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A Tribute to the Short Story

With Ann Beattie (right), a master of the genre, visiting on Thursday, April 10, for Arlington Reads 2014, we’ve been thinking a lot about the craft of Ann Beattie by Sigrid Estradashort story writing. And so have many of you.

Below are just some of the favorite short story titles and authors you suggested over the past few days as we spread the word about Beattie and her featured Arlington Reads 2014 collection, “The New Yorker Stories.”

You’ll see some familiar names on the list but hopefully a few will make you head for the Library, either in person or online. And of course part of the magic of short stories is their brevity. So you can read quite a few over a weekend, on Metro, waiting at the dentist or in the last minutes before lights out (suggestion: skip Poe in that case).


And we’ll see you at Central on April 10 for Ann Beattie and then on April 24 for another stunning writer of fiction–both short and “long” stories–Richard Ford.


Favorite Short Stories as Suggested by Arlington Public Library Readers

  • Jennifer  says:
    I’m not certain it is my favorite ever, but the short story that has doubtless stuck with me the longest is Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” It belongs in any primer on narrative style, and still stands as a concise (and devastating) assessment of social behavior. The plot continues to influence all sorts of fiction (see “The Hunger Games”); and unfortunately Jackson’s keen insight comes to mind all to often when reading the news of the day.
  • Mehvish says:
    The Dead” by James Joyce. It was hard to forget Gabriel, with all his flaws and insecurities; who hasn’t felt insecure and who doesn’t want to be remembered long after they’re gone?
  • Anthony says:
    My favorite short story is Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” Crafted as if a fable, Maupassant weaves the story of a woman addicted to lifestyle of status and the resulting downfall that comes with her hubris and greed. I read the story so many years ago but it has stuck with me ever since.
  • Beth says:
    My favorite short story is “You’re Ugly, Too” by Lorrie Moore. Incredibly poignant, dark humor with a perfect twist at the end. Moore is a master of the short story (like Beattie).
  • Kimberly says:
    My favorite short story is “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin. I first read it when I in high school, and thought it really captured the feeling of disconnectedness. It resonated with me at the time, and it is one of the few works that I still keep in hard copy.
  • Christina says:
    I love short stories. The one that sticks with me the most is “The Monkeys Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. My heart still ponds whenever I read it. It is true mastery to present a complete story in just a few words.
  • Ellen  says:
    One of the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read is “Barn Burning” by William Faulkner. The weight of having to choose between loyalty to family and what’s right is depicted with force and intelligence.
  • Jeff says:
    So many to choose from! I fell in love with Beattie’s “Snow” during my first fiction class. It’s only 1.5 pages long, yet still dynamic and very intimate. Written in the 2nd person.
  • Joanne says:
    Christopher Buckley’s “We Have a Pope!” is the funniest short story I have ever read. I laughed all the way through! I can only take that extreme humor is short bursts like a short story. It’s not overly irreverent with regard to Catholicism, which is appreciated, but still so funny. I read this in Borders during a quick break for studying for the bar and that moment of fun was much needed.
  • Lisa says:
    I love short stories! There are so many good ones that have stuck with me. Some have already been mentioned in comments here. A recent favorite is “The Tenth of December” by George Saunders (This is also the title of his latest collection.) I love this man’s work. He always has a compelling story to tell. Tenth of December tells the story of a suicidal man and a young boy. It is very moving and poignant to me. After reading this story (it is the last one in the collection), I read three of his other collections too!
  • Elizabeth says:
    So many good ones, some already mentioned – I’ll go with “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank” by Nathan Englander. All of the stories in this book made me think about things in different ways, made me laugh, made me cry.
  • Clara says:
    My all-time favorite short story is “The Open Window” by Saki (H. H. Munro.)I shall never forget the impact it had on me when I read it for the first time. Written in the early part of the 20th century, it is a timeless treasure that delights and surprises.
  • Valerie says:
    I can’t pick just one story by my favorite writer, Tom Boyle (T.C. Boyle). His stories can be funny, scary, with vivid descriptions and twisty endings, and he’s the master of the first sentence that commands you to read the story. In “Descent of Man” a man describes his primate researcher wife as gradually becoming very like the chimp she’s teaching to speak in sign (“I was living with a woman who suddenly began to stink.”). “Chicxulub” parallels the effects of a meteor strike in Siberia in the 19th century with parents getting a late-night call from a hospital saying that their daughter was hit by a car. “The Lie” is about a guy’s small lie to stay home from work that snowballs into epic creepy but comic problems (a movie version just released). And “Filthy with Things” presents a radical solution for hoarders. Also, a new writer, Jamie Quatro, whose story “1.7 to Tennessee” has stuck with me: an old lady walks to the post office to mail a letter to the President after one too many family members died in a war.
  • Lynn says:
    A short story that I have always remembered: “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. Wife sells her cherished hair to buy husband a watch chain; husband sells his cherished watch to buy wife a set of combs. Now both have things they can’t even use. More importantly they have sacrificed for each other.
  • Patrick says:
    Cheever’s work is exceptional, particularly worth re-reading is “The Swimmer.” If you are not familiar with what his voice sounds like, I would encourage you to get a disk of his reading some of his own work. Similarly, Faulkner’s recorded Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is beautiful. A nice compliment to Beattie’s style is her contemporary, Richard Ford. “Rock Springs” remains is his most well known short story collection and, perhaps, his best.
  • Karen says:
    Too many to choose from! I recently discovered ZZ Packer, and she has a wonderful voice and well-structured stories. I also recently enjoyed Alice Munro’s “Dear Life”, and I love the title story, but also several others. And then I’ve been a John Updike fan forever, and an inveterate New Yorker reader.




Comments (1)

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  1. Mary says:

    I’m surprised that Jhumpa Lahriri isn’t on the short story list. “Interpreter of Maladies” is a beautifully written collection, worth putting on anyone’s list.

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