How Relevant Are Short Stories In Our Lives?

How relevant are short stories

Short stories are as dear as lullabies if they are introduced at the right time. While babies derive delight in looking at the illustrations and hearing the familiar voice of their parents, children love to cuddle up with a good story book.

My earliest memories of short stories are connected with my grandma, who could tell me weirest tales without a book but only at bed time. Her favorite refrain that ‘if we tell stories during the day, travelers forget their way’ was taken seriously by us. Though I chuckle at her belief now but it brings fond memories of her face whenever I think of stories.

My love for stories grew as I chose to study and later teach literature and had an easy access to all those renowned names known for writing brilliant pieces. Some of them got entrenched in my memory as they encouraged me to imbibe the values that they glowed with.

This love was recently revived by ‘What’s In A Nameby Sally Cronin, an engaging collection of twenty short stories, each story inspired from real life and emotions that every individual has to live through. Another captivating anthology ‘Twelve Tales Of Christmas’ by Cathleen Townsend infuses a spirit of togetherness and warmth through its stories of human interest. Now I am reading ‘The Story Teller Speaks’ by Annika Perry and I am amazed at her enchanting style of holding the readers.

My blogger friend Nihar whose ever-inspiring creative stories make a delightful reading, recently requested me to share the short stories that have left a mark on my personality and I got this idea of sharing these timeless classic tales.

The first one that comes to my mind is the ‘Gift of Magi’ by O.Henry. When I had read this story, I was too young  to absorb the emotion behind buying a gift, too young to understand why gifts are so important, as I had rarely received them but I learnt how important they can be and why people make sacrifices. I often wonder – could there be a better example of true love?

This value of sacrifice is further highlighted in ‘The Last Leaf by O. Henry. Old Behrman, an unsuccessful, dejected artist who was always talking about his masterpiece,  had nothing to sacrifice but he wanted to save the life of young Johnsie who had lost the desire to live. The last leaf that never fell and saved her life was actually Behrman’s masterpiece that he had painted on a snowy and windy night! How benevolence and inspiration can uplift human spirit touches my heart whenever I read this story.

‘The Model Millionaire’ by Oscar Wilde is remembered not only for the excellent prose and succinct style of Wilde’s writing but also for inserting subtle messages for humanity like… “Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed.” Generosity could be an inborn trait and a kind act never goes unnoticed. If Hughie could donate his last sovereign to the ‘poor beggar,’ the beggar didn’t disappoint him!

Saki, whose real name was H.H.Munro has written several masterpieces but ‘The Background’ appeals to me the most, as it is a satire on the hypocrisy and love of art, which is considered to be more valuable than a human being who is treated like a rare piece of art as he carried the masterpiece of a tatoo artist on his back! The story jolts you out of your slumber and makes an effort to underline what is more important – a person’s dignity and freedom or just a piece of art?

Short Stories

God Sees the Truth but Waits by Leo Tolstoy made a deep impact on me and I have discussed it time and again to fathom why does God wait so long, why does an innocent suffer for the crime of another person, how could forgiveness be as noble as it has been made out to be? Spiritual interpretations of this story have failed to convince me why was an innocent man used as a tool for the purgation of the soul of a hardened criminal? Isn’t God all-powerful?

The Bet by Anton Chekhov delves deeper into human psychology, bringing out the frailties of human beings on one hand and nobility that one can acquire if one wishes to. The argument over what kind of punishment is better – life imprisonment or death penalty culminates in proving that life imprisonment could be more humane as it offers an opportunity to the criminal to change. The lawyer who chose to accept solitary confinement, just for the bet, slowly rose above ordinary human beings and understood how immaterial is the lust for money and luxury.

A Man Who Had No Eyes by MacKinlay Kantor has stayed in my memory for the outstanding style of narration, style and a sudden unexpected twist that leaves the reader spellbound. It is not just a short story… it is a comment on life, how we approach it positively and move on. A must read to change your outlook on life.

Sparrows by K.A. Abbas brilliantly highlights some harsh realities of life, which had hardened a man. But a streak of kindness, so natural to human instincts, didn’t die and it could be ignited by loving birds, without even a word. A man, presumed to be devoid of emotions, shunned by villagers and even his own family is transformed into a loving and kind human being by the love of sparrows for their own young ones.

God Is Near by James Herriot convinced me that love could be found in furry friends too. If we love His creation, we can feel the presence of God around us even without visiting any religious places. Dr. Herriot’s unspoken commitment to the dogs and cats of Miss Stubbs was no less than her housekeeper.

Short stories lay bare various facets of life. They are more effectual in conveying the values without sermonizing about them. Each emotion can be felt through short stories if they are told in their true spirit.

