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Riot Recommendation: 53 of the Most Outstanding Short Stories You’ve Read

Vanessa Diaz

Managing Editor

Book Riot Managing Editor Vanessa Diaz is a writer and former bookseller from San Diego, CA whose Spanish is even faster than her English. When not reading or writing, she enjoys dreaming up travel itineraries and drinking entirely too much tea. She is a regular co-host on the All the Books podcast who especially loves mysteries, gothic lit, mythology/folklore, and all things witchy. Vanessa can be found on Instagram at @BuenosDiazSD or taking pictures of pretty trees in Portland, OR, where she now resides.

Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

From the award-winning author of Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Amazon Original Stories comes a powerful short story of becoming a mother. When Zikora, a DC lawyer from Nigeria, tells her equally high-powered lover that she’s pregnant, he abandons her. But it’s Zikora’s demanding mother, in town for the birth, who makes Zikora feel like a lonely little girl all over again. As she reflects on her mother’s painful past, Zikora begins to understand what her own mother wants for her, for her new baby, and for herself. Prime members read or listen to Zikora for free.

2020 finally turned me into a for-real short story reader. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy short stories before, I just sought them out casually at best. I was convinced that I could only truly be invested in or inspired by a full-length work of fiction. This idea is, of course, a load of hooey. Hooey, I say! I’m a little ashamed it took a reading slump brought on by the stress of a global pandemic and <insert your favorite 2020 disaster here> to make me see the light.

Some of you are in the same boat with me, and some have yet to approach the vessel o’ short fiction. That’s why I asked all our seasoned lovers of bite-sized stories for outstanding short stories to read next! You gave us short stories, collections, and anthologies galore. Without further ado, here are 53 of your favorites!

“For Esmé with Love and Squalor” by J. D. Salinger

A Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F Scott Fitzgerald

Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W Somerset Maugham

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

“The Boy Nobody Could Handle” by Kurt Vonnegut

“The Bungalow House” by Thomas Ligotti

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain by Joe Hill

Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K Jarboe; 

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Sharyn McCrumb, 

Ford County by John Gresham

Fox 8 by George Saunders;

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

“The Human Chair” by Edogawa Ranpo

“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado

Indian Country by Dorothy Johnson

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jackalope Wives and Other Stories by T Kingfisher

“The Lady or The Tiger? by Frank Stockton”

“The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair” by Ray Bradbury

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

Night Shift by Stephen King

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Nocturnes: 5 Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pastoralia by George Saunders

Some Soul to Keep by J. California Cooper

The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister by Stefan Bachmann

The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde

The Last Feast of Harlequin by Thomas Ligotti

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K Le Guin

Tobermory and Other Stories by Saki

“A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

“A Guest of the Nation” by Frank O’Connor

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J. D. Salinger

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner 

“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

“Bettering Myself” by Ottessa Moshfegh

“Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman

“Green Hills of Earth” by Robert Heinlein

“Help Me Find My Spaceman Lover” by Robert Olen Butler

“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

“Oil of Dog” by Ambrose Bierce

“On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien 

“Pilgrims” by Julie Orringer

“Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Under the Still Waters” by NK Jemisin

“The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link

“Stone Boy with Dolphin” by Sylvia Plath

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

“The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

“Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman