The Best Short Stories of All Time: Book Riot

Here’s a post at Book Riot: The Best Short Stories of All Time.

I must admit that EVEN TODAY, four years after Book Riot’s post about classic Urban Fantasy, that is still the post that leaps to mind for me when any Book Riot post says: Here’s the Best ____ of All Time. I can’t help it. I won’t say that post scarred me for life because it was too mind-boggling and funny to produce a scar. But Book Riot is NEVER going to live that down in my mind. NEVER.

However, even though I don’t know much about SFF short stories, particularly not more recent (past thirty years) short stories, I guess I’m mildly curious about which stories they may pick out for this post.

Here are the ones that come to mind for me:

“Nightfall” — Asimov, of course

“Arena” — Frederick Brown

“A Pail of Air” — Fritz Leiber — oh, Leiber, really? I didn’t like his sword and sorcery, which is what I associate with his name.

“The Father Thing” — Philip K Dick

“Kaleidoscope” — Ray Bradbury — again, I didn’t remember this was by Bradbury. No wonder it was so poetic.

The first of those stories is just one I happen to remember; it didn’t strike me particularly. The others are all from a short story collection I read as a kid, practically my first exposure to SFF ever. How that collection wound up in a grade-school classroom, I have no idea. The stories were so much more powerful than anything else in the classroom because, you know, they were not actually meant for children to read. Which I didn’t realize at the time. I probably had nightmares. You know what, I specifically remember revising “Arena” in my head to be nicer to the lizards. I had totally forgotten that until I thought about that story now. That’s one of the first times I remember doing that, though the impulse to revise grim scenes has certainly been a motivation to me as a writer.

Anyway, I have no idea whatsoever what SFF stories would broadly be considered “The Best Ever.” Let me take a look at this Book Riot post and see if I’ve ever heard of any of the stories they nominate …

Oh, I haven’t read this story, but I do recognize Ted Chiang’s name. I’ve read a collection of his stories. He is indeed an amazing writer. They’re often very powerful, memorable stories.

Here’s a … Sherlocke Holmes story? Oh, now I see that the post isn’t “All-Time Best SFF stories,” but “All-Time Best Short Stories” period, without regard to genre. I totally missed that. Sorry. Makes a big difference. Fine then, a couple of the few non-SFF stories I remember were written by Saki, so now I’m wondering if those are on this list. Moving on …

“The Yellow Wallpaper” — yeah, that was assigned in some class or other. I didn’t like it a bit. People going mad, not my thing.

Oh, now, THIS looks like fun:

A WITCH’S GUIDE TO ESCAPE: A PRACTICAL COMPENDIUM OF PORTAL FANTASIES BY ALIX E. HARROW. Some people come to the library looking for an escape; some librarians know just the books to push them toward. This story won the Hugo and the Nebula.

I’m going to click through and read that one.

Oh, here’s “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas.” Yes, well. It’s an effective story, but I liked many of the alternate endings presented in a collection … where was that … Oh, it was at File 770 and the link is broken. Here’s my post which features a small handful of my favorite endings to this story.

Overall, this is an interesting list, with more stories and authors that I’ve heard of than I really expected. Many are SFF authors or have written SFF stories. If you’re a short story fan, by all means click through and see if there’s anything you especially like or dislike on this list. Most or all of the stories have links to online versions or to the book in which the story can be found.

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3 thoughts on “The Best Short Stories of All Time: Book Riot”

  1. ugh, I’m a huuuuge LeGuin fan and honestly whenever people put Omelas on a list like this it kinda makes me think that’s the only short story of hers they’ve read.

  2. They included the NUTCRACKER? I’ve never managed to finish it, it’s boring. I recognized a couple other titles as ones I have probably read, like the Silverberg, I have read Omelas, but that’s it.

  3. I love A Witch’s Guide to Escape!

    I know there have been other short stories I’ve loved, but I’m bad at remembering them or keeping track of them in some way that would let me find them again. But one I did write about is “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss,” by Kij Johnson. Awesome title, and the story matches it. https://kijjohnson.com/online-library/26-monkeys-also-the-abyss/ . I should read her other short stories. I really liked her novella, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, which is a riff/homage/complete reworking of Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and is utterly wonderful. (Not remotely horror, or I wouldn’t like it. A sensible, mature woman sets off on a quest to save the Women’s College. There are monsters that are not Othered. There are female friendships. I highly recommend it.)

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