The Onion

4. Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates

5. Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up by Dave Barry

6. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris

7. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Brosh

8. I Didn’t Ask to be Born (But I’m Glad I Was) by Bill Cosby; illustrations by George Booth

9. Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: on Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities by Chris Kluwe

10. Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

And because I can never leave well enough alone, here are some more options: America again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut: Essays and Observations by Jill Kargman, Totally Mad: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity by John Ficarra, Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern, The 50 Funniest American Writers*: an Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to the Onion *according to Andy Borowitz, Humor Me: an Anthology of Funny Contemporary Writing (Plus Some Great Old Stuff Too) edited by Ian Frazier,
Our Front pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America’s Finest News Source, The Onion, and Let’s Pretend this Never Happened: (a Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson the Bloggess.