Have you read any of these stories? Please share your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this post, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.




54 thoughts on “How Relevant Are Short Stories In Our Lives?

  1. Hi Balroop, What a lovely list of stories you have given. I have read some of them. The Last leaf left a very strong impression. The reference to the bedtime stories by your grandma revived similar memories of mine. I too loved listening to stories from my grandma before dozing off to sleep. No wonder, stories are instrumental in transporting the readers into different worlds. 🙂

    1. Stories are magical as they also help in whetting the imagination of children, opening various doors to peep inside and discover a world of their choice. That’s why we can connect to this topic so easily 🙂 Thanks for sharing your memories Somali. Love and hugs.

  2. You really are a serious reader – I am quite the opposite! The only one I remember reading is Alice in Wonderland during my schooldays.

    I would imagine the ones inspired by real events (like you’ve mentioned) would keep me hooked…I like watching such movies, too (they are based on real events).

    1. Alok, I must confess that I couldn’t get to read much in my childhood and nobody read those fairy tales to me but the yearning to read was always there. Thanks to my friends, some of them were voracious readers and they inspired me more. Also, I understood the importance of reading and resolved to read each and every fairy tale to my children and now am blessed with such grandchildren whose day starts with breakfast reading with grandma 🙂
      You need a sermon on benefits of reading and who could give it better than Saru, with her wonderful doses of humour!! 🙂 🙂

      1. Hahaha…I know. Actually, I have too much on my plate already…with stock market and all, I hardly have time to read anything else than financial news.

  3. Balroop, this is a gem of a post and all about a topic so close to my heart! First of all, thank you so much for the mention and comment – wow, wonderful to know you are reading my book! That is just brilliant!! I thoroughly enjoyed Sally’s book and am reading Cathleen’s at the moment too – I agree wholeheartedly with your brief review of them both!

    I love your introduction to this post with your memories of listening to your grandmother’s tales…all without the aid of a book. She is right about stories at nighttime to a certain degree…it is always magical and special to read them then.

    What a fantastic list of short stories and I am making notes from your suggestions – most which are new to me. All terrific writers and ones I want to read…at some stage! As a child, I adored Grimm’s Fairytales and more recently absolutely enchanted by Rachel Joyce’s ‘A Snow Garden & Other Stories’. Happy Reading, my friend and wishing you a very special weekend! ❤️

    1. Annika I have posted the reviews of both the story books on Goodreads and Amazon, that’s why they are so brief here. My focus is always on emotions and their effect on our lives. I am glad you like this list, most of the stories I have picked up also talk about emotions and the depth of relationships. Fairy tales are fascinating but by the time I got an exposure to them, I was a mother…they delighted my children but I was always wondering how could Repunzal have such long hair and why she didn’t feel the pain when her witch mother climbed up with them! 🙂
      Thank you dear friend for liking the stories that made a mark on my personality.

      1. Balroop, I totally understand and will look at the full reviews…you’ve give a beautiful brief glimpse of them here.

        Haha!!! 😀 My usual very practical nature hadn’t extended to fairy tales…until now! If I think too much I’ll start questioning like you did with them. Reckon the trick is to fall into the moment of magic and suspend reality.

  4. Thank you Balroop for this great post on short stories. Not only have you highlighted some of our great blogger friends and their books but also let us feel the warmth and comfort as your grandma read you stories.
    My mother sang more lullabies and songs, I loved that. She had a wonderful voice. My dad told stories.

    I will be reading up on a number of the stories you mention, as I read every night I am hungry for more.

    1. I am delighted that you could connect with this post Miriam, I was not that lucky that somebody could sing lullabies or read stories to me but I made it a point to be such a mom and grandma who could do both 🙂
      I know you would enjoy each one of the stories I have mentioned…Happy reading dear friend, just click on the link to read the story.

  5. What an inspiring post, Balroop. I haven’t read any of the short stories other than those by Sally, Cathleen, and Annika. Isn’t that funny… none of those famous authors, only my fellow bloggers. As children, we’re raised on short stories until we graduate to chapter books, so it makes sense that they call to us. And short stories can be incredibly powerful. Thanks for the reading list!

  6. Thank you Diana. I try to mix and match my reading with the classics, contemporary best sellers and fellow bloggers but short stories have a fascination of their own as they convey a lot within few words…I didn’t mention Somerset Maugham who is famous for his “power of telling a story straightforwardly and without frills.”

  7. So lovely to read your love for short stories, Balroop. Also lovely to see you share a number of short stories from amazing fellow writers. I have read Nihar’s short stories a while back, and he writes in such an engaging, vivid manner that you can easily visualise the story right before your eyes. Like you, my earliest memory of short stories was my parents reading to me as a kid right before bedtime. I always looked forward to reading back then, and maybe my love for words started back then. I’ve also experimented writing short stories at one stage, some stories shorter than others, some longer. That was a long time ago when I was in high school, and that writing style really appealed to me. I’d write short fictional stories about a group of adventurers saving the world from fire breathing dragons. Maybe I’ll revisit this kind of writing at some point.

    1. Short stories have a universal appeal as they don’t take much time and connect us with our childhood. Who hasn’t heard a story while growing up? I remember some of them were assigned as home-work – to learn and recite in the class!
      A true story is the one that takes the reader along with it, visualising all the scenes. It is interesting that you have been writing stories about adventurers! You must pull them out Mabel and let the world see them…may be after embellishing and editing them. 🙂

  8. I just finished Annika’s book of short stories and was reminded what I used to love about them. They are quick–nicely read while waiting for something else or a mini-staycation. And when well done (like Annika’s), remove you from reality, to a different place that adds perspective.

    1. I love your astute observations Jacqui…you are so right! They do add perspective, some are rarefied reminders to take life as it comes. 🙂

  9. Oh, my. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any of these stories.I have read some of these authors novels but not the shorts. I’m a HUGE fan of short stories and adore the quote you shared here by Neil Gaiman. I’m pinning that one! As a writer, and novice in fiction, short stories were a good place to begin for me. As you know I have a collection coming out (eventually 😉 ). I am working diligently on edits of the last story. They are not near as profound as these ones you’ve shared. I have clicked the links to many and know what I’ll be doing today. Thanks for sharing these wonderful stories and your thoughts on them, Balroop.

    1. The stories I have mentioned are considered to be classics…hope your day was fruitful Lisa. I am glad that I have provided the links 🙂 Wishing you all the best with your collection of stories. Thanks for sharing your love for short stories.

  10. A beautiful posting on short stories Balroop. I haven’t read many of those you’ve mentioned but will now be checking them out. And I loved Sally’s What’s in a Name?, in fact, I just reviewed it today on my blog. And I look forward to reading Annika’s book soon. 🙂 xx

  11. This is a fabulous post, Balroop. Well-written short stories can be very impactful and, like affirmations, can inspire in short order. Thanks for the terrific reading list! ❤

  12. Short stories are my favorite Balroop. Not sure they are much appreciated in France. I agree with the words of Neil Gaiman.
    Thanks for sharing the links. I’ll make sure to read some of them.
    Take care my friend.

  13. I’ve taught a handful of the stories listed above when I was in the classroom. The short story I most liked to teach was “The Scarlet Ibis.” It’s a sentimental tear-jerker that gets me every time, and students always reacted well to it. Short stories are quite difficult to write because there isn’t a lot of space to convey what needs to be said.

    1. I haven’t read ‘The Scarlet Ibis’…must get my hands on it! I agree with you Jeri, short stories are difficult to write, that is why probably they have been neglected by the new-fangled fantasy and mystery writers!

  14. I have read Wilde, Herriot and Chekhov at various times, none of the stories you mention here, however. I did read O. Henry when young, and yes, Gift of the Magi strikes a chord. I will say I love being read to and love reading, as well. So much can be captured in a few words as you know from poetry, but also in short story. Fun stuff 😉

    1. Saying a lot in few words is an art, which very few writers possess but those renowned authors who penned the classics I mention have been unsurpassable! Thank you Bela for chiming in, to share your love for short stories.

  15. I have to admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve read short stories before I read Annika’s lovely anthology. And I really don’t know why because I just love them and will from now on make more of an effort to lay aside novels and read short stories again more often. Your wonderful list is a good point to start so thank you, Balroop! 😄

    1. Thank you Sarah, I appreciate your kind words. While novels drown us in the world of mindless mysteries, short stories of human interest acquaint us with millions of realities just within few words. Happy reading dear friend. 🙂

    2. Sarah, I’m so happy my book reacquainted you with short stories and there are so many wonderful ones … Balroop has indeed provided an amazing list to start with and there are several here that I’m keen to read. Balroop your sentence below sums up my love of short stories beautifully and the magic inherent in them: “short stories of human interest acquaint us with millions of realities just within few words.” Wow!

      1. Annika, I think the last book of short stories I read before yours was Neil Gaiman´s “Fragile Things” which is just fabulous. I used to read much more short stories when I was younger, especially fantasy stories by authors such as Marion Zimmer Bradley. I really don´t know why I stopped reading them, and I am so glad your book as rekindled this love. 😀 xxx

      2. Thank you Annika…your stories are a little above than what a reader expects…a lot has to be discerned, which you leave unsaid and therein lies their magic 🙂 only few can create it. Stay blessed!

  16. With a three-year-old granddaughter and another about to be delivered next week, your post could not have come at a better time. I can’t wait to start reading short stories to the progeny of my progeny. Thanks for the idea! 🙂

  17. What a wonderful post, and you have given such details of such excellent reads. some of which I have read, others which are new to me.. Story telling is something I enjoy doing, We never got read bedtime stories when we were children.. To be honest I think with 5 siblings our parents just sighed a sigh of relief at the peace of us being in bed.. 🙂
    But Being the eldest I would make up stories and carry them on from night to night to tell my younger siblings.. Later as I grew books took on their own magical hold as the mysteries within them unfolded page by page..
    So thank you Balroop for sharing what is held in some of these magical reads
    Have a wonderful New Week 🙂

    1. Same here Sue…craving for story time, I grew up with the realisation of how important they are in a child’s life and resolved to read as many as I could to my girls and now my grandchildren…so the magic returned. Thanks for sharing your own love for stories, so dear to our heart. 🙂 Stay blessed and have a wonderful week.

  18. At the outset thank you soooo muuuch Balroop for sharing this post (thanks a ton for mentioning me) and I always wanted to know the stories that has touched your heart, you have magical eye on literature, and as you know I have overwhelming fascination for reading stories and analyzing those plots and characters of great short stories, and this post of yours have given me wealth of thoughts on giving a critical re-look at the stories I have read and the stories I should read again and derive a different perspective than what I have taken reading the stories long back. Today, I look at the stories not from a reader’s point of view but also from a writer’s point of view and then I realize how much more I need to know to be a good writer and writing short stories are so much challenging and indeed if one combines the power of imagination and recast the stories from a reader’s point of view, it can convey an another different dimension which otherwise remain under cover.

    Three of favorite Oscar Wilde, O Henry and Anton Chekhov; though I have read many of stories, “Gift of Magi”, the more you read the more you realize what else could have been a better plot for a magical love story and you find none…yet to full comprehend the stories from the greatest and needs more reading on Chekhov…the master storyteller. I have to now to read; “Man who had no Eyes” and “God Sees the Truth but Waits”; and I may humbly request you to write few more posts on short stories and about the master short storytellers; I would love to read more on it.

    In today’s attention deficient syndrome and where time is the biggest causality and all of us keep complaining about lack of time and 24 hours appears so less for a day, and we have kept reading I mean real reading out of purview and our extensive reading is in digital space and that too stuff lacking the substance. Short stories can be good panacea for non readers and readers who forced to move away from real reading and books dwelling such stories can revive those lost moments of good reading…need inspiration.

    Have a great day ahead.

    1. Nihar, I have been wondering why you didn’t come in to share your thoughts about this post as it got inspired from our conversation. Many thanks for reading about the short stories that I have shared. I can understand how busy life is and reading is the last on the list of things we do! I read only at bed time though I keep telling myself I must give one hour to real reading in the afternoon too. 🙂
      Since the post was becoming too long I had to keep the list short and would talk about more stories later. It was surprising that many readers haven’t read these masterpieces! I agree with you…a story appears to be different when we read it again especially if we look through the glasses of a writer. 🙂

      1. Sorry Balroop, I got excessively tied up on the work front and always wanted to have some quality time to read your posts. I agree, reading is such an important aspects of our creative engagement and we need do so much reading and keep ourselves away from many digital distractions. Yes, we need to commit time towards reading and unless we do it religiously we are bound to get short of time, given the way we have multitude of things in our hand.
        So true, when we look from a writer’s hat today we start seeing so many new facets, it is indeed fascinating, and I was once again started reading the “Gift of Magi” and “The Last Leaf”, and when I analyse the plot, it makes me think deeper into the world of writer’s mind and why did he create such a sad plot and a such lovely plot in respective stories, did he himself experience something like that or must have seen people around him with similar experiences. The painting masterpiece and the choice of gift, everything so beautifully forms the composition.
        Looking forward to your next one and just love to discuss on the wonderful facets of short stories and how they can make a difference in today’s reading habit of digital generation.
        Have a lovely weekend.

      2. I understand the pressures of work Nihar and couldn’t even imagine concentrating on serious writing…that’s why my poems, written on bits of paper languished in drawers for many years till I had earned some time for putting them together! 🙂
        Thanks for sparing your precious time to share your reflections and wisdom.

      3. Thanks for understanding, yes creative work like writing needs that space out of work, the daily grid and where we can enjoy that special zone of being purposefully engaged with our art of writing…
        You have preserved all those beautiful works of yours and no good work every goes away and it find its place in some time zone in future…and it has find in your wonderful blog.
        Thanks as always.

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