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30 of the Best Short Stories You Can Read for Free

30 of the Best Short Stories You Can Read for Free

These are some of the best short stories around, and what makes them even more delightful is the fact that every one is absolutely free. If you love to read this article is just right for you.

1. “The Zero Meter Diving Team,” by Jim Shepard

“Mikhail lived a large portion of his life in that state of mind in which you take a risk and deny the risk at the same time, out of rage.”

A radioactive sign hangs on barbed wire outside a café in Pripyat.

    This story is about three brothers caught up in the horrific disaster that happened at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. The startling consequences of the disaster make for a dramatic backdrop, as the brothers deal with the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown. “The Zero Meter Diving Team” is available for free, from BOMB magazine.

    2. “A Tiny Feast,”  by Chris Adrian

    “Titania was the only one among them ever to have ridden on a roller coaster, but she didn’t offer up the experience as an analogy, because it seemed insufficient to describe a process that to her felt less like a violent unpredictable ride than like someone ripping your heart out one day and then stuffing it back in your chest the next.”

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      “A Tiny Feast” is for those who love fairy folk. In the story, a toddler is exchanged for a hobgoblin, but the tiny child has a very serious illness. The story is available for free from The New Yorker.

      3. “Lorry Raja,” by Madhuri Vijay

      “He taunted me about playing in the mud, as he called it, breaking chunks of iron ore with my hammer.”

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        “Lorry Raja” is a short story about children and families in India. These families were coerced into forced labor to mine for iron to build the Olympic stadium in China. It is available to read from The Narrative Magazine. You will be required to submit an email address to access the full story.

        4. “Bluebell Meadow,” by Benedict Kiely

        “She spread the bullets on the table and moved them about, making designs and shapes and patterns with them, playing with them as if they were draughts or dominoes or precious stones.”

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          The “Bluebell Meadow” is set during the Troubles in Ireland. It is about two teenagers that although in love have the chasm of religious ideals between them. It is available for free from Google Books.

           5. “A Beneficiary,” Nadine Gordimer

          “That Saturday: it landed in the apartment looted by the present and filled it with blasting amazement, the presence of the past.”

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            A woman discovers a shocking secret about her mother in “The Beneficiary.” The story is available for free from The New Yorker.

            6. “The Man On The Stairs,” by Miranda July

            “That is my problem with life, I just rush through it, like I’m being chased.”

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              This is a creepy and very short tale. It is available for free from Scribd.

              7. “Bullet in the Brain,” by Tobias Wolff

              “He was never in the best of tempers anyway, Anders—a book critic known for the weary, elegant savagery with which he dispatched almost everything he reviewed.”

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                A normal day in a bank turns to terror very quickly. You can find “Bullet In The Brain” at no cost here.

                8. “Safari,” Jennifer Egan

                “Lou is a man who cannot tolerate defeat—can’t perceive it as anything but a spur to his own inevitable victory.”

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                  “Safari” is about a dysfunctional group of people who go on an African safari. The story is quite poignant in its telling. It is available from The New Yorker.

                   9. “Hills Like White Elephants,” Ernest Hemingway

                  “I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s really not anything. It’s just to let the air in.”

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                    This story is set in Spain and is a conversation between a man and a woman waiting for a train. Ernest Hemingway liked to couch his stories with analogies. This story is no different. It is available to read for free here.

                    10. “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” by ZZ Packer

                    “She continued to cry, but it seemed to have grown so silent in my room I wondered if I could hear the numbers change on my digital clock.”

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                      This is a coming of age story. A girl entering college questions her culture, her sexuality, and more. The story is available for free from The New Yorker.

                      11. “Hollow,” by Breece D’J Pancake

                      “On a knoll in the ridge, run there by the dogs, the bobcat watched, waiting for the man to leave.”

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                        This story is available through The Atlantic for free. The story is about a group of coal miners and the way they deal with the dangers of coal mining.

                        12. “Eveline,” by James Joyce

                        “She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue.”

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                          The story is one of several short stories from Joyce’s The Dubliners and is available for free. The story is about a young woman having second thoughts about leaving her homeland of Ireland.

                          13. “Interpreter Of Maladies,” Jhumpa Lahiri

                          “In its own way this correspondence would fulfill his dream, of serving as an interpreter between nations.”

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                            .

                            Ms. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for this story in 2000. The story is about a family visiting India and their tour guide. The story is available for free  here.

                            14. “All Summer in a Day,” by Ray Bradbury

                            “The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun. ”

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                              A great read by one of the most brilliant science fiction authors ever, Ray Bradbury. The story is set on Venus and centers on the children of those who have settled there. It can be downloaded at no cost here.

                              15. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” by J.D. Salinger

                              “With her little lacquer brush, while the phone was ringing, she went over the nail of her little finger, accentuating the line of the moon. She then replaced the cap on the bottle of lacquer and, standing up, passed her left—the wet—hand back and forth through the air.”

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                                This is a story about an atypical day at the beach. The entire book can be downloaded for free here.

                                16. “Tiny Smiling Daddy,” by Mary Gaitskill

                                “Unless it was Kitty’s coldness, her always turning away, her sarcastic voice. But she was a teenager, and that’s what teenagers did.”

