Short stories make our day! Many bookworms have reached out to us sharing that even though they’re able to finally get to their TBR books, they miss buying new books.  The pandemic has put the publishing industry on hold and none of us are able to buy physical copies of books so we thought of compiling this diverse list of short stories for you that are free to read online. These stories can be consumed in no time but they will keep you thinking for long. We have included a fine selection of Indian writers to this list as well. Just click on the titles of each story below to read the full story for free.

1-Exhalation by Ted Chiang

The Bound team absolutely loves speculative fiction. We always turn to Ted Chiang for his soul-stirring and refreshing sci-fi stories! This story is available for free online on SpeedLight Magazine. If you’re looking for fresh, engaging sci-fi stories, you should read other stories in the magazine too.

“Death is uncommon, fortunately, because we are durable and fatal mishaps are rare, but it makes difficult the study of anatomy, especially since many of the accidents serious enough to cause death leave the deceased’s remains too damaged for study.”

The voice of the narrator in Chiang’s story instantly keeps you hooked to the story. He is on a mission to find a solution to a problem. Readers who enjoy protagonists who engage in problem solving will relish this story. Chiang knows how to keep the reader invested in his stories by adding relatable elements so even though he discusses concepts alien to the reader and might talk about a world different from ours, we find ourselves immersed in it. Do not miss this brilliant uplifting short story which will urge you to do whatever you can now and make the most of what you have.

 

2-Gulf Return by Deepak Unnikrishnan

This story by Deepak Unnikrishnan defies genres. He was the inaugural winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. This story is published in one of the most prestigious journals, Guernica.

“When the third roommate, privy and vital to the master plan, ran away the next morning with the suitcase and the new passport, he made it past the guard on night duty, made it on the morning bus to the airport, past the bored ticket agent at Check-In, past Security, past pat-down and a rummage through his suitcase, past using the bathroom once, twice, thrice…”

It is a very short story but it allows the reader into the world of the migrant labour in the Gulf and gives us a glimpse into lives we might have otherwise not heard or read of. Unnikrishnan’s stories explores the plight of the immigrant labour in the Gulf using elements of magical realism. You shouldn’t miss out on this fresh voice. Unnikrishnan won many accolades for his book ‘Temporary People’.

 

3-The Issue by Tanuj Solanki

Tanuj Solanki won the Sahitya Academy Award for his short story collection. His book ‘The Machine is Learning’ is out now. This short story is published in one of the renowned short story magazines in India called ‘Out of Print’. The Bound team loved this short story for its style and engaging plot.

“The most important thing, he told her, was if she was convinced that unsettling their current lives was worth the trouble, and that after the trouble was over their life together would be better than what they had right now. “

It is a pastiche of Alan Rossi’s ‘The Problem At Hand’ which is published in AGNI, a prestigious journal. The lizard has a major role to play in this story and we liked how the author has weaved the plot around it. The title promised ‘an issue’. Why not read the story to find out what the issue is?

 

4-Olikoye by Chimamanda Adichie

The literature world would have missed out on a lot had it not been for Adichie’s rich stories. You should check out her TED talk ‘The Danger of the Single Story’ if you haven’t already.

“The most important thing, he told her, was if she was convinced that unsettling their current lives was worth the trouble, and that after the trouble was over their life together would be better than what they had right now.”

Adichie is one of those storytellers whose stories make you look at the world differently. Olikoye is a story within a story and makes us introspect about existence. It tells a lot in a few words.

 

5-Face by Alice Munro

Many writers feel pressured into writing novels to get noticed. Munro did it without writing one. She won the Nobel for her short stories. This story is published in The New Yorker, the Holy Grail of literary fiction. We enjoyed this short story for its exploration of identity and interesting narrator.

“The most important thing, he told her, was if she was convinced that unsettling their current lives was worth the trouble, and that after the trouble was over their life together would be better than what they had right now.”

It made us think of what defines us? The narrator in this story is born with a birthmark on his face and how does it affect him? We love Munro’s finesse at addressing difficult topics. You should read this story if you are willing to be immersed in an intense well-told story.

 

6-Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The Lottery is one of those stories that shook us. You can’t unread this story. If you’re looking for your world to be shaken, then do read this. Jackson was a very talented horror fiction writer. This story keeps you hooked until the end and ends with a punch to your gut.

“Soon the men began to gather, surveying their own children, speaking of planting and rain, tractors and taxes. They stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed.”

