“Antiheroes” by George Saunders Reading time: five minutes
What if you had superpowers? What if they didn’t work most of the time, or really at all? What do you really need to know about this story other than that it’s written by George Saunders? The man is practically a superhero of the short form.
“The Knowers” by Helen Phillips Reading time: 12 minutes
As a list like this suggests, we’re all concerned about how much time we have left. Phillips takes this fear to its extreme by giving her characters the opportunity to learn the exact time of their death.
“Before” by Lucy Corin Reading time: 14 minutes
In her recent collection One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses, Lucy Corin shows us the many ways the world may end. Here, in this hallucinatory and intelligent story, she sets about destroying that romantic image of the starving artist.
“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger Reading time: 14 minutes
I don’t care how many times you’ve read this. It’s delightful and dark and everything a story needs to be. If you somehow haven’t read it, I don’t know why you’re wasting time reading this sentence. Get on it.
“Marabou” by Joy Williams Reading time: six minutes
This remarkable story from The Paris Review looks at the strange spectacle of death and mourning, and the astonishing way we all manage to keep moving on.
“Tributaries” by Ramona Ausubel Reading time: 11 minutes
Ramona Ausubel imagines a world where people grow new appendages when they fall in love. It’s strange, it’s moving, and it’s worth every minute of your time.
“Pelion” by Mario Alberto Zambrano Reading time: 14 minutes
A quiet but vividly detailed story of relationships, infidelity, and how life can conspire to keep us from the ones we love.
“Seibert” by Adam Haslett Reading time: 10 minutes
A story that captures New York, Brooklyn, and the wonderful world of online dating. Worth reading for its use of the word “Tribecian” alone.
“An Unwritten Novel” by Virginia Woolf Reading time: 15 minutes
Technically you could read all the words in this experimental wonder in 15 minutes. But you’re better off spending some extra time with this one; there’s an entire life lived in here.
“Notes on a War-Torn Childhood” by Sara Nović Reading time: eight minutes
A powerful story of a Croatian girl trapped caught in a war zone, written by an up-and-coming writer you’ll be hearing from a lot in the future.
“The Tablecloth of Turin” by Ron Carlson Reading time: five minutes
A hysterical monologue in which a duped man defends an absurd religious relic from all would-be non-believers. You can hear a brilliant performance of the story at Selected Shorts.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson Reading time: 12 minutes
If you haven’t read this classic and disturbing story yet, it means you slept through English class while the rest of us bookish types did our work and had nightmares as a result. If you’ve read it before, it’s high time to revisit.
“The Skin Thing” by Adrian Van Young Reading time: six minutes
As Lincoln Michel describes it, this work of swift science fiction is like a Shirley Jackson story menaced by “a horrifying Lovecraftian creature.” It’ll be collected in Gigantic Worlds, from the great minds at Gigantic (the kings of the quick, meaningful read).
“Toast” by Matt Sumell Reading time: 11 minutes
Matt Sumell isn’t afraid to give voice to all the things you’re not supposed to even think about. And you better get ready to listen, because the man’s got a lot to say.
“Home Run” by Steven Millhauser Reading time: four minutes
Written in a single, breathless sentence, “Home Run” follows the meteoric rise of a baseball and plays with the favorite phrases of America’s favorite pastime.