Read Leaves: Short-stories for long study breaks

If there’s one thing St Andrews doesn’t lack, it’s distractions from the extremely enriching and necessary class work which never seems to stop piling up.  And here I am, offering you a list of ten more distractions to crowd your browser’s tab bar.  If this just happens to be the perfect opportunity for me to re-read these gems instead of writing my essay that’s due in less than three days, then so be it. The following ten short stories are riveting enough to be read all at once, sure to make procrastinating a worthwhile endeavor.

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury

I know it gets exhausting for Generation Z to be lectured on the dangers of technology and how it will inevitably lead to the downfall of man, or whatever.  “The Veldt” definitely falls into that category, but it contains a few eerily accurate representations of 21st-century technology considering that it was first published in 1950.  Though he spares no scorn for tech, this story is more of a soap-box on which Bradbury identifies the roots of flawed familial relations.  Also, it’s super creepy.

“Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian

We all know that cuffing season has officially arrived here at St A’s, but this story is actually comforting to all the single students in town.  Published last year in The New Yorker, this story went viral–for good reason, too.  This piece is especially ~relatable~ to pretty much every girl; it details a not-quite-relationship with more than a few red flags, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the male character in the story gives off such bad vibes.  Roupenian perfectly represents the kind of dude who gives young women that tell-tale stomach discomfort when something is off.

“The Enigma of Amigara Fault” by Junji Ito

Okay, so this might not technically count as a short story.  Ito is an iconic Japanese manga creator, and this is probably his most recognizable work.  A short and not-so-sweet read, this story is particularly enthralling due to Ito’s chilling portrayal of body horror and death drive.  The story is brilliant, but what makes “The Enigma of Amigara Fault” truly one-of-a-kind are the ink illustrations, the last of which is guaranteed to inspire nightmares.

“Guts” by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club is good and all, but “Guts” is even more intense and disturbing than Palahniuk’s most famous book.  This is very much a work of car crash fiction: you’ll want to stop reading, but you might not be able to.  Far from a work of poignant literature, this story is just kind of disgusting and very entertaining.  It’s probably best not to read it where someone can look over your shoulder, though.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Almost a novella, this is perhaps the longest short story to grace this listicle.  Everyone should read this story at least once in their lives.  It’s regarded as an extremely influential work of feminist literature as well as a pioneering story on mental illness and the mental illnesses of women.  If you feel bad about postponing some of your assignments to dabble in short-story reading, you might as well read something that isn’t a complete waste of time and that improves your self-education.

“Sophia” by BJ Novak

If you recognize BJ Novak’s name, it’s probably because he wrote and acted in the American version of The Office.  Evidently, his writing style translates really well from the television screen to the book page. Novak’s collection of short stories, One More Thing, is primarily a compilation of humorous stories which aren’t all that thought-provoking, although they’re certainly charming.  “Sophia”, however, stands out in the collection as a work primarily of sentimentality.  “Sophia” is a satirical story on the concept of the manic-pixie-dream-girl. About a man whose sex robot falls in love with him, this may not seem like ideal heartrending material, but that fact only adds to how effectual it ends up being.

“Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is maybe one of the most influential writers in contemporary literature, and he always delivers to an impossible standard with his shorter stories as well as his novels.  “Barn Burning”, a title which alludes to an older, famous short story by William Faulkner, is the most compelling of all.  A film based on this story is set to be released later this year.  With “Barn Burning” Murakami seems to have invented a sub-genre of thriller, one that’s far more subtle.  The conclusions drawn from the conclusion of the story could even be considered far more sinister than the ones intended by Murakami, the art of subjectivity fully exploited by him in the most creative way possible.

“Bernice Bobs Her Hair” by F Scott Fitzgerald

I know, I know.  The Great Gatsby is overrated and F Scott Fitzgerald’s hair looks really dumb in all the photos of him.  At least, that’s what I told my sister when I was twelve.  She proceeded to make me read “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.”   It’s always a bit of a risk to read anything about female adolescence written by an adult man, but rather than belittling the dilemmas of the teenaged girls in the story, Fitzgerald succeeds at making them seem even more immediate.  As much as I hate to say it… this story is perhaps one of the funniest I’ve read.

“How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore

The most interesting aspect of “How to Become a Writer” is definitely Moore’s writing style.  This story reads more like prose poetry than a story–like it has some kind of hidden meter.  Moore has published countless short stories, but this one reads bizarrely.  It’s a cross between slice-of-life and fictional memoir.  It ends on the precipice of something more; there is no denouement.  However, the descriptive elements of this story lend themselves to a fragile repetition.  Clearly, this is a work of much technical production, but it’s also effortlessly hilarious and draws immense amounts of sympathy from the reader.

“The Ones Who Walk from Omelas” by Ursula K LeGuin

Somehow, LeGuin manages to create a masterpiece that is almost entirely plotless with this story.  Though relatively short, it implores you to ask yourself a fairly burdensome question: what kind of cruelty are we willing to accept to avoid discomfort?  The implications of this question (and your answer) are enough to distract you from your work, probably for longer than you were hoping.

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