Sometimes you just don't want to commit to a full-length novel, but you still want to find a great read. The best way to do this is by choosing a great short story. Below, you will find some of the best short stories that you can read for free.
A short story collection is an answer for a quick read that will leave you inspired. If you are looking for something to entertain you before bed or in-between errands, this is the right choice for you.
Short stories exploded in popularity during 2017. However, there are plenty of classics out there that are still excellent pieces. These individual stories are sure to entertain you, no matter your preferred book genre.
Check out our list of best short stories to expand your reading pile.
Ambrose Bierce - An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
Considered the most remarkable American short story, the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is a read that will induce a chill down your spine. It is not political. Instead, it is an excellent example of American genius that is widely considered one of the best short stories of all time.
Henry James - The Turn Of The Screw
While technically a novella, it still has many traits of a short story. As a work of literature, this story inspired a large amount of speculation, criticism, and analysis. It is a story that could be read over and over, and you'd always come up with a different conclusion. Something that inspires that much interpretive interest has to be added to the list of the best short stories.
James Joyce - The Dead
This is the last story in Joyce's collection Dubliners. Quite possible it is one of the best short stories ever written. If you always wanted to read some Joyce but cannot crack Ulysses, this is the story for you.
Jamaica Kincaid – Girl
This is another staple story for any aspiring writer. Even if you are just an enthusiast, this is one of the best short stories to start with.
Jorge Luis Borges - The Library Of Babel
This short story speaks of a library that contains all the books that have ever been written. However, most of them are indecipherable. While many people venture to the library to find the meaning of life, not all of them come out unchanged.
Franz Kafka - In The Penal Colony
This is an unsettling story that features a man known as the Traveller. He is visiting a foreign penal colony where he is shown a special machine used to execute prisoners. The gruesome machine inscribes the prisoner's crime onto their body until they die.
It takes twelve hours of torture before the prisoner dies. While very chilling, it is also one of the best short stories written for those of you that don't mind a bit of gore.
Kai Ashante Wilson - The Devil In America
Kai Ashante Wilson has quite a talent. This short story ties present-day police brutality towards African Americans to post-emancipation America. It speaks of a family of freed slaves living with the Devil that followed them from Africa.
Italo Calvino - The Daughters Of The Moon
This is a story about the people of Earth who decided to throw away the Moon. It is pretty metaphorical, as stories go. Italo Calvino's short story collection features some of the best short stories ever written.
Toni Morrison - Sweetness
This is a prelude to Morrison's book God Help the Child. A story of Bride's mother and her rationale for raising her daughter in a loveless home. It might come as a heavy read, but it is certainly worth your time.
Celeste Ng - Girls, At Play
A story that speaks of the extremes of growing up. It talks of pressures that the girls face as they go through adolescence. If you are a fan of growing-up stories with a twist, this would be one of the best short stories on that subject.
Han Kang - The Fruit Of My Woman
Written in 1997 before the publication of The Vegetarian, this is one of the best short stories you can pick up. In this fantasy drama, the wife slowly turns into a tree while the husband deals with the consequences.
Breece D'j Pancake - Hollow
Breece D'J Pancake's writing is pretty gritty. It is not for everyone, as it might come off as too dark. However, if this is your cup of tea, this is one of the best short stories out there.
Tim O'Brien - The Things They Carried
This modern classic centers on the Vietnam War. However, Tim's stories are not your traditional war stories.
The author chronicles the war in his related short stories and pulls back the curtain on the impossibility of ever capturing the whole truth. This is a profoundly moving collection of great short stories, and you cannot go wrong with it.
Deesha Philyaw - The Secret Lives Of Church Ladies
One of the best short stories written on the topic of Black Southern women and their struggles. It is an intimate, tender, and engaging read. Anyone who likes a slower pace and a relaxed tone but still a lot of emotion will enjoy this short story collection.
Carmen Maria Machada - Her Body And Other Parties
This story blends in sci-fi elements while also discussing body image, love, sexuality, and violence. Carmen is a bracing and necessary new voice, and her stories can indeed be placed among the best short stories ever written.
