Your favorite five short stories?

I Know this has been done before but it’s been quite a while and there’s plenty of new people around who might find it interesting. I’ll list my favorite five stories and anyone who has done it before can certainly repeat themselves or change their choices. After all, we may have read new stuff.

In no particular order:

The Man Who Traveled in Elephants, by Robert A Heinlein. I never read this story without tearing up at the description of the veterans passing the parade viewing stand.

True Minds, by Spider Robinson. My favorite depiction of love in fiction, challenged only by…

The Gifts of the Magi, by O. Henry 'Nuff said.

Tobermory, by Saki, aka H.H. Munro. It portrays perfectly the attitude a cat holds toward all lesser beings. And what the member of the houseparty think when they heard about the death of the German professor is hysterical.

He Walked Around the Horses, by H. Beam Piper. Told in the form of letters between British and German gov’t officials, it’s the signature of the last letter, the last two words of the story, that make it great.

Now, if I see any stories that I don’t know getting a lot of mentions, that will mean I have something new to read to look forward to.

Get a copy of The Complete Short Stories Of John Collier and pick any five stories at random.

Charles—Shirley Jackson

The Catbird Seat—James Thurber

The Ransom Of Red Chief—O Henry

Harrison Bergeron—Kurt Vonnegut

The Cask Of Amontillado—Edgar Allan Poe

Not necessarily my 5 favorite of all time, but each story is a little bit of literary perfection.

I don’t like most short stories and I tend to avoid the form, so provide yourself with a grain of salt first.

I’ll only pick one:

“The Dead,” by James Joyce. I think this is one of the most exquisite pieces of prose ever. Just beautiful.

It’s hard to pick only five.

“I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” – Harlan Ellison
“Mother Hitton’s Luttul Kittons” – Cordwainer Smith
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find – Flannery O’Connor
“The Last Flight of Dr. Ain” – James Tiptree, Jr.
“Understand” – Ted Chiang

Others I’d consider:

“Bridesicle” – Will McIntosh
“Lost in the Funhouse” – John Barth
“The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” – Gene Wolfe
“One Love Have I” – William F. Nolan
“What Was the Name of that Town?” – R.A. Lafferty
“A Perfect Day for Bananafish” – J. D. Salinger
“The Lady or the Tiger” – Frank Stockton
“The Pusher” – John Varley
“Stable Strategies for Middle Management” – Eileen Gunn
“Coming Attraction” – Fritz Lieber
“Time Considered as a Helix of Semiprecious Stones” – Samuel R. Delany
“5,271,009” – Alfred Bester
“Tell the Women We’re Going” – Raymond Carver
“The Blue Bottle” – Ray Bradbury

A View of the Woods - Flannery O’Connor

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place - Hemingway

The Soul Is Not A Smithy - D.F. Wallace

The Man Who Would Be King - Kipling

A Hunger Artist - Kafka

I came intending to say this, but it’s been said:

Five non-Collier favorites:

“Love Is the Plan, the Plan is Death,” James Tiptree, Jr.
“Bright Segment,” Theodore Sturgeon
“The October Game,” Ray Bradbury
“A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner
“Big Blonde,” Dorothy Parker

My favorite short story writers are Frank O’Connor and P.G. Wodehouse, and I could probably name 5 great stories by each of them… but I’ll play nice.

In no special order:

Frank O’Connor: “Christmas Morning” (just ahead of “Guests of the Nation”)

P.G. Wodehouse: “The Great Sermon Handicap” (just ahead of “Indian Summer of an Uncle”)

Frederic Brown: “Answer”

Arthur Conan Doyle: “The Musgrave Ritual”

John Cheever: “The Swimmer”
Honorable mentions:

Stephen King: “The Jaunt”
Flannery O’Connor: “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
Mark Twain: “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”

James Joyce “The Dead”
O. Henry “The Gift of the Magi”
Saki “The Lumber Room”
Ursula LeGuin “The Day Before the Revolution”
Ambrose Bierce “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”

That’s one.

That’s two.

  1. “Sophistication,” Sherwood Anderson

  2. “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” Jorge Luis Borges

  3. “The Aleph,” Jorge Luis Borges

I can only think of one right now: “The Laughing Man” by J.D. Salinger.

Oh, I love that one too. I tried to pick just one from each author, but all the Saki stories wanted a place.

“Shredni Vashtar, do just one thing for me!”

Some good ones mentioned so far. I’ll add “The Bureau d’Echange de Maux” by Lord Dunsany, “Graveyard Shift” by Stephen King and “All You Zombies” by Heinlein.

“The Two Bottles of Relish” – Lord Dunsany
“The Hands of Mr. Ottermole” – Thomas Burke

My favorite short story is Stephen King’s “The Last Rung on the Ladder.”

Picking a mere five Sherlock Holmes stories would be a challenge, but I’ll limit myself to just one here:

“The Norwood Builder,” by Arthur Conan Doyle - Holmes figures out that a murder isn’t at all it seems to be.

“The Moon Moth” by Jack Vance - An Earth diplomat, searching for a fugitive, tries but fails to fit into an alien society until it’s almost too late.

“Sandkings” by George R.R. Martin - A rich, amoral man gets some cool new sentient pets and, eventually, his own awful comeuppance.

“The Long Watch” by Robert A. Heinlein - A single brave officer takes a stand against a military coup on the Moon.

“The Bicentennial Man” by Isaac Asimov - A robot is determined to win recognition as a human being. You should avoid the Robin Williams movie loosely based on this story at all costs.

Honorable mentions: “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell; “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry; “The Million Pound Bank Note” by Mark Twain; “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” by Robert A. Heinlein; “Rescue Party” by Arthur C. Clarke; “The Way of Cross and Dragon” by George R.R. Martin; “The Long Rain,” “The Exiles,” “The City” and “Zero Hour” by Ray Bradury; “Seasons,” “For White Hill” and “A Separate Peace” by Joe Haldeman; “Quitters, Inc.” by Stephen King; and…

All right, I’ll stop now.

Ted Chiang, “Tower of Babylon” - unlike almost anything else I’ve ever read (only other story in the same genre I can think of is Richard Garfinkle’s novel Celestial Matters, and Chiang packs more awesome into fewer words.
Greg Egan, “Axiomatic”
Roger Zelazny - this is hard; maybe “For a Breath I Tarry”
Ian MacDonald - “The Days of Solomon Gursky” - maybe the biggest scale space opera in any format I’ve ever read.

And second “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Borges to wrap it up.

Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter” and Stephen King’s “Survivor Type” haven’t been mentioned.

Too late to edit, so a correction: The Haldeman short story is “A Separate War.” I thinking of the John Knowles novel.

Hm. Needs more R. A. Lafferty, but I can’t think of one off-hand that really stands out. Maybe the one with the bear.