It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Every week there is a new topic or theme to base your top ten list on. You can find more details about it and see the list of topics here.
This week’s prompt is “Top Ten Short Stories or Novellas” and trying to think of my top ten made me realise that I don’t read enough of either. I think I fell out of love with the short story during my uni years when I had to trawl my way through James Joyce’s Dubliners and the works of Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf. All are great writers of course, but I found their preoccupation with the minutiae of everyday life quite tedious. I generally prefer stories with a little more action and an interesting revelation at the end.
My Top 7 Short Stories
- “No is Yes” from Quirky Tails by Paul Jennings.
I read this children’s story when I was about ten years old, and it has always stuck with me. It’s about a 14-year-old girl who is raised by her father as part of an experiment. All her life, he teaches her that words mean their opposite-“no” means “yes”, “up” means “down” and so on. He keeps her in isolation with no access to TV or other media, but one day, she meets someone from the outside world who speaks very differently to her. The twist at the end is wonderfully haunting and I often think about it.
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” from The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
This is one short-story I had to study that I actually enjoyed, probably because it’s quite dark. It’s an early feminist story from 1892 presented in the form of journal entries. The narrator is confined in her house and forbidden from working as she recovers from ‘hysteria’, but the very thing meant to ‘cure’ her is actually causing her to descend into madness. It’s a very sad story but the psychological aspect is really interesting.
- “The Tale of the Three Brothers” From The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling.
The famous tale has a very important role in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It’s a great fairytale with an interesting moral.
- The Department of Alterations by Gennifer Albin.
This short story is set in the same world as Crewel, a dystopian fantasy in which the events of people’s lives are weaved like tapestries by girls known as Spinsters. This story sheds some light on how the ordinary people of Arras live. Karoline Swander visits a back-alley tailor for an illegal procedure that will alter the fabric of her life. You can read the story for free here.
- “Muted: A Short Story in Verse” by Jessica Bell.
This is a brilliantly unique piece of fiction set in a dystopian world where it is illegal to wear clothes and in some streets, to sing. The story follows Concetta, a famous Italian a capella singer who has had her vocal chords cut and her eardrums perforated as punishment for breaking the law. Bell is a genius and I’ve never read anything quite like it!
- ‘The Underbury Witches’ from Nocturnes by John Connolly.
This story is about two policemen trying to solve the murder of a man in a small village, where women were burnt as witches long ago. It’s somewhat predictable, but the outcome is very satisfying.
- ‘Minerva McGonagall’ from Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies by J K Rowling.
McGonagall is one of my favourite characters and I love this short piece about her early life and background, taken from the Pottermore archives. It’s an interesting read for anyone who ever wondered what McGonagall was like as a young woman.
Before you go…
Do you read short stories often? What are your favourites?