Skip to main content

9 short stories you need to read while still alive

Crafting a short story that really sings off the page — one that stays with the reader after the book's been slotted back on the shelf — is no easy feat.

Short stories may not take as long as novels to put together, but that doesn't make them any easier to perfect.

There are plenty of people who have one hell of a talent for it, though.
From libraries and hospitals to pressed roses and foot fetishes, here are some short stories from female British writers you badly need to check out.

1. "When the Door Closed, It Was Dark", by Alison Moore (published in The Best British Short Stories 2011)

What's it about?
A young woman in a foreign country starts a new job with an unsettling family.
Why should you read it?
Alison Moore is the type of writer who can communicate a whole atmosphere with just a few well-placed sentences. This story is the perfect example of her skill. It's one of those ones that creeps up on you — there's a kind of ominous, claustrophobic subtext to everything, and you know something is going to go horribly wrong without being able to tell exactly what, or why you feel that way. The ending, when it comes, is as grim as expected — but it's not what you expect.

2. "Books and Roses", by Helen Oyeyemi (published in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours)

What's it about?
A baby is found abandoned at a chapel with a note and a mysterious golden key on a chain around her neck.
Why should you read it?
This one has the kind of otherworldly, mysterious quality to it that will appeal to fans of His Dark Materials. Oyeyemi has a way with description that immediately pulls you into the world she creates — a world full of secret gardens, libraries, hidden doors, and more symbolism than you can shake a pressed rose at. It's also one of those stories that's like a puzzle you need to put together yourself; as soon as you finish — at least if you're anything like me — you'll want to skim back through and look for clues you might have missed.

3. "Feather Girls", by Claire Massey (published in The Best British Short Stories 2011)

What's it about?
A mysterious village populated by women who live in the lake as swans until they meet a partner.
Why should you read it?
This is one of the shorter stories on the list, which makes the vivid world Massey manages to paint all the more impressive. "Feather Girls" is like a dark, adult fairytale — there's a magical quality to the girls who transform from swans when they leave the water, but it's tainted by the threat of the men who catch and hide their coats to keep them from going back.

4. "Footer", by Irenosen Okojie (published in Speak Gigantular)

What's it about?
A woman with a foot fetish posts an advert on Craigslist.
Why should you read it?
You could make a strong argument that the first and last lines of a short story are among the most important — and the opening to "Footer" ("She wanted her feet fucked") is certainly one that grabs the attention. This story is a good example of something Irenosen Okojie does very well in her writing, which is seamlessly weaving a kind of dark humour with something altogether more tragic and poignant. Another thing Okojie does well is hiding nasty little shocks right at the end of her tales. "Footer" is one of those ones that'll make you want to go back over the final few paragraphs to make sure you read them right the first time.

5. "I Arrive First", by Emma Jane Unsworth (published in The Best British Short Stories 2012)

What's it about?
A student who sends a guy in her university's library messages using books.
Why you should read it?
The best thing about this story is the way the tone subtly shifts and tilts as it progresses: we start off thinking it's a quirky little love story about two students who are courting through the medium of library books; but the further in we get, the less reliable the narrator seems. Ultimately she's not so much an unreliable narrator as an ambiguousnarrator, though — is she the participant of a light-hearted, ongoing game, or a fantasist who's manufactured an entire scenario in her own mind? We don't get a straight answer, and I think the story is all the better for it. 

6. "Then Later, His Ghost", by Sarah Hall (published in Madame Zero)

What's it about?
A man struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where gale-force winds never stop blowing.
Why should you read it?
Why should you read it?
I've always had a soft spot for a good ol' post-apocalyptic tale, but more often than not they can be a bit samey. Zombies, plague — you know the type thing. The best thing about Then Later, His Ghost, though, is that it feels like a very original little story. The detailed descriptions of the wind's nightmarish, destructive force give the whole thing a realistic, could-this-actually-happen vibe which makes the story constantly tense, and the relationship between the main character and the pregnant woman he's helping adds an undercurrent of poignancy.

7. "Doctors", by Anneliese Mackintosh (published in The Best British Short Stories 2013)

What's it about?
A woman's dad falls ill as she studies for a PhD in literature.
Why should you read it?
This is one of those stories that catches you totally off guard. It's written in upbeat, skippy second person which makes it read like an email to a friend, and the effect is disarming. You start off thinking it's going to be an amusing, relatable tale about a young woman struggling to find the right path post-university, and then everything suddenly gets a whole lot darker and more poignant. It's jarring, and brilliant. 

8. "Fractures", by Irenosen Okojie (published in Speak Gigantular)

What's it about?
The lives of two damaged twins are shaken by the arrival of a mysterious man.
Why should you read it?
There's so much going on in this unsettling little story that the one-line description above really doesn't do it justice. The whole thing starts off with the potential for a budding romance in a cafe, and then the story completely goes off the rails: there's a dark backstory about kidnapping and assault; there's family bereavement, stolen identity and — wait for it — even the brow-furrowing hint of something extraterrestrial right at the end, just to really catch you off guard. The thing is, though, it works. Okojie's style of writing — which melds realistic settings with surreal metaphor — allows her to sprinkle speculative elements throughout her story in a way that makes them feel bizarrely natural.

9. "The Not-Dead and the Saved", by Kate Clanchy (published in The Not-Dead and the Saved and Other Stories)

What's it about?
A mother sits by the hospital bed of her ill son at various stages throughout his life.
Why should you read it?
I could tell you this story didn't make me cry a single tear, but frankly that would be a stone cold lie. Fair warning: it's a sad one. But it's also brilliantly written — Clanchy manages the story's large time jumps perfectly, and the realism of the characters and the description makes the whole thing all the more emotional. Oh, and the story's also won a couple of massive awards: it earned Clanchy the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize and the BBC National Short Story Award. Incredibly awesome! 


You may also want to read these ⤵️

Referee kills player in a football match

A referee is facing murder charges after football players allegedly forced him to

Do not watch this while driving

Kids are lovely and fun to watch most times. I know most of you did this and so many other funny stuffs as a kid. Feel free to share yours... Do not watch this while driving

Over 40 Million Accounts Found Guilty

Microsoft has uncovered 44 million user accounts using usernames and passwords that have been leaked through security breaches.

RAW TALENT ep1 (freestyle by Gdlpeid)

Just watch! Freestyle by ''Gdlpeeid''. A rapper with a difference.  Pure raw talent.

By February 2020 - WhatsApp Will Stop Working on These Phones

Every now and then, WhatsApp does fish out a list of old phones for which support is discontinued and if you have an old phone lying around as a backup, you might want to read on.

These 10 Powerful Words And Phrases Defined The Decade

Honestly, it has been a wonderful decade to remember.  A lot has happened and a lot has been spoken also. But our focus is on the words and phrases spoken.  Below are words and phrases spoken between 2010 - 2019 that defined the decade.....

Apple Has Released iOS 13.2.2 And Fixes Major Issue

All thanks to Apple,  the tech  giant just released iOS 13.2.2, which addresses the issue of background apps being killed prematurely, along with a handful of other annoyances.

This Magnetic thread Can Be Used To Clear Blood Clot in The Brain

Link from  Researchers at MIT developed a thread that can be steered magnetically to glide through the brain's blood vessels and

This gigantic monster device turns wave energy into electricity

This 826-ton buoy was developed by OceanEnergy to turn wave energy into electricity. IEEE Spectrum reported that "OE Buoy" was towed from Oregon to Hawaii, where it will undergo a series of tests that will prove whether it can withstand the battering waves while generating electricity. Click the link below to watch the video..

Lionel Messi Barcelona exit date revealed

The Barcelona Legend has decided on when he wants to quit the club and even has a successor in his mind already.