What makes these short stories on audio must-reads? It’s not a science. Everyone’s must-read lists are going to be different. However, short stories and audiobooks combine two of my favorite reading hacks, so gathering this list was quite fun. Short stories are magical when used to break from a reading slump, get a feel for an author’s style, or kick start a conversation. Audiobooks are fantastic for multitasking or accessing books when reading using your eyes is not going to cut it. When these two powers combine, the reader becomes unstoppable!
You might choose to pick a standalone short story because the topic intrigues you. You might be drawn to an anthology because the author is a favorite. You might even be lured by a celebrity narrator you love bringing those short stories on audio right to your eager ears. There are as many different choices as there are kinds of stories to choose from. Literary fiction and horror are two popular short story genres, but I did try to fan out and search for variety when creating this extremely nonexhaustive list. If you reach the end and find yourself disappointed that a certain collection didn’t make the cut, take that as your sign to start spreading the word! I’m always happy to get more recommendations under my belt. Without further ado, dive into these short stories on audio!
Skeleton Crew by Stephen King
This is a compilation of some of King’s early short stories, each read by a different narrator. Voices such as Matthew Broderick and Paul Giamatti bring to life a variety of horrific situations. Clocking in at over 22 hours, this audiobook will give you bang for your buck.
The Wishing Pool and Other Stories by Tananarive Due
Tananarive Due is known for her short stories featuring horror and Afrofutrism. In this most recently published anthology, previous works are paired with brand new stories about monsters, both internally and outwardly physically threatening. Two separate narrators alternate to share these tales of dread.
The Ugly Mug And Other Stories by Darren Todd
Here’s another horror anthology, one that can be cherished for the cover art alone. Then there’s the fabulous cast of narrators. Also consider the intriguing subject matter, ranging from the titular mug torturing an office worker to the practice of paying a stand-in to complete jail time. When it’s all put together, this set of short stories on audio is the way to go.
A Show of Faith: A Short Story by Greer Hendricks
This hour-long Audible original is narrated by two voices representing the main characters. Blair and Maya end up in each other’s lives seemingly by chance, and while their connection originally seems positive, things change as secrets are revealed. This is a thriller that has left readers wanting more.
I’d Really Prefer Not to Be Here with You, and Other Stories by Julianna Baggott
Featuring stories that span several genres, and are read by a bountiful list of narrators, this collection of short stories on audio is nine hours of “weird and wonderful.” Baggott combines previously published stories with new work to bring us tales of mysterious de-aging, sudden portals, forbidden love, and murder. Disconnected and unexpected, this collection will thrill and enthrall.
Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Epistolary novels are a favorite of mine, and I was excited to see that this was produced by providing a different narrator for each letter writer. Evidence of the Affair follows the story of two marriages irrevocably changed by cheating spouses, and the letters exchanged by all involved. Running at just over an hour, this story packs a powerful punch in a short amount of time.
Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Sherlock Holmes’ Rediscovered Railway Mysteries: Four Original Short Stories by John Taylor
Celebrity narrators are one thing, but Mr. Cumberbatch, our very own modern Sherlock, reading new original short stories on audio? Oh yes, please. These four stories were written by John Taylor, inspired by and featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous detective. No one will blame you for gazing at the cover while you listen.
The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Stories by Charlaine Harris
Going in, it’s important to understand that these are all the companion stories to the Sookie Stackhouse novels, perfect for a longtime fan but confusing for anyone not familiar with the series. That aside, this is a great listen for anyone looking for Easter eggs and connections between the main books of the series. Two narrators bring the southern vampire flair to life for a series of stories lasting over 11 hours.
Games and Rituals: Stories by Katherine Heiny
Stories of love and connection shine in this unconnected anthology. Heiny delivers character-driven pieces with intriguing hooks to draw you in: accidentally eating your expensive hearing aid, awkwardly helping the woman you’ve replaced move out of her family home, wearing a bridesmaid dress to work. A cast of narrators spend over seven hours bringing Heiny’s work to life.
