Why 3 and not 5? Because, I’m ashamed to say, I have read a lot more novels than I have read short stories. But YOU are going to change all that. Because today you’ll let me and my readers know what 3 Short Stories you think we HAVE to read at least once before we kick the bucket. Chances are we’ve all been missing out, and that’s why sharing is caring.
As always, here are my picks first. These are The 3 Short Stories You MUST Read Before You Die:
Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy
Okay, okay, Mr. Tolstoy. We get it. Not only can you blow us away with incredibly long and involved novels like Ana Karenina and War and Peace, but you can strike to the chord of what’s most important in life in the span of 5 minutes. That’s right, you can read this tiny short story in about 5 minutes and yet what you gain from it is probably more moving, more inspiring and more enlightening than 10 or 20 novels combined. How the heck did Tolstoy do that? Who knows, but us writers will keep on trying to catch up with the master. If you ever wondered what is the most important thing to do in life, what is the most important time to do it in, and who are the most important people to do it with, then read this short story and find out now.
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
Ah, the story that made me fall in love with the twist ending. What a great twist ending its is, too. Not like today’s twist endings where someone ends up being a ghost, or a figment of someone’s schizophrenic mind, or it’s revealed that what is causing people to walk backwards and kill themselves is farting grass. (I hate you so much M. Night Shyamalan.) No, at least this twist ending has a point and teaches us all a timeless and important lesson. If there was ever an argument for honesty being the best policy, this story is it. If there was ever a metaphor for the dangers of the modern world’s obsession with material, here you have it. If there was ever a warning against today’s growing debt problem, well, what do you know, here it is too. Not too shabby for a French guy from the 1800′s. But then again he is considered to be one of the fathers of the modern short story. I’m telling you, if they made this into a movie and put everyone in modern clothes, you would go watch that movie and say: “That’s a story for the times!” I’d cast a Kate Winslet-type as the lead. How about you?
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
How could I not mention Poe? I think Poe has a place in all of our hearts, at least to me, because I was introduced to him very early. (Which makes me wonder: why was a story about a murder plot, its execution, and its subsequent cover up–narrated by the murderer himself–taught to me when I was 12? And they complained about Harry Potter, geesh. But I digress.) Poe was the first one to inspire me to start writing short stories. I don’t know what it was (maybe it was that unmistakable dreary mug of his) but he drove my 12 year-old self to start writing dark, horror stories just like his. I’ve since left the genre of horror, but every once in a while, whenever I feel like making my readers feel a bit uneasy, I utilize the lessons I learned from Poe. Poe makes us thrilled by the mad, dark, and frightening things of the world, and in the process, he never forgets to teach us the method to all the madness, and the moral behind it all. In all the years since I read this story, I’ve learned that Poe was right. Guilt is a killer.
much “tear up the planks!–here, here!–it is the beating of his hideous heart!”,