11 Short Stories You Can Actually Finish In A Single Beach Trip
by Charlotte Ahlin

Summer is at last upon us, with all of its sticky weather and its rooftop bars and its beachy summer reads. And yes, the ideal summer reading scenario is throwing your shiny new summer novel into your large woven bag, and heading to a beach somewhere in Italy to leisurely read it while drinking frozen alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately though, for those of us who are "adults" with "jobs" and "obligations," summer isn't always so luxurious. You might not have time to spend every single day of the summer lying on a beach with your novelty sunglasses. You might still have to suffer through a sweaty summer commute. That's where short stories come in: they're short enough to read in one sitting, but powerful enough to transport your mind far, far away without necessarily having to get on an airplane. Here are a few short stories that are just perfect for summer reading (all of which you can read online right now).

Here you'll find breezy stories of summer camp romances, creepy summertime dystopias, fantastical summertime fantasies, and everything in between. These stories can easily be read on the beach, on your lunch break, or while trying to avoid interacting with your loved ones on a family vacation:

'The Prairie Wife' by Curtis Sittenfeld

"The Prairie Wife" begins with that classic summertime activity: obsessively pouring over your ex's social media presence. Kirsten can't seem to stop checking Lucy's Twitter feed, even though their summer camp romance ended years ago. Now Lucy's vast lifestyle blog empire is sending Kirsten into an identity crisis in this hilarious, sweet story of summers past.

'How to Get Back to the Forest' by Sofia Samatar

Who says you can't have an upsetting dystopia set in a summer camp? "How to Get Back to the Forest" is the perfect blend of creepy and almost real, set in a world where children go off to "camp" at a certain age and never return to their parents. A great read around the campfire (but maybe don't send this one to any homesick campers).

'Cloud Dragon Skies' by N.K. Jemisin

When Nahautu was a child, the sky changed. It went from gentle blue to a "pale, blushing rose," filled with strange, spiraling clouds. She and her family adapted to this new sky, but when strangers from the sky arrive asking for her help, right at the end of the summer season, Nahautu knows to be wary. "Cloud Dragon Skies" is part sci-fi fantasy, part romance, and entirely enthralling from beginning to end.

'Hall of Small Mammals' by Thomas Pierce

Nothing screams "summer fun" like a hot, sticky day waiting in line at the zoo with your girlfriend's annoying son. That's the premise of the story "Hall of Small Mammals," a lovely, excruciating outing with a reluctant man and a nerdy 12-year-old boy on their way to see some of the rarest monkeys in the world.

'ZZ’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers' by Karen Russell

No one does weird summer magical realism like Karen Russell. "ZZ’s Sleep-Away Camp for Disordered Dreamers" is set in a strange summer camp, where children are sent in the hopes that they can finally, finally find some way to sleep. But of course, even in the midst of sleep deprivation, campers find a way to bumble into summer romances and creepy, bloody, summertime mysteries.

'The Girl I Hate' by Mona Awad

If you've ever had the misfortune of residing in a human body during the summer, there's a good chance that you've felt the need to slim down/bulk up or otherwise contort yourself attain the so called "beach body." If you've ever felt frustrated by the constant body policing, pick up "The Girl I Hate" for a brutally honest look at the pain of dieting.

'The Go-Slow' by Nnedi Okorafor

Gridlock traffic is always a horror, but gridlock traffic plus heat is an otherworldly nightmare. "The Go-Slow" starts with a man stuck in stifling traffic, and then spins out into a weird, wonderful fantasy about birds, Nollywood, and destiny.

'Roy Spivey' by Miranda July

Summer is the season when many people get on airplanes to head off on vacation and dream of being upgraded to first class. "Roy Spivey" is the story of actually being upgraded to first class, and sitting next to a celebrity, and all the weirdness that goes down in signature Miranda July fashion.

'All Summer in a Day' by Ray Bradbury

"All Summer in a Day" is not exactly a... fun summer story (unless you're a big fan of space bullies), but if you're looking for a poignant reminder of what it was like to be a shy kid who never quite fit in, this is a beautiful gut-punch of a short story. After all, when "summer" only lasts for one day, the chance to enjoy it is terribly brief...

'Silk Brocade' by Tessa Hadley

Summer inevitably means summer weddings. In "Silk Brocade," a young clothing designer finds herself creating a wedding dress for an old acquaintance. Set in the 1950's, this story explores fashion, class, and the struggle of putting your own past behind you.

'The Embassy of Cambodia' by Zadie Smith

In August, Fatou first walks by "The Embassy of Cambodia" on her way to the pool. She has traversed several different countries and wound up here, in London, working as a domestic servant (although sometimes she wonders if she's really being treated fairly). Through badminton, swimming, and her growing curiosity about the embassy, Fatou begins to examine her life and her place in the world in this brilliant, multi-layered story.