BuzzFeed posted a pretty insightful list of short stories to read in your 20s, but, because I’m a snob and a writer and a reader, I think they left off some really important ones for people who are my age-ish.
But then there are others — stories which, in just a few pages, have shifted me and rewired the connecting roads of my thought patterns. So I wanted to share those with you because I am 27 and I am a young writer and these have changed the ways in which I think about writing and stories and characters and the world.
Here they are:
- “You’re Ugly, Too" by Lorrie Moore: Lorrie Moore is brilliant beyond all reason, but for some reason, this weird little story really struck me.
- “The Love of My Life" by T.C. Boyle: Unf. There’s no way to explain this heartbreaking story.
- “What You Pawn, I Will Redeem" by Sherman Alexie: Alexie has called this the best story he’s ever written. It’s a beautiful, moving insight into the lives of those living in extreme poverty. It’s wonderful.
- “The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson: You really shouldn’t be allowed to call yourself an adult without reading this creepy-weird story that was so shocking when it came out in 1948, people cancelled their subscriptions to the New Yorker. They also asked where they could see the actual lottery occur.
- “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff: BuzzFeed got this one right. This story will make you reconsider what a story can even be about.
- “Day-Old Baby Rats” by Julie Hayden: God damn I love this story. I could listen to the Lorrie Moore reading literally every day of my life.
- “Where is The Voice Coming From?" by Eudora Welty: I accidentally own two copies of the same volume of Welty’s stories, but it’s not that great of an accident because she is brilliant and this story is told so beautifully, but so simply. Also, allegedly, Welty wrote it in like, one feverish night, so it’s a good reminder to young writers that sometimes a voice really does just come to you. Also, it’s a great read in light of the horrific racism in the media/policing that is currently being processed and hopefully dismantled.
- “Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx: Another one BF got right. This story is heartbreaking and lovely and terrible.
- “The Life You Save Might Be Your Own" by Flannery O’Conner: Clearly, I have a soft spot for Southern Gothic, but this is a great story and also a reminder of female roles, etc.
- “Dutchman" by Amiri Baraka: This is a play but I think it still counts because it’s incredible.
- “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut" by J.D. Salinger: "Nine Stories” is a beloved book, and BF wasn’t incorrect in listing “Bananafish,” if only for the shock value and the intimacy of the storytelling, but I think this simple story is a lot more powerful, especially for 20-something women trying to have it all.
- “The Lesson,” by Jessamyn West: A story about animals but also about life and farms and the fair and things that I still love deeply, even as a city kid.
- “Brownies” by ZZ Packer: Budding shouty ladies are the star of this story. It’s lyrical and sharp.
- “Sea Oak” by George Saunders: I can’t imagine my literary life without George Saunders for so many reasons, but this incredible story is one of them.
Of course, there are a zillion great short stories and I love the medium generally, so naturally, I’ve left some off. But these ones are special, at least to me. I thought you might like them.