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Should a writer read short stories?

The Tell Tale Heart

The Tell-Tale Heart

From the opening pages of the short story collection, I knew my heart belonged to Poe. That’s Edgar Allan, of course. When I read The Tell Tale Heart, I slid into Poe’s fictional world and experienced the story. I might have been slouched in an old recliner and safe in my parent’s house, but my fingers grasped the pages a little too tightly, my weight shifted in the chair, and, I’m telling you, my heart skipped a beat in the space between the sentences. I. Heard. That. Heart.

When a reader is deep in the words of a master storyteller, it’s a beautiful thing. A good writer can massage a reader’s conscious, stretch the limits of a reader’s imagination, and pull the deepest emotion to the surface. With every expansion, a bit of elasticity is lost. Ray Bradbury did that for a generation of engineers that dreamed of Mars and sought to land on the Moon. Their vision expanded.

The Golden Age of short stories has long since passed. If someone is holding a book today, it’s either a text book, a super-charged self-help book, or a bestselling novel. Few are reading short stories. I love short stories, always have. A short story is compact yet complex, the mind of a writer deeply at work.

The benefits of reading short stories

I gain a lot more than entertainment from reading short story collections and anthologies. Here’s a few:

  • I’m exposed to a wide variety of writers and writing styles.
  • I discover new writers because many anthologies make it a point to highlight the work of one or two newly published writers.
  • I have a wide variety of plot and scene structures, characterization, theme usage, style, and, of course, voice available to study in shorter length.

One of the best reasons for reading a collection or anthology is for the introductions. Some of the best writing on writing can be found within those pages–and they are keepers.

 The Short Stories Reading Challenge 2012

Short Stories Reading Challenge

When I read that the book blog Put Your Soul on Paper hosted a short story reading challenge for 2012, I knew I had to sign up. After all, I’d recently joined The Classics Club and had already included several collections, so this challenge seemed a natural as well as an added motivator. The requirements are few. If you read 5 short story collections or anthologies, you’ll reach the first level. You can read anything you want by anyone published at any time. All that’s asked is that, if you blog, you complete a post and link to the challenge’s page. Sometimes all you need is a push to make a quick list, stack a few books, and carve out the time to read.

My short story reading plan

  • I commit to read a minimum of 5+ short story collections or anthologies in the remaining months of the year.
  • My list currently contains 15 books that are both fiction and nonfiction.
  • No doubt my list will continue to grow as I plan to continue this reading plan past the end of this year.
  • I will be able to mark off several items from my To-do list.
  • The list? Here’s my list of 15+ short stories and essay collections and anthologies.

One of the first writers I plan to read is the collection of short stories by Flannery O’Connor. I’ve been wanting to read her work for years but…. What about you?

Would you like to take up the reading challenge? There’s plenty of time and the challenge remains open through December 15, 2012. (Of course, you can always do what I’m doing and begin now and extend your reading into the next year or two.)

Share your thoughts in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your suggestions and your reading plans.

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Find my detailed list and more under the Projects tab or click here on My Short Stories Reading Challenge 2012. (Thanks to book blogger  Put Your Soul on Paper)

Ready to read the classics? Join The Classics Club. My 5 year 50+ booklist is here: The Classics Club project.

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  • http://jillianreadsbooks2.wordpress.com/ Jillian

    I’ve read many short stories in the past couple years. I like them but confess I prefer sinking into a novel. I’ve read a couple by Flannery O’Connor and hope you love her!

  • Kathy Reel

    I, too, am a major Poe fan!  The short story challenge sounds really interesting, as I always intend to get to those wonderful anthologies and never seem to do so.  I’m thinking seriously about participating in this challenge.  Mulling it over today.  Thanks so much for introducing me to the challenge.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com Vikk Simmons

    I’m definitely looking forward to reading Flannery. Everything I’ve read about her work is fantastic. I have to say there is nothing like entering into that dream state that a novel can create. I’m with you there. But over the years I’ve found a lot of benefits from reading short stories. What’s really interesting is to see how a writer can differ in style, etc. when working in the different forms. It can really make you appraise them differently. :) Thanks for stopping by. 

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com Vikk Simmons

    Yay, another Poe fan. Definitely check out the story challenge.. It would be interesting to compare our lists. Happy to share the reading challenge. I posted my participation link a little while ago. 

  • FABRSteph

    I have always enjoyed Edgar Allen Poe, but had not read a lot of short stories until recently.  I agree that it is a nice way to familiarize oneself with a variety of authors and it is also a great way to fill in those gaps when I am unsure of what to read next.  One of my favorite short stories of all time is The Yellow Wallpaper.