Living Rich: Read Only the Best Short Stories

“In anything fit to be called by the name of reading, the process itself should be absorbing and voluptuous; we should gloat over a book, be rapt clean out of ourselves.” – Robert Louis Stevenson (A Gossip on Romance, 1882)

If you like to read, read short stories. Why? Because short stories today (at least American short stories) are as good as or better than novels.

The wonderful thing about a short story is that you can have a life-changing moment in a very brief amount of time.

Short stories are meant to be read in one sitting. Most can be read in a half-hour or less. The secret to enjoying short stories is to expect not thrills and chills but subtle intelligence and beauty.

Read the following periodicals for the best contemporary short stories:

* The Paris Review

* Short Story

* The Sewanee Review

* The Antioch Review

Also, you can check out the almost-always-good stories in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Playboy.

If you have time to read only 15 or 20 short stories a year, you might be better off buying yourself a copy of “Best American Short Stories.” This anthology comes out every year and most of what is contains is usually very good.

Also, read the following classics, as recommended by Harold Bloom:

* Ivan Turgenev’s “Bezhin Lea” and “Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands”

* Anton Chekhov’s “The Kiss”

* Guy de Maupassant’s “Madame Tellier’s Establishment

* Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” and “A Sea Change”

* Flannery O’Connor’s “A View From the Woods” and “Parker’s Back”

* Vladmir Nabokov’s “The Vane Sisters”

* Jorge Luis Borges’ “The South,” “Death and the Compass,” and “Immortal”

* Italo Calvino’s stories from Invisible Cities

Henry James said that short stories exist “at that exquisite point where poetry ends and reality begins.” That puts them, as Bloom points out, between poems and novels. This may be why so many readers these days shy away from short stories, even though their quality — by and large — is better.

Spend a few wonderful half-hours this weekend readings some short stories. They will make your life a little bit better.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]