When you’re in a long line, stuck in traffic, or in the doctor’s waiting room, you probably pull out your phone and scroll through social media, right?
Well, I have another form of entertainment for you: short stories.
Short stories are awesome because you get the emotional impact of a full story but in 30 minutes tops. It’s like a more portable (and more educational?) Netflix. Just pop up a short story and leave your mundane waiting for a bit, then come right back.
When I first got into short stories, I noticed that my favorite ones were often written by women. So I’ve decided to compile a list for those boring moments when you need a quick but moving story to keep you entertained.
1. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
This is one of the first short stories I remember reading, and it’s a classic. It’s almost like an entire dystopian drama compacted into 8 pages. The last time I read it was 5 years ago, but I still remember the unnerving last scene very clearly.
2. “The Flowers” by Alice Walker
“The Flowers” is only 9 paragraphs long, and the paragraphs are max 5 sentences. It’s super short and easy to read, but still powerful. After the first sentences, it may seem like a cute little story about flowers, but keep reading. Walker’s ability to transform it into something completely different so subtly is magical.
3. “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood
If I had to choose one favorite on this list, it would be “Rape Fantasies.” It’s painful, humorous, and conversational all at once, in a way only Atwood can achieve. She’s one of the best writers of our time, and this story is no exception. While there’s no major violence happening in this story, it is vivid and I’d take caution if this is a painful subject for you.
4. “A Telephone Call” by Dorothy Parker
On a lighter note, this one is for all of you waiting for someone to text back. This was written in 1928 but it’s still so relatable today, maybe even more so now that we have iPhones in everyone’s hands. It also hints at bigger themes, like the forced dependence of women on men at the time. Maybe this will inspire you to look at how far we’ve come. Or maybe not.
5. “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri
Lahiri has a way of combining two cultures so effortlessly into one story without making the story about culture clash. The characters will get on your nerves but will also leave you sympathetic for them. Their multi-dimensionality is what really struck me in this story. And, of course, it’s also just entertaining to read.
6. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The color yellow takes on a totally different meaning for anyone who reads this. If you want to be a writer, this is especially important to read because this is the perfect example of a story that “shows” instead of “tells.” It’s an uncomfortable yet beautifully written story.
7. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
This is probably Chopin’s most well known story, and rightfully so. She was a controversial feminist writer during her time – this story was written in 1894 – which gives you all the more reason to read it. It’s really short, but just as well developed. The last sentence gives me goose bumps every time I read it.
8. “Distant View of a Minaret” by Alifa Rifaat
Rifaat, to me, is the rural Egyptian Chopin. This specific story is so similar to “The Story of an Hour” it’s scary because Rifaat was practically uninfluenced by Western culture, having only spoken Arabic and rarely traveled. It gives you a good perspective into what some women on the other side of the world had to go through, too. Like in Chopin’s story, this ending gets me every time.
(Side note: I can’t find the story online except in the Amazon preview version of it. It’s the first one in the book, so you can view it for free. But, you know, you should also buy the book because she has some other good stories in there.)
9. “The Arrangements” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie was asked to write a piece imagining a Trump victory for the New York Times prior to Trump’s actual victory (RIP). It’s absolutely hilarious and will leave you reminiscing about the pre-Trump days. I’ve also heard great things about Adichie and want to read her novels, so this story was a great introduction to her work.
10. “Everything That Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor
So much to think about in this story. Race and racism, wealth and class, family and generation gaps, arrogance and bias….you name it. Every spoken word and every little glance is important. This is all written in the context of one bus ride in 60s, all in 10 pages.
There you have it, my definitive list to escaping boredom through stories by awesome women. Much better than Netflix, right?