25 Fantastic Free Short Stories That You Wish You’ve Read Before
Short stories continued to be written all over the world, often pictured as stolen moments from a different world, and then captured and framed in a few thousand words – imagine them as shortened versions of full-length novels. Short stories date back to oral storytelling traditions which originally produced epics such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Book enthusiasts often call them ‘one-sitting’ stories, which is a pretty good start for all slow and reluctant readers, as this gives them the satisfaction of actually finishing a story, giving them the encouragement to continue reading. Not to mention they are also ideal for travellers and busy people.
In this post, we’ve covered mostly classic titles written by popular authors, ranging from H.P. Lovecraft, J. D. Salinger, Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain and many more! A couple of ebooks listed here are collections of few short stories, so fear not, there’s more reading materials from what you can actually see. This should get you occupied for quite a while if you haven’t read any of them. Happy reading!
Click on the ebook cover to visit / download the ebook
More details on each of the titles at the bottom of the page.
- Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Borges (Cover design by Blu-remi) – PDF, 17 pages
- Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Pierce – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 3,626 words
- Lovecraft’s Fiction by H.P. Lovecraft (Cover design by Magnetic-Eye) – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 112 short stories
- The Laughing Man by Jerome David Salinger – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 5,521 words
- Sleep by Haruki Murakami – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 13,795 words
- Good Old Neon by David Foster Wallace (Cover design by Przemek Debowski) – PDF, 41 pages
- The Depressed Person by David Foster Wallace – PDF, 8 pages
- 9 Short Stories by J. D. Salinger – PDF, 82 pages
- The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell – EPUB, MOBI (Kindle), PDF, 24 pages, 7,948 words
- The Lottery by Shirley Jackson – PDF, 8 pages
- To Build a Fire by Jack London – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), Around 7,000 words
- Plethora of Short Stories by Donald Barthelme – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), Dozens of stories
- Roman Fever by Edith Wharton – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 4,910 words
- 34 Horror Short Stories by M. R. James – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 34 full e-texts
- 30 Poe Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe (Cover design by Magnetic-Eye) – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 30 full e-texts
- Dubliners by James Joyce – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, Collection of 15 short stories
- The Piazza Tales by Herman Melville – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, Collection of 6 short stories
- The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 2,627 words
- The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, 6,120 words
- An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, 3,763 words
- The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, 2,069 words
- Mosses from an Old Manse, and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, Collection of 11 short stories
- The House of Souls by Arthur Machen – Online reading (HTML), EPUB, Kindle, TXT, 4 short stories
- The Open Boat by Stephen Crane – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 7 chapters
- The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky by Stephen Crane – Online reading only (HTML / E-text), 4 chapters
I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia. The mirror troubled the depths of a corridor in a country house on Gaona Street in Ramos Mejia; the encyclopedia is fallaciously called The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia (New York, 1917) and is a literal but delinquent reprint of the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1902.
I got no immediate reply; Moxon was apparently intent upon the coals in the grate, touching them deftly here and there with the fire-poker till they signified a sense of his attention by a brighter glow. For several weeks I had been observing in him a growing habit of delay in answering even the most trivial of commonplace questions. His air, however, was that of preoccupation rather than deliberation: one might have said that he had ‘something on his mind.’
Lovecraft’s fiction, revisions, collaborations, and miscellaneous minor works, as well as some tales that are not extant.
In 1928, when I was nine, I belonged, with maximum esprit de corps, to an organization known as the Comanche Club. Every schoolday afternoon at three o’clock, twenty-five of us Comanches were picked up by our Chief outside the boys’ exit of P. S. 165, on 109th Street near Amsterdam Avenue. We then pushed and punched our way into the Chief’s reconverted commercial bus, and he drove us (according to his financial arrangement with our parents) over to Central Park. The rest of the afternoon, weather permitting, we played football or soccer or baseball, depending (very loosely) on the season. Rainy afternoons, the Chief invariably took us either to the Museum of Natural History or to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
This is my seventeenth straight day without sleep. I’m not talking about insomnia. I know what insomnia is. I had something like it in college?something like it because I’m not sure that what I had then was exactly the same as what people refer to as insomnia. I suppose a doctor could have told me. But I didn’t see a doctor. I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Not that I had any reason to think so. Call it woman’s intuition?I just felt they couldn’t help me.
