11 Short Stories You Can Read In Under 10 Minutes, But Will Stay With You Forever
Is there anything better than settling down for a languid afternoon of reading your favorite novel cover to cover, perhaps on a park bench or in a field of delightful and very relaxing flowers? No, there isn't. But do you have time to read an entire novel in a field these days? No, you probably don't. Whether you're juggling work or school or some unholy combination of the two, there's a good chance that you have nasty things like "responsibilities" and "obligations" to take care off. But even if you don't have the time, you can still have the satisfaction of reading something start to finish: these short stories can be read in just ten minutes (or less!), but they'll stay with you forever.
The short short story is an art form all its own. Short short story authors have perilously few words to create an entire new world, immerse you in it, make you invested in new characters, and then bring it all to a cohesive (or devastating) conclusion. It's no mean feat. But a truly great, truly short story can accomplish all that in the time it takes you to wait for the bus. You can read these stories anytime, anywhere, without missing a step in your busy schedule:
'A Telephone Call' by Dorothy Parker
Whether you're waiting for the telephone to ring or waiting for that sweet, sweet text notification to ding, everyone knows the feeling of waiting for their crush to get back to them. Dorothy Parker brilliantly captures this agonizing spiral of self-doubt in her classic short story, "A Telephone Call."
'Girl' by Jamaica Kincaid
"Girl" might be one of the best-known short short stories out there, and for good reason. In just one paragraph of lyrical prose, we are utterly transported into the life of Kincaid's titular girl as she wends her way through the social expectations of girlhood.
'The Huntress' by Sofia Samatar
Sofia Samatar creates an entire lived-in world in less than one page with "The Huntress." It's the portrait of a monster, yes, but it's also a dream-like portrait of a what it's like to live as a foreigner in a strange, new city (while also being stalked by a terrible and unseen monster).
'A Private Experience' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"A Private Experience" is definitely on the longer side of the short short story, but you can still read it in one sitting. And this brief, intimate, heart-wrenching tale of two women taking shelter from violence is sure to stay with you long past the final sentence. When the world outside is crumbling, the bonds between strangers can mean life or death.
'Hook' by Danielle McLaughlin
"Hook" is a short story about girls, mothers, horses, and fishhooks, and boy will some of this imagery stick in your brain. Danielle McLaughlin manages to balance the beautiful with the grim in her stories, weaving together worlds that are alien and familiar all at once.
'The Mark of Cain' by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is best known for her insightful essays, but she's also one hell of a fiction writer. "The Mark of Cain" tells the story of one woman with two husbands (kind of): the kind man she loves, and the hateful man she's married to. They are, of course, identical, but she always knows who is who, and she cannot seem to have one without the other.
'Five Short Stories' by Lydia Davis
Yes, technically this is not one short story but rather "Five Short Stories." Lydia Davis writes stories so short, though, that all together they still make up one funny, sad, compact short story about trains and lost loves that you can read and re-read in a just a few beautiful minutes.
'The Paper Menagerie' by Ken Liu
Fair warning that if you try to read "The Paper Menagerie" as a quick break from work, you might burst into tears at your desk. Ken Liu has created a supremely magical, endlessly touching story about a mother and son and their living paper tiger.
'Crazy They Call Me' by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith inhabits the world of Billie Holiday in "Crazy They Call Me," part short story and part tribute to Holiday's life. It's a gripping reflection on music, small dogs, and how artists are perceived by the world around them.
'The Answer' by Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown wrote dozens of weird and wonderful sci-fi stories, most of them clocking in at just a few paragraphs. One of his best known stories has got to be "The Answer," which takes about one minute to read, but is guaranteed to make you afraid of computers for the rest of your life.
'Sticks' by George Saunders
"Sticks" is just flash fiction at its finest: it starts off cute and quirky, and rapidly veers into creepy and off and heartbreaking, all without losing its sense of humor. In under a page, George Saunders conjures up a singular character, his bizarre obsession with the pole in his backyard, and the concerned family around him.