What to read when you have no time


Six short stories to knock your socks off

It’s that time again. The post-spring break blues, where upon returning from our sunny solace we are immediately reminded that all the work we neglected to do must be done.

But fear not! For those who enjoy reading and aren’t entirely sick of reading for class, there is more reading you can do with all that free time we all have! While I personally love reading for fun, often a novel will lie unfinished on my nightstand for absurd stretches of time. If you also have this problem, and if you haven’t taken Lit Trad IV yet, then let me introduce you to: the short story.

Short stories are the best thing in the world when you have no time but still want to feel accomplished. And most of them are available in the public domain or the library! Here are some mind-blowing short stories that you can finish quickly but won’t forget anytime soon.

A short story writer many of you are well acquainted with, Flannery O’Connor, is widely considered the reigning queen of the craft so I figured it’s best to start with her. She has so many incredible stories that it was hard to pick only one, but a great introduction to her work is “Greenleaf.” In typical O’Connor fashion, it features themes of faith, grace and the sin of pride, as well as an incredibly symbolic bull. Take my word and go read it.

If you didn’t read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” for a middle school literature class, check it out — and even if you did, it is worth re-reading. It’s thought-provoking and creepy, and very short. 

An earlier story that is quite similar is “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Guin. It asks the same question: Is the happiness of many worth the suffering of an innocent person? Both this story and “The Lottery” are very applicable to moral problems of today, and they are absolute classics for a reason.

“It,” “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “Misery.” All famous horror movies, based on Stephen King books. He gets a bad rep among Catholic readers, but the man has written so much more than just creepy horror novels — and he has written a LOT of creepy horror novels. “The Body,” which was adapted into the wonderful and classic 1986 film “Stand by Me,” is a coming-of-age short story that is among my favorite books ever. It’s all about growing up: the last moments of childhood, innocence and nostalgia, as well as what it means to be a friend. This is one that will stick with you.

To add some Russian culture to this list, check out Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” This classic story follows Ivan Ilych, a Russian official, as he is, well, dying. It’s a straightforward and reflective story about how to suffer well, what really matters in life and the contrast of the interior and exterior life.

And lastly, another short story that was the source material for a movie: “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. If you recall the 2016 sci-fi movie “Arrival,” the basic plot is such: aliens have landed on earth and a linguist is called up to try and learn their language so the government can know why the aliens came and whether or not they are a threat. Chiang’s short story is, however, much more philosophical and thoughtful. With some interesting scientific concepts explored, the narrative style was one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever read. Essentially the narrator no longer experiences time in a linear way, thus the story evokes philosophical questions about determinism and whether or not life is worth living with the knowledge that we will inevitably suffer. If you’re adventurous and enjoy thought-provoking sci-fi that ties in the question of suffering, this short story might be for you.

Time is valuable, and so is knowledge — short stories are the perfect short term investment with great returns! Check out these literary gems and get smarter faster.


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