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Short stories are prose fictions that can typically be read in one sitting. Despite their brevity, short stories carry as much diversity and depth as any novel. Most of us have encountered this style during middle school English classes as a quick practice for literary analysis. But short stories are always available to us beyond academic settings and contain many advantages fitting to our hectic lives. 

For those of you who are squeezing short reading times in your schedules, probably to finish a single book after months of reading it, short stories are the best! Just within a small number of pages, we can venture into new genres and become acquainted with authors without the pressure of commitment. 

In short stories, my favorite genres are thrillers or horrors that keep me on my toes. I believe that chilling tales must be read in a short period of time in order to maintain their natural thrill. Consequently, short stories have been a compact and fulfilling form of writing that perfectly matched my needs. Following, I will introduce 5 unsettling short stories that I treasure deeply. Most of them are available online (even on YouTube as audiobooks) and I hope you give them a read! They’re all short and sweet! 

”The Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl

Beyond his famous children’s books, Roald Dahl has an amazing array of horrific tales for adults, including a book of ghost stories. But “The Lamb to the Slaughter” is not about ghosts. Written in 1953, this short story presents a pregnant housewife and her atypical day. Beginning with what seems to be a mundane daily routine, the story develops dramatically after the woman’s unexpected conversation with her husband. Overall, it questions how perceived notions of a person can let us overlook true nature. Whether that is an advantage depends on the perspective. 

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This beautifully written short story revolves around the issues of mental health, specifically of women in the late 19th century. The narrator resides at a countryside mansion after giving birth to her child. From the start, it appears most likely that she is suffering from postpartum depression. However, this is not an available diagnosis at the time. Accordingly, the narrator faces questionable treatments, and you will be taken along with her psychological development. 

“The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is well known as the author of Fahrenheit 451, but he also published a long list of chilling short stories. This specific tale is based in an ominous town with an equally dark community of the future in the 2050s. The protagonist, Leonard Mead, has been taking casual strolls in the streets for years. But for the first time, he is encountered by another being. Read the short story to identify this disruption to Mr. Mead’s solitude. 

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

“The Tell-Tale Heart” is one of the most loved scary stories of all time. Renowned for his grim taste, Edgar Allan Poe delivers another classic gothic horror in this short story, following an unreliable narrator. Driven mad by his paranoia, the narrator describes his unusual thoughts and delivers actions of an incomprehensible scale. Unlike most anecdotes that come from the malefactor’s perspective, this story highlights the power of guilt. 

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

Connie, a vain 15-year-old girl, spends her day hanging out with friends and going on a date with a boy. However, the presence of an unknown man changes her normal day into a peculiar one. Moreover, it seems like the man wishes to get involved in her life, contrary to her desires. This story will leave you with immense discomfort but you will be wanting for more. 

Person holding coffee and book
Photo by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash
It is common for most horrific stories to leave us with a cliffhanger. Although this may be frustrating, it is a writer’s strategy to re-emphasize the horror as the readers have to face their own unresolved emotions. If any of these stories left you craving for more, that is proof that the story has served its purpose.

Furthermore, this unsatiated need can be a great incentive to get yourself back into reading in general. If you’ve been struggling to build a reading habit, I suggest starting with a short story. And, if you enjoy the gripping, frightening tales, why not read an unusual one?  


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HoJung Kim

Mt Holyoke '23

I am a Psychology & Art History double major, and accordingly, I love art (in any form), and peace of mind.
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