Howard is an avid short story reader who likes to help others find and understand stories.
Here are some excellent examples of short stories from a few different categories, including:
- middle school,
- high school,
- and college.
These aren't strict divisions. There's overlap between the categories, but they're useful as a general guide. I hope you find a great story here!
Examples of Contemporary Short Stories
The Edge of the Shoal by Cynan Jones
A man is out fishing in his kayak. He's been thinking of his deceased father lately, and has his ashes with him. He goes to the bay they used to visit together. It's too crowded so he pulls away for a while. He sees a lightning strike in the distance.
Tenth of December by George Saunders
A boy gets his coat, boots, and pellet gun. He's going to a nearby pond to look for Nethers, an alien species he suspects is planning a kidnapping. Sometimes he shoots the Nethers; sometimes they capture him. While on his quest, he sees something that causes a change in him mission.
Read "Tenth of December"
Passage by Kevin Jared Hosein
On Saturday nights, the narrator drinks at a grimy pub, The Tricky Jester. On one visit, he gets agitated over a story told by a fellow patron, Stew. A hiker who likes to go off the beaten path, Stew claims he came across a lone house in the middle of a local mountain. The narrator is a forester and knows the wilderness well. He thinks Stew is spinning a tall tale.
A man is so small in the wilderness, believe me. The way how people is now, we ain’t tailored to live there. So when Stew say he stumble across a house in the middle of the mountain, my ears prick up.
— Kevin Jared Hosein
Examples of Classic Short Stories
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
The narrator vows revenge on Fortunato, a man he claims has injured and insulted him. They meet one evening at a carnival. He says he's purchased a pipe of Amontillado but is uncertain of its quality. Fortunato, who prides himself on his knowledge of wine, insists on inspecting it immediately.
Araby by James Joyce
A boy is infatuated with the older girl who lives across the street. He watches for her and thinks of her often. She finally speaks to him one day, asking if he's going to the bazaar. She won't be able to go. He says he will bring her something if he goes. He can't think of anything else.
To Build a Fire by Jack London
A man travels a Yukon trail, headed for a cabin of acquaintances where there'll be a fire and a hot meal. For now, it's seventy-five degrees below zero. He's accompanied by a husky. The dog, while suited to the environment, knows instinctively that it's too cold to be traveling. The man, though new to the area, is competent and alert.
Read "To Build a Fire"
The animal was depressed by the tremendous cold. It knew that it was no time for traveling. Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment.
— Jack London
Examples of Short Stories for Middle School
The Doll's House by Katherine Mansfield
A family friend gives the Burnell girls a doll house. It's large, beautiful and detailed. They can't wait to tell everyone at school about it. They're also allowed to invite their classmates to come see it. The order of the visits highlights the social standing of the other students. Among the classmates are the Kelvey girls, daughters of a washerwoman and an absent father.
Read "The Doll's House"
Miss Awful by Arthur Cavanaugh
Roger, a third grade student, is concerned that his regular teacher, Miss Wilson, will be away for a while on personal business. She's fun and doesn't demand much of the students. When the class gathers on Monday morning, they notice things aren't as casual as they usually are.
Read "Miss Awful"
The Scholarship Jacket by Martha Salinas
Every year at the narrator's school, a special jacket was awarded to the eighth grade valedictorian. Her older sister had already won it, and now she's in line to receive it. When she has to go back to her desk one day for a forgotten item, she overhears an argument between two of her teachers. It seems a complication has arisen over this year's jacket.
I had been a straight A student since the first grade, and the last year I had looked forward to owning that jacket.
— Martha Salinas
Examples of Short Stories for High School
The Bet by Anton Chekhov
A banker paces in his study, thinking about the party he hosted 15 years ago. The conversation turned to capital punishment and life imprisonment. A lively debate broke out over the morality of each and which was preferable. When a young lawyer said he would take life in prison over the death penalty, the banker wagered that the young man couldn't take it.
Read "The Bet"
Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
A man and woman wait at a train station for the express to Madrid. It's very hot so they sit in the shade outside the cafe and order drinks. The conversation turns to an operation that the woman could possibly undergo.
A Worn Path by Eudora Welty
Phoenix Jackson, an elderly African American woman, is walking through the forest on a frozen December morning. She's small and slow and carries a cane. It's a long and difficult journey. She keeps up a commentary as she travels.
Read "A Worn Path"
She looked straight ahead. Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead . . .
— Eudora Welty
Examples of Short Stories for College
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
A family, including the grandmother who lives with them, is planning a road trip to Florida. She would rather go to Tennessee instead, and tries to convince her son, Bailey, to change the family's plans. She points out a story in the paper about an escaped convict, The Misfit, who is said to be headed for Florida. The trip goes ahead as planned.
Shiloh by Bobbie Ann Mason
Leroy, a truck driver, is on temporary disability since injuring his leg when his truck jackknifed. He's afraid to go back to work. He has taken up model building as a hobby. His wife, Norma Jean, works at a drugstore and has started exercising. They're around each other a lot now, but they aren't as close as they could be.
A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka
A man puts on public displays of fasting. Locals take turns watching him to assure the crowd that nothing has been eaten. He fasts, not just for the onlookers, but for himself. He keeps up his performances for years. Eventually, the public appreciation for the spectacle wanes.
Read "A Hunger Artist"
This was nothing but a formality, instituted to reassure the masses, for the initiates knew well enough that during his fast the artist would never in any circumstances, not even under forcible compulsion, swallow the smallest morsel of food; the honor of his profession forbade it.
— Franz Kafka