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                                  The story revolves around the tumultuous teen years, although the child in the story is in her late twenties. The father reminisces about his daughter’s adolescent years. The story can be read for free here.

                                  17. “They’re Made Out Of Meat,” Terry Bisson

                                  “And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone …”

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                                    Aliens make a hilarious discovery. The story was nominated for the Nebula award in 1991. The story can be read for free here.

                                    18. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

                                    “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?”

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                                      A story of a young woman’s descent into madness after the birth of her child. The user can choose which format to download. Available for free here.

                                      19. “All at One Point,” by Italo Calvino

                                      “We say hello—at times somebody recognizes me, at other times I recognize somebody—and we promptly start asking about this one and that one (even if each remembers only a few of those remembered by the others), and so we start in again on the old disputes, the slanders, the denigrations.”

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                                        This is a very short story that revolves around the very beginning of the universe. The story is available for free.

                                        20. “Italy,”by Antonio Elefano

                                        “I could only focus on you: your syncopated step, your forward lean, the way your legs seemed to disappear amidst the tables as you glided across the room.”

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                                          “Italy” is a bittersweet tale about a couple during many years of marriage. The story can be read for free here.

                                          21. “The School,” by Donald Barthelme

                                          “Well, we had all these children out planting trees, see, because we figured that … that was part of their education, to see how, you know, the root systems … and also the sense of responsibility, taking care of things, being individually responsible.”

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                                            A story about an unusual school dealing with a rather mundane subject. The story can be read for free.

                                            22. “In the Penal Colony” by Franz Kafka

                                            “The Condemned Man, incidentally, had an expression of such dog-like resignation that it looked as if one could set him free to roam around the slopes and would only have to whistle at the start of the execution for him to return.”

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                                              A man is condemned to die in a most unusual manner. Read the story for free.

                                              23. “Symbols and Signs,” by Vladimir Nabokov

                                              “After eliminating a number of articles that might offend him or frighten him (anything in the gadget line, for instance, was taboo), his parents chose a dainty and innocent trifle—a basket with ten different fruit jellies in ten little jars.”

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                                                A couple goes to visit their son in a mental institution only to be turned away. The story is available from The New Yorker.

                                                24. “Gooseberries,” by Anton Chekhov

                                                “But surely a corpse wants that, not a man. And I hear that our intellectuals have a longing for the land and want to acquire farms. But it all comes down to the six feet of land.”

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                                                  A story about two brothers reestablishing themselves after their father’s death. The story is available here.

                                                  25. “Sea Oak,” by George Saunders

                                                  But she’s not bitter. Sometimes she’s so nonbitter it gets on my nerves.”

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                                                    A story about an aunt who refuses to stay dead. The story is available for free.

                                                    26. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” by Ursula K. Le Guin

                                                    “But we do not say the words of cheer much any more. All smiles have become archaic.”

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                                                      A story about the price of utopia. The story is available for free here.

                                                      27. “The Veldt,” by Ray Bradbury

                                                      " A shadow flickered over Mr. McClean's hot face."
                                                      
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                                                        The story is about a murderous room. You can read it for free here.

                                                        28. “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” by Alice Munro

                                                        “Her hair that was as light as milkweed fluff had gone from pale blond to white somehow without Grant’s noticing exactly when, and she still wore it down to her shoulders, as her mother had done”

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                                                          The story is about a professor’s wife losing her memory. It was later adapted into a film, Away From Her. The story can be found in The New Yorker.

                                                          29. “The Nose,” by Nikolai Gogol

                                                          “Ivan Yakovlevitch donned a jacket over his shirt for politeness’ sake, and, seating himself at the table, poured out salt, got a couple of onions ready, took a knife into his hand, assumed an air of importance, and cut the roll open. Then he glanced into the roll’s middle. To his intense surprise he saw something glimmering there. He probed it cautiously with the knife — then poked at it with a finger.”

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                                                            Two men awake to a very distressing morning. The story can be found here.

                                                            30. “Drown,” by Junot Diaz

                                                            “Days we spent in the mall or out in the parking lot playing stickball, but nights were what we waited for.”

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                                                              A young man returns home from college only to find many things have changed. Read for free.

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                                                              Last Updated on September 16, 2019

                                                              How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

                                                              How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

                                                              You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

                                                              We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

                                                              The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

                                                              Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

                                                              1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

                                                              Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

                                                              For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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                                                              • (1) Research
                                                              • (2) Deciding the topic
                                                              • (3) Creating the outline
                                                              • (4) Drafting the content
                                                              • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
                                                              • (6) Revision
                                                              • (7) etc.

                                                              Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

                                                              2. Change Your Environment

                                                              Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

                                                              One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

                                                              3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

                                                              Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

                                                              Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

                                                              My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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                                                              Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

                                                              4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

                                                              If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

                                                              Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

                                                              I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

                                                              5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

                                                              I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

                                                              Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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                                                              As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

                                                              6. Get a Buddy

                                                              Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

                                                              I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

                                                              7. Tell Others About Your Goals

                                                              This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

                                                              For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

                                                              8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

                                                              What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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                                                              9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

                                                              If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

                                                              Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

                                                              10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

                                                              Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

                                                              Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

                                                              11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

                                                              At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

                                                              Reality check:

                                                              I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

                                                              More About Procrastination

                                                              Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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