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Image / Living / Culture

Can’t seem to finish that book? Try these 5 bite-size short stories instead


by Jennifer McShane
10th Sep 2020

Even with the extra time we have on our hands, it can be hard to concentrate on a book in its entirety. These books are made for one sitting and are just as good a read. 


When it comes to a good story, it needn’t be a long-winded tale; it can be snappy, a bite-sized story packed with drama, humour and unexpected plot twists — as good as any long read. Here’s our pick of five of the best, all short and so, so memorable.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

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The film of the same name was in fact based on this story of 58 pages, and the relationship that develops between two cowboys one summer. The film had Oscar potential and the source material — a compelling love story — is a thing of beauty on the page. Proulx has since said she regretted ever writing it (a real shame), but it’s brilliant and one that you definitely won’t be sorry you read.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

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Miranda July, whom I’d never heard of before discovering her writing, could best be described as quirky. This is a collection of quirky stories at only 205 pages; odd, lonely characters in scenarios both cringe-worthy and sweet, yet some of the stories — in particular, Something That Needs Nothing — are insightful and funny. Slightly cheating as this one is a collection but I was so intrigued by all of them, each ending in a way I hadn’t expected. You will truly love this collection.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

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Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic host of many a grand party, harbours a lustful, dark secret. It’s easy to be drawn into his life of wealth, beauty and luxury in the early pages (Gatsby exudes a boyish charm, quite infectious to the reader), but it’s full of undercurrents: memorable words and complex, rather shallow characters (but don’t let that put you off) and loaded with passion. Whether you’ve enjoyed or skipped the film (with a dashing Leonardo DiCaprio it has to be said), go back and read the book. This one really is bite-size and is a gorgeous gem to pop in your handbag before jumping on the train.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Author Shirley Jackson is best known for her short story The Lottery and her novel The Haunting of Hill House, (twice-filmed and considered to be the very best of haunted-house tales), yet it is this short story with tales of magic and murder that has garnered a cult following. Our narrator is teenager Merricat, who practises magic, and lives an isolated existence with her sister, Constance. They were rejected by society; the local village believes that Constance was the cause of deaths of other family members and, as a result, she ventures no further than her back garden. The book as much enthralled me as it did leave me feeling unsettled, yet even now, the book is in my head. It’s emotional, scary and just plain odd. Read it, and you’ll never forget it.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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This is perhaps the most well-known novel by Virginia Woolf and my favourite by the author. The book that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post First World War England is only 176 pages. Possibly the best story about a party ever written.

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