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
Night of the Living Rez takes us to a reservation in Maine, sharing truths about Penobscot life in modern times. Talty has received high praise for stories that are relatable to anyone who has lived on a reservation, and illuminating for those of us who are ignorant to these specific struggles and triumphs. The 12 connected stories highlight people of all ages, but a singular narrator brings this collection to our ears.
The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
A triumph of the speculative fiction and science fiction genre, this generous collection (almost 15 hours!) has short stories, a novelette, and a sneak peak into Lui’s ongoing fantasy series. Themes that criticize American Imperialism and probe into our relationship with technology color these stories, and is brought to us by a cast of narrators. Warmly compared to Black Mirror, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories is praised for it’s depth and interconnected feel.
The Perfect Play by G.S. Carr
It’s a bit of a stretch to add this in, seeing as it’s technically a novella, but the the two-hour running time and slice-of-life plot compelled me. Sometimes, a spot of romantic comedy is just what the doctor ordered. An NFL player and small town librarian find themselves in a surprise marriage. Hilarity and sweetness ensue. Duel narrators bring the double POV story to life in this Audible original.
Bloody Summer: Trespass Collection by Carmen Maria Machado
A singlar, standalone blast of magical realism is delivered with flair in this short story about a small Pennsylvannia town famous for its inexplicable and violent tiger sightings. Maria Machado is famous for her sharp, haunting writing, and this 47-minute story delivered by a single narrator is no exception. If you’re looking for more in this vein, the entire collection is called Trespass and features more shining stars of the literary world sharing creepy stories.
When Trying to Return Home: Stories by Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Love can be as damaging as it is healing, and this short story collection touches on many parts of the spectrum while exploring the concept of belonging. Love between strangers, cheaters, family, and more are brought to life by two narrators over the course of this collection. Maritza McCauley is celebrated for her Black American and Afro Puerto Rican characters spanning generations throughout this almost 6-hour listen.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Interconnected and, at times, epistolary, this collection of short stories follows a single theme in many different formats. Bennie is a record executive and musician. Sasha is his younger employee. While we first meet these two in hard times, the stories Egan lays out introduce us to their younger selves and supporting characters. The lack of chronological order allows the reader to piece together Bennie and Sasha’s history. This would be a great transition piece for readers trying to get into short story anthologies. A single narrator brings us all 10 hours of this book.
A Few of the Girls: Stories by Maeve Binchy
Binchy is a warm hug of a comfort read for many, with her novels capturing the pleasure and heartbreak humans are capable of inflicting on each other with sharp observation. This collection is a gathering of her short stories, some of which were previously published and others that were written as gifts for friends or charity auctions. Four narrators cycle through different vignettes about life and love for almost 11 hours.
The People Who Report More Stress: Stories by Alejandro Varela
Public health, racism, classism, and deadly stress are explored in this collection of connected short stories. Varela tackles these heavy topics through character-driven pieces that illustrate the reality of recognizing societal problems and also trying to live your life at a personal level. A single narrator guides the reader through this nearly eight-hour book.
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
Wilson is famous for his strange and original characters, and this short story collection is more of the same. Dealing with themes of death and loss, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth is seven hours of surreal and intriguing character study. A large cast of narrators bring these stories to life, taking us to the Scrabble factory, the headquarters of the Nuclear Family Supplemental Provider, and further into the reaches of Wilson’s imagination.
Some People Have Real Problems by Brit Bennett
Tessa Thompson narrates this story that packs an incredible amount of insight into a 30-minute package. Bennett, of The Mothers and The Vanishing Half fame, introduces us to a woman struggling with infertility. Over the course of a train ride, she looks back at different decisions and grapples with how things might have gone differently. Readers have raved about the range of emotions and insight delivered in such a concise story.
El Sombrerón by Michelle Chaves
This little gem of flash fiction clocks in at just five minutes long. Based on a Latin American mythical being, the story follows a girl who wrestles with a decision that needs to be made by sun up. The format is so intriguing — this Audible original can be heard by asking Alexa to read you a short story, or you can find in the Audible app. If you’re looking for a quick blast of magical realism to break up your day, this is for you.
Are you looking for more short story goodness? Check out 11 Speculative Short Story Collections to Look Forward to in 2023 or So Happy Together: The Very Particular Pleasure of Linked Stories! Happy reading!