This is just a short list…as the title implies. BUT, you probably thought that all of the stories were going to be fictional. Wrong!!! There is a healthy mix of fiction and creative nonfiction in this list. That makes it all the more exciting, doesn’t it?
A lot of times, people c heck out what is on the bestseller list or what a friend is reading but they miss some truly amazing stories. And don’t get me started on translations. There are not many (who are not truly bibliophiles) that go out of their way to find a translation but that means missing out on another culture and a fascinating adventure.
Note: Just for the heck of it, I will be noting the short stories in italics and not with quotation marks.
So here is a list of five truly interesting short stories and essays.
The Old Man With Enormous Wings by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Those who know the work of Garcia Marquez knows that he is a master of fantasy and can craft beautiful worlds even within a short word count. This short story is about what the title implies and before you skip it, I suggest you read the first paragraph, you’ll be hooked.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe. People tend to think they have read all of Poe’s best work but I beg to differ. Some of his best work has never been on a reading list and flies under the radar. I wouldn’t have known about this story if I had never set out to read everything by Poe. Which I am pretty sure I have accomplished at this point. This story is about a man being hypnotized while he is on the brink of death.
The Absence of Writing or, How I Almost Became a Spy by M. NourbeSe Phillip. This essay is quite fun and reads almost as a tale. Philip discusses her use of language and how she was often criticized for it among other things.
The Howling Man by Charles Beaumont. Some may be familiar with the Twilight Zone adaptation of this story but there’s nothing like the original. In a strange abbey a man is put to the test, to free or not to free the howling man.
The Darling by Anton Chekhov. Chekhov was an amazing writer and this story is replete with imagery and symbolism, as much of his work is. It is a tale about insecurity, fear and identity.
And, just for fun, a list of five wonderful novels and scholarly reads.
Iola Leroy or, Shadows Uplifted by Frances E.W. Harper. The first novel recognized to be written by an African-American woman, Iola Leroy tells the story of a young privileged woman during the time of the Civil War. With her father’s death come a whirlwind of secrets and she, along with her mother and siblings, are forced from the life they once knew. Iola now has to come to terms with her new life, the war and try to overcome her grief.
Please Look After Mom is by Korean writer Kyung-Sook Shin. This is a story about the life of a woman who has never been anything but wife and mother. Told through the eyes of her children and husband after Mom goes missing, we get a look into what it means to be a woman, what it means to have lost your sense of identity and even a look into mental disability. This is a wonderfully symbolic novel that I highly suggest.
In the Wake: On Being and Blackness by Christina Sharpe is one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. She discusses the various meanings of living “in the wake”, she historicizes it and then brings it back to present day United States. She illustrates the representations of Black life and notes that they often re-present themselves as we relive history over and over again.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World by Haruki Murakami is a fantastical tale with dual narratives. Taking place in a slightly futuristic Japan there are information wars and helpless casualties. Much like Murakami’s other work, this novel is political and looks at the issues of the state, not just the Japanese state, but all of them. And the other narrative is much like the world of other fantasy writers, with strange peoples and curious creatures. In the end, there is a choice that must be made. Although it is like stepping into another world, it is a world that is almost too close to home.
We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. TaNehisi Coates comes up quite frequently in conversation these days, and if he doesn’t maybe you should be the one to change that. Anyway, he has done a lot in the past few years, including writing the newly revived Black Panther comics. We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of essays, and let me be the first to mention that I am not a fan of essays, and I truly enjoyed all of them. His themes are powerful and I highly suggest you check it out.
So, next time you go to purchase a book, try one of these, look for a short story collection and dare to try something new and a little bit strange.