Stuart Dybek - The Coast Of Chicago
This collection speaks about the Eastern European immigrant in the South Side of the Windy City. These grittily written stories don't waste a word. If you enjoy something straight to the point, these are the stories for you.
Alan Ziegler - Short
This is a collection of short stories by different authors, like Michel de Montaigne, William Blake, Franz Kafka, Clarice Lispector, Gertrude Stein, Italo Calvino. However, it is difficult to choose only one of the stories to feature. This collection is a must-read and certainly features plenty of the best story stories to date—a bit of something for every taste.
Ellen Gilchrist - Acts Of God
This is a story of praise and wonder. It talks about the American South and the daily struggles of the people living there. It is a slice-of-life filled with emotion that you just have to read.
Amber Sparks - The Unfinished World
The Unfinished World is an uplifting story of imagination and wonder. The plot of the story centers around questions about life and love. Every question posed in this story offers a fun discussion point for anyone who wants to improve their brainstorming and critical thinking.
Anton Chekhov - The Bet
Talking about the classics – this is one of the best short stories ever written. It revolves around a debate at a dinner party. The guests talk about the morality of capital punishment and life- imprisonment. The banker guest is willing to wager two million that the lawyer couldn't last in a cell for five years.
Ernest Hemingway - Hills Like White Elephants
This story is about a man and woman waiting for the express from Barcelona to Madrid. They drink beer and make a bit of conversation. Their talk eventually turns to an operation that the woman is considering.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman - The Yellow Wallpaper
This is a story about a woman going through some difficulties. The plot is confined to a room in a colonial mansion. The woman's husband and brother are physicians, and they agree on the diagnosis, which is nervous depression and a hysterical tendency. This story follows the woman's secret writing, and you will soon realize why it is one of the best short stories ever written.
O. Henry - The Gift Of The Magi
An emotional story that speaks of Della, a young married woman. She has managed to save a dollar and eighty-seven cents for Christmas. Sadly, she is still short.
Guy De Maupassant - The Necklace
Another story that follows a young married woman. Mathilde is married to a man with a minor government posting. She constantly suffers from a lack of luxury and makes this known to her husband. Her husband gives her his little savings to get a new dress, but soon another issue arises.
Flannery O'Connor - A Good Man Is Hard To Find
A tale of a grandmother that lives with her son and his family. They are planning a trip to Florida, which she doesn't like. A notorious criminal is loose, and reports place him around Florida, but the family still decides to go. You have to read this suspenseful story to know why it is one of the best short stories ever written.
Edgar Allan Poe - The Fall Of The House Of Usher
The story follows the narrator as he visits his friend Roderick Usher at his house. His mansion is showing signs of neglect. In the letter that he received before the visit, Roderick had complained of a mental disturbance. The story is filled with foreboding and a fascinating read.
Ngozi Adichie - Cell One
Cell One offers an insightful look at Nigerian history and politics. It is a story that shows how the breakdown of civilian laws in society echoes the struggles in a family structure.
Claire-Louise Bennett - Finishing Touch
This story talks about a woman trying to prepare for the perfect evening. It is amusing and detailed, offering lessons writing about both humor and tragedy.
If you're looking for a story that would help you learn advanced syntax and vocabulary, or you just want a strong narrator, then this is a great choice.
Morris Gleitzman - Once
This is a heart-wrenching tale about the history of Nazi-occupied Europe. While it is a work of fiction, it is still inspired by true events. You will soon realize why it is one of the best short stories ever written. It follows the adventures of a young Jewish boy who sets out across Poland in search of his parents.
Robert Olen Butler - This Is Earl Sandt
This story was written online in a series of live webcasts. It is one of the first stories ever composed in this manner and, as such, is truly one of the best short stories to date. It beings with a vintage postcard plucked at random.
Jennifer Egan - Black Box
Another genre-defying story, Black Box, was created across a series of tweets. It is a science fiction story filled with both suspenseful and surprising moments. It is sure to keep you hooked.