Bookstr Team Talks: Our Favorite Short Stories

Despite their brevity, these short stories have had quite an impact on the Bookstr Team. Read on to learn more about our short story recommendations!

Book Culture Bookish Trends Just For Fun Opinions Pop Culture
Three book covers from "The Yellow Wallpaper," "Everyday Use," and "The Tell-Tale Heart" sit against a dark beige-brown background. They sit on top of a book. There are scatterings of foliage at the bottom, and a red leaf floating in the sky.

No doubt, we can all usually name our favorite novel(s) and discuss them ad nauseum. But what about the short stories we can’t forget? The ones that come to mind every so often when we think of aspects of storytelling that truly stand out in a story. While a novel-length book may first come to mind, there are those shorter works that we can’t deny have also had an impact on how we view stories and the elements they encompass. Some short stories delve deep into our psyche; some of them twist and pull at our emotions; others immerse us in profound thought for years to come. But no matter what, they’ve all certainly made an impression on us. Here at Bookstr, we’re talking about those stories. The ones we call our favorites. Read on to see our picks.

Abraham’s Boys by Joe Hill

A pink and black background that resembles a filmstrip. The author's name is in large, black letters at the top. A black and white still of a despondent woman and a man kissing her forehead is in the center. The title is below the woman and man in black letters, along with other words in black letters below it.
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

Joe Hill is known for his horror and psychological gothic thrillers. What I love the most about this short story is that there are no paranormal events that happen here to make it scary, which only adds to the terror when context is included. Abraham is none other than Van Helsing of legend, but now, in his elder years, he appears to be maddened and paranoid in the eyes of his children.

This story, as short as it is, is packed with subtext, paranoia, and psychological intricacies that cause chills to creep along one’s skin in ominous delight. You’ll sit back and remember this tale long after the last page is turned.

Kristi Eskew, Editorial

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado

The title is set in the center in large, white letters. There's a green ribbon wrapped around the letters. A drawing colored in red is set behind the letters. All of it is set against a black background. The author's name is at the bottom in smaller white letters.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

I first read this story — which is the first entry in Machado’s phenomenal short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties — during a fiction workshop in college. Instantly, I was blown away. The entire short story collection discusses what it means to be a woman with nuance and wit, but The Husband Stitch in particular caught my attention for the way it approaches the idea of truth and its objectiveness (or lack thereof). What I appreciate most about this story (and all of Machado’s work) is how much it made me think. I highly recommend giving The Husband Stitch and the rest of the stories in Her Body and Other Parties a read!

Lauren Nee, Editorial

Everday Use by Alice Walker

At the top are images with words in pink letters and black letters. The title is in one of these image boxes at the top. It is written in black letters. The author's name is in a smaller image box below the title. A black and white portrait of the author, who has her hair down and is wearing glasses. It is all set against a pink background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

When I first read this short story in my literature class in college, I felt very drawn to it. As someone who’s very connected to my ancestry and heritage, it was a very compelling story. I love the differences between the sisters, and I love the different ways in which Walker illustrates how to appreciate and care for one’s culture and heritage. It really exhibits the nuances and ways in which people care for things. I was also very drawn to the relationship between the sisters. I myself have been in situations with my family that have paralleled this story, and so I feel like I can genuinely relate to this short story on an emotional level.

Alexandra Mellott, Editorial

The Boy, The Mole, the Fox, and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

The title is in dark brown cursive lettering at the top. A horse, a little boy, and a fox sit below the title. The author's name is at the bottom. It's all set against a white and gray background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

I fell in love with the illustrations instantly. They are so beautiful and simple at the same time. I found the story very meaningful and profound. There are different moments within the story that really resonated with me. I like how the horse reminds the boy that he is loved. I think that all of us sometimes need a reminder that we are loved. I love how the mole, the fox, the boy, and the horse all remind each other of what they are good at and do not dwell on what they think they have as weaknesses. Also, at the end, I love how the boy decides that he has found a family with the mole, the fox, and the horse. I think that reminds all of us that we can create our own “families” through the people we meet with whom we share common goals and values.

Christina, Graphics

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

The title sits in the center in black letters. The author's name is in small, red lettering below the title. The words are set against a background of an ominous beige sky. The ground is covered in dark foliage. A bird is walking upright. In the background is the outline of a town.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

As someone who loves the weird, the dark, and the whimsical, this is a story very much after my dark heart. It’s moody, and the writing is perfection. Poe does a fantastic job of planting us in the narration, as if it’s a conversation, even possibly a confession from the narrator. There is much suspense that draws you in as you dive into the narrator’s mindset to understand why he must kill this old man that he’s caring for.

The psychological aspect of this story really takes you through many emotional stages that may make you feel as though the narrator is just in his deeds. He is not, but he sets up his reasoning to make even you, as the reader, feel as though there’s probable cause. By the end of the story, the sound of the heartbeat coming from beneath the floorboards that the narrator can’t stop hearing is his own undoing, and you realize that guilt can be a stronger emotion than anything.

Quiarah B./Vphan, Editorial

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Drawings of rocks of all shapes and sizes make up the foreground. the largest rock on the right has the title and author's name written on it in black letters. There are other words written on the large rock in black lettering as well. The bottom most rock is splattered in red that can be assumed as blood. The rocks are set against a mustard yellow background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

I love this short story because, the whole time, you have no idea what’s going to happen. Jackson keeps you on your toes until the last second, and then you finish the story and have to just sit there and absorb everything that’s happened. You aren’t given any future explanation, and your brain is running wild.

Also, I know this had to be aggressively intentional, but the casualness behind what they are doing makes me genuinely uncomfortable. Once you read it for the first time and then go back through it again because you are in shock, it takes you aback to realize just how nonchalant the characters are. At one point, they even find what they’re doing enjoyable. Along with the casualness, the need to get the act done quickly as if it weren’t absolutely absurd also makes me sick to my stomach.

I read this short story in middle and high school, probably every year. When I read this piece in middle school, it was the height of the dystopian era of books, and I think this story fit well in the genre. This piece is timeless and continues to connect to the present climate of the world.

Olivia Salamone, Editorial

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The title is in large, black letters at the top. The author's name is in small, black letters at the bottom. They are set against an intricately white lined yellow background.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

This story is a timeless tale of a classic idea about a woman who is being sent to the countryside away from the public for her health so nobody can see her express feelings or thoughts. Is it a story of independence as a lonely woman finds her way through words to see herself in the horrendous wallpaper she grows to love? Or is it simply arsenic poisoning in the walls that drives a bored woman mad? (I chose to believe the former.) The world may never know. Either way, our MC discovers that she’s being controlled and is desperate to escape the trapped feeling put upon her by her husband.

I love this story because of its gradual crescendo into a wild ending. As the MC grows to enjoy the paper and sees the woman in the wallpaper, the reader can see how much she struggles to understand that idea of freedom for herself. She doesn’t, at first, realize that she is seeing a mirrored version of herself.

I love, love, love this piece, and despite the ambiguity in regard to the cause of the main character’s mental decline, I like to think that she gained perspective in the end.

Sarah Selan, Graphics

Satan’s Affair by H.D. Carlton

The foreground features a woman with cracks in her face. She is wearing dark makeup and has dark hair that blends into the black and dark red background. There is a Ferris wheel, an elephant, and acrobat under a red tent sitting atop a grayed-out skull. The title sits over the skull in yellow letters. The author's name is at the bottom in white letters.
IMAGE VIA BOOKSHOP.ORG

Welcome to the spine-tingling world of Satan’s Affair, where Sybil doesn’t just clock in for a typical day at work; it’s a whirlwind of terrifying haunted houses, exhilarating rides that make your heart race, and delectable cuisine that sets your taste buds ablaze. But for Sybil, this is just the beginning. As she traverses the country, she’s not just there to entertain; she’s on a mission to ensure that justice is served, one execution at a time, ridding the earth of the stench of evil and decaying souls.

After reading Hunting Adeline, I found myself utterly captivated by the world and characters H. D. Carleton created. Yet, it was Sybil who truly piqued my interest. There’s something intriguing and enigmatic about her, and I’ve always believed that her story has so much more to tell. When I finally got my hands on the short story that delved into her character, I was not disappointed. H. D. Carleton’s portrayal of Sybil was everything I hoped for and more. It left me yearning for further adventures and deeper insights into her captivating journey.

Trish Galvez, Editorial


For more Bookstr Team discussions, click here.

Be sure to check out our picks from the Bookstr Team Recommendations bookshelf on Bookshop.org.

FEATURED IMAGE VIA BOOKSTR/VPHAN