While the plot is shocking and almost unbelievable it is also quite relatable. It addresses the evils of society and makes you think about a lot of things like blind faith, customs, herd mentality and more.

 

7-Birdsong by Jahnavi Barua

Jahnavi Barua is one of the most talented storytellers in India now. We loved her books ‘Next Door’ and ‘Rebirth’. Her novel ‘Rebirth’ was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Commonwealth Book PrizeHer third book ‘Undertow’ is currently out.

“Warm breath against her neck. ‘What the hell do you think you are playing at?’ he tugs at her shoulder, she loses her balance and throws an arm out, gripping the tree trunk. The bird flies away noiselessly.”

We’re huge fans of her prose. Her language is bare but rich. This story in Out of Print is a simple but layered tale about a couple who goes birdwatching. What will happen to them by the end of the story?

 

8-How To Date A Brown Girl by Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz’s narrators make you want more of him. The voice of his narrators are unique. We loved this short story for its satirical tone. Once you beginning read this short story, you won’t even realise when you reach the end, it’s that gripping! This brilliant short story is again from The New Yorker. It reads like an instruction manual for dating and we think you should read it now.

“The directions you gave her were in your best handwriting, so her parents won’t think you’re an idiot. Get up from the couch and check the parking lot. Nothing. If the girl’s local, don’t sweat. She’ll flow over when she’s good and ready. Sometimes she’ll run into her friends and a whole crowd will show up, and even though that means you ain’t getting shit it will be fun anyway and you’ll wish these people would come over more often. “

 

9-A Stroller In The Supermarket by Mohit Parikh

The narrator in this story is a bachelor who shops in a supermarket. We loved the way Parikh accesses the middle-class bachelor’s psyche. This story won the TOTO Award for Creative Writing. As we follow the narrator throughout, we adopt his skin and become him.

“On the other side of the main alley, there are similar rows — of cosmetics, of toiletries — followed by rows of expensive-looking cases for expensive-looking sunglasses, wrist watches and perfumes, followed by an open space for teak furniture; you don’t know why you are heading that side. You know why you are heading that side. Bare backs, bare arms, strong scents. You haven’t touched another human being in a while. Sharing spaces imbued in aroma is intimacy.”

We especially liked the use of second person narration which is quite difficult to pull off. It is published in Identity Theory, an online journal that publishes quality fiction.

 

10- Sisters by Anjum Hasan

Anjum Hasan is one of the most talented writers in India now. She is on the judging panel of many literary contests. This story of hers is published in GRANTA, another prestigious journal.

“Across the road from Peaceville, Jamini comes out of her two-room hut, tying up her hair and stomping the dust off her feet before stepping into a pair of sequined sandals.”

We read this journal when we look for quality fiction. We follow the journey of two female characters in the story and we are held in Hasan’s grip to find out what happens next. We enjoyed her short story collections, novels and poetry.

 

11- Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

If you’re looking for an entertaining story then read this right now! This story will make you go through a plethora of emotions. Dahl has peppered the prose with suspense, humour and many more elements.

“Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work. Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come.”

The character Mary Maloney will haunt you long after you’re done with the story. Roald Dahl was a master storyteller and this story is proof of it. We always reread this story if we’re looking for a thrilling story.

 

12-A Larger Design by Rheea Mukherjee

We love Mukherjee’s prose. She is another talented contemporary writer from India. This short story is published in Out of Print Magazine. We love the way Mukherjee’s narrators often grapple with issues that consume them.

“Her daughter, Meena John, lay crumpled on the ground, her left cheek plastered to the red mud, her right leg twisted back, and her skirt all the way up to her head revealing the Donald Duck panties she had picked out yesterday in Cochin.”

The intensity of her plots keep you hooked. Her book ‘The Body Myth’ has been published by Penguin India.

 

13- Fish Eye by Janice Pariat

We love Janice Pariat’s prose. She had won the Sahitya Academy Yuva Puraskar in 2013. This story of hers has stayed with us for a very long time because of its haunting plot. We learnt that this story is based on a true incident in her life and it left us heartbroken.

“Once, or twice, she thought she heard a shuffling, a quick movement outside her door, but, she told herself, it could be anyone rushing past. It was the staircase, after all, accessible to the entire household.”

Pariat explores the topics of vouyerism, gender violence and much more in this story. It is published in the Out of Print blog, a gender violence special issue.

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