7 Autumnal Short Stories You Can Read Right Now
Yes, I know the drugstore Santas have begun their yearly infestation, but, believe it or not, it's still autumn. We have a few precious weeks to get all our fall reading in before we are eaten by the winter holidays. And there's something about autumn that's so perfectly suited to short stories: the days are getting briefer, the winds are getting brisker, and the warm drinks are plentiful. It's perfect weather for curling up with a good book. But it's also somehow ridiculously busy as everyone runs in circles screaming about work and school and getting things done before we enter the holiday vortex proper. Short stories are the ideal mix of cozy and compact, so here are a few great reads for the tail end of fall.
Now, these stories don't all address the season of fall specifically. Some of them tap into a clear Halloween or Thanksgiving vibe, while others explore the broader ideas of change, longing, and familial relationships. It's a season of transition, after all, as the world gears up for several months of bitter cold and food-induced comas. No matter the specifics, though, all of these stories evoke that particular cozy, bittersweet sense of late autumn:
1. 'The Women of This World' by Ann Beattie
It's hardly autumn without escalating tensions at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner party, now, is it? "The Women of the World" follows a woman named Dale as she prepares and serves dinner for her husband, his stepfather, and his stepfather's girlfriend. And if your own family dinners often involve gaslighting and not-so-subtle digs from the more "traditional" men in your family, then this is the chilling, rage-inducing short story for you.
2. 'October in the Chair' by Neil Gaiman
October is sitting in the chair, leading his compatriots, in this lovely, strange tale about the months of the year personified. It's delightfully autumnal and more then a little upsetting (in true Neil Gaiman fashion), blending that comfortable feeling of sitting by the fire with ghosts with the story of a young October runaway searching for a safe haven.
3. 'Three Days' by Samantha Hunt
"Three Days" opens with the image of Beatrice walking down the highway, trying to avoid cars by walking right up against the guardrail, with all the trash and the corpse of a bloated raccoon. It's... not exactly that warm, cozy fall feeling. But it does capture the darker side of autumn, and of traveling home to see family on a cold and lonely road.
4. 'Up North' by Charles D'Ambrosio
Ah, there's nothing like a Thanksgiving story about sexual shame. Of course, that isn't the only thing going on in "Up North," but Charles D'Ambrosio is as interested in the interplay of gender roles as he is in the actual holiday. It's a hunting story that critiques the hyper-masculine culture of hunting, set against a backdrop of late fall snow.
5. 'The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees' by E. Lily Yu
Of course, the changing of the seasons is even more drastic if you're a bee. "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" is a brilliant political tale about, well... wasps and bees. But these insects have complex societies, which fall into chaos when they butt up against each other, especially as the last days of summer begin to wane...
6. 'Untitled' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
On a windy, dusty morning in November, a woman takes a walk. That's about it for plot in this audio story, but Adichie manages to spin that into a poignant journey of one woman struggling to connect to the world around her. If you've ever experienced seasonal depression, you'll instantly understand our protagonist as she fights to get out of bed and keep going through less-than-inviting weather.
7. 'Broads' by Roxane Gay
Look, at the end of the day, fall really only means one thing: cuffing season. Everyone is desperately searching for that special someone to hunker down with for the winter. In the erotically charged "Broads," Jimmy Nolan lusts after a loud brassy woman... but worries that his feminine hands will keep him from ever finding love...