My whole life I’ve been a fraud. I’m not exaggerating. Pretty much all I’ve ever done all the time is try to create a certain impression of me in other people. Mostly to be liked or admired. It’s a little more complicated than that, maybe. But when you come right down to it it’s to be liked, loved. Admired, approved of, applauded, whatever. You get the idea.
The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror.
A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, Just Before the War with the Eskimos, The Laughing Man, Down at the Dinghy, For Esme:–with Love and Squalor, Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes, De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period, Teddy.
‘The Most Dangerous Game’ features as its main character a big-game hunter from New York, who becomes shipwrecked on an isolated island in the Caribbean, and is hunted by a Russian aristocrat. The story is an inversion of the big-game hunting safaris in Africa and South America that were fashionable among wealthy Americans in the 1920s.
The story describes a fictional small town which observes-as do many other communities, both large and small, throughout contemporary America-an annual ritual known as ‘the lottery.’ It has been described as ‘one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature.’
The 1908 ‘To Build a Fire’ is an oft-cited example of the naturalist movement that portrays the conflict of man vs. nature. It also reflects what London learned in the Yukon Territory.
Donald Barthelme is the father of postmodern fiction and funny as all hell. Jessamyn.com represents everything she could find written by him on the web, some select extra commentary, and some stories she scanned herself or others contributed.
The setting of the story takes place in the afternoon, in the city of Rome. Two wealthy middle-aged widowed women are visiting Rome with their two unmarried daughters. The exotic setting illustrates the power and class from which the women hail, but the Old Rome context, such as the Colosseum, insinuates Roman Empire-style intrigue.
Though James’s work as a medievalist is still highly regarded, he is best remembered for his ghost stories, which are regarded as among the best in the genre. James redefined the ghost story for the new century by abandoning many of the formal Gothic cliches of his predecessors and using more realistic contemporary settings.
Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country’s earliest practitioners of the short story. Poe is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.
Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century. The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences.
The Piazza Tales is a collection of six short stories by American writer Herman Melville. The collection includes what has long been regarded as the author’s three most important achievements in the genre of short fiction, ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’, ‘Benito Cereno’, and ‘The Encantadas’, his sketches of the GalÃ¡pagos Islands.
‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’ is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain. It was his first great success as a writer and brought him national attention. In it, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, Simon Wheeler, at the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, about the gambler Jim Smiley. The narrator describes him: ‘If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road.’
It is regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century toward women’s health, both physical and mental. Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer.
The story, which is set during the Civil War, is famous for its irregular time sequence and twist ending. Bierce’s abandonment of strict linear narration in favor of the internal mind of the protagonist is considered an early example of experimentation with stream of consciousness. It is Bierce’s most anthologized story.
A young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation at Christmas time. The plot and its ‘twist ending’ are well-known, and the ending is generally considered an example of comic irony.
The collection includes several previously-published short stories and was named in honor of The Old Manse where Hawthorne and his wife lived for the first three years of their marriage. The first edition was published in 1846. Many of the tales collected in Mosses from an Old Manse are allegories and, typical of Hawthorne, focus on the negative side of human nature.
Arthur Machen was a Welsh author and mystic of the 1890s and early 20th century. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. In 1906 Machen’s literary career began once more to flourish as the book The House of Souls collected his most notable works of the nineties and brought them to a new audience.
‘The Open Boat’ is a short story by American author Stephen Crane. First published in 1897, it was based on Crane’s experience of surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Florida earlier that year while traveling to Cuba to work as a newspaper correspondent. Crane was stranded at sea for thirty hours when his ship, the SS Commodore, sank after hitting a sandbar. He and three other men were forced to navigate their way to shore in a small boat; one of the men, an oiler named Billie Higgins, drowned after the boat overturned. Crane’s personal account of the shipwreck and the men’s survival, titled ‘Stephen Crane’s Own Story’, was first published a few days after his rescue.
‘The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky’ is an 1898 western short story written in England. The story’s protagonist is a Texas marshal named Jack Potter, who is returning to the town of Yellow Sky with his eastern bride. Potter’s nemesis, the gunslinger Scratchy Wilson, drunkenly plans to accost the sheriff after he disembarks the train, but he changes his mind upon seeing the unarmed man with his bride.