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A Whole New World: Short Stories and Where to Find Them

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

If you were to see me out in public when I was a child, it’s highly likely that I had some kind of book with me, and nearly as likely that I would have been actively reading it, no matter the occasion. I’ve always been an avid reader, and I can eat up several books in a matter of days—if not hours—provided I have the time. Despite my voracious appetite for reading, however, up until recently I had a fairly limited variety of what I was actually reading. Mostly fiction, often fantasy, and only ever novels. I started branching out into nonfiction more a little while ago (you can see one of my nonfiction book recommendations here), but it wasn’t until this semester, really, that I started to explore what’s available outside of just full-length books.

More specifically, short stories. I’m not sure why, exactly, I spurned short fiction for such a long time, but I do have two guesses. One: every single short story I ever remember reading in class was boring, upsetting, or more likely a combination of the two, with a few exceptions. Two: A lot of the short stories that I was introduced to were of a very similar genre (mostly horror and depressing social commentary, a la “The Lottery” and “Harrison Bergeron”). I wasn’t ever shown how to find good short stories on my own; ones that dealt with topics I was more interested in. However, I will be the first to say it: I was wrong. Short stories can be found across many genres and offer a wealth of unique narratives, intricate characters, and diverse writing styles, all within a much more compact body of text than a novel. 

For those who don’t have the time (me) or the brain-space (also me, unfortunately) to jump into a full-length book at the moment, short stories are a fantastic option. Just like looking for your next good book, it can be a little bit daunting to start searching for short stories, especially if you’re new to reading them. Here are a few that I have recently read and enjoyed, as well as a couple places to start looking for yourself, if you’re ready for more. 

This article is just barely skimming the surface of all of the amazing short stories that are out there, and I really encourage you to try at least one. Even if none that I’ve mentioned here are to your taste, there’s something out there for everyone, and I guarantee that you can find the one for you.

“Roja” by Anna-Marie McLemore and “Burnt Umber” by Mackenzi Lee

“Roja” and “Burnt Umber” are short, exhilarating reads with vibrant characters and a very approachable writing style. “Roja” tells the story of a young woman with apparent supernatural powers and her jailed lover, while “Burnt Umber” follows a young boy apprenticing to become a painter in 17th century Amsterdam (it’s more fun than it sounds, I promise you). Both of these short stories can be found in the collection All Out: The No-Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages, which can be bought on Amazon for about ten dollars, and also found in many libraries (for those in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie library system has print and ebook copies at several of their locations).

Short story collections are a fantastic way to get access to a lot of short stories at once, and are often very easily accessible. I would wager every library and bookstore you come across will have at least one. There are collections like All Out, with many totally unrelated short stories by multiple authors (often surrounding one theme), and others with more connected stories all by the same author, like The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz, which are both great reads as well. If you just want to read a huge variety of short stories that aren’t related in any way (other than being well-written, of course) I would recommend you try one of the Best American Short Stories books. The title is fairly self explanatory, but there is a new edition published every year, which means lots and lots of short stories to explore, year by year.   

“Zolaria” by Caitlin Horrocks and “The Tiger’s Bride” by Angela Carter

Since reading it for my writing class this semester, “Zolaria” has become one of my favorite short stories that I have ever read. I would say that it really exemplifies the way short stories can create such nuanced and developed characters and narratives within a few short pages. “The Tiger’s Bride” is also a fascinating story, a spin on the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast by one of the early and iconic feminist writers, Angela Carter. 

Both of these short stories are great reads, and, even better, easily available online in PDF form. Just googling their names will pull up results, but if you don’t want to go looking yourself (which I totally understand), here is the link to “Zolaria” and The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, the collection of Angela Carter short stories that contains “The Tiger’s Bride.”

“Godmother Tea” by Selena Anderson and “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe

“Godmother Tea” is another short story that I discovered by the grace of my creative writing professor, Shannon Reed. It’s an absolutely fascinating look into the mind of Joy, who is the narrator, and her relationship with herself and her mysterious godmother figure (or are they one and the same?). It can easily be read online here, from the Oxford American. On their website, you can look through over a hundred issues of the Oxford American magazine, each containing poems, short stories, and more. 

The Cask of Amontillado” has long been one of my favorite short stories, even before I really started reading them in any kind of quantity. I’m a pretty big Poe fan, and his short stories were some of the ones I actually enjoyed reading in middle and high school. One of the best things about Poe, besides his dark humor and somewhat campy (at least to me) horror aesthetic, is how easily accessible his short stories are. The Poe Museum has all of his short stories available online, and you can also find collections of Poe’s short stories in many bookstores and libraries (including the University Store on Fifth, if you’re in Oakland for the day).

One of the greatest things about short stories is how much easier to find online they are than full length novels or non-fiction books. Any short stories by famous authors (like Gabriel García Márquez) can usually be found online somewhere, even if it takes a couple minutes of searching, and there are tons and tons of resources to find works by newer or lesser known authors. 

Kaitlyn is the Business/PR Manager for the Her Campus University of Pittsburgh Chapter, as well as a writer. She is currently a second-year student at Pitt, and initially joined Her Campus last year. Most of her articles cover recipes or entertainment topics like books, movies, and music, but she is looking to expand to a wider breadth of topics. Kaitlyn is an English Literature Major, and plans to minor in both Spanish and Chinese. She is a member of the Frederick Honors College, with plans to study abroad in China or Taiwan. In addition to Her Campus, Kaitlyn is a member of Studio 412, another student publication at Pitt. Outside of classes, Kaitlyn can frequently be found gushing about her dogs, reading, or cooking something for herself and her roommates.