Every summer, when the doldrums of heat hit and I feel as wilted as the impatiens in my front porch planter, I think of a short story I studied in high school: August Heat by William Fryer Harvey. I re-read it every summer, as a reminder of why I fell in love with short stories.
Reading this story, you can feel the oppressive, brutal, maddening heat. You can understand the confusion of the two men—each an artist in his field—who discover one another by happenstance. Or, is it happenstance? Or, fate? Or, the heat?
Another story I remember from high school is “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, though my memory about this one was jogged by recent events rather than the weather. If anyone believes that the short story is no longer a relevant form, this tale of hunting big game might change your mind.
Thinking about both of these stories made me remember others, and want to read others. Last week, on my Facebook wall, I asked friends to recall memorable short stories they studied in high school. I put together a list (below).
What struck me about the list was the timeliness—or perhaps, timelessness—of these classic stories.
After all, Bernice bobbed her hair because she was bullied into it. The sound of thunder warned people about being poor stewards of the earth. A woman locked in a room with yellow wallpaper went mad from post-partum depression. A man goes adrift figuratively and denounces his country, and was set adrift literally….
Maybe there really are no new stories.
Check out the reading list below. Did I miss a memorable story from your high school reading list?
“Silent Snow, Secret Snow” by Conrad Aiken
“The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov
“The Stone Boy” by Gina Berriault
“By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benét
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce
“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
“I Sing the Body Electric” by Ray Bradbury
“The Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury
“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury
“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
“A Rose for Emily” by Willliam Faulkner
“Bernice Bobs Her Hair” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Procurator of Judea” by Anatole France
“The Dinner Party” by Mona Gardner
“The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“The Man Without a Country” by Edward Everett Hale
“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway
“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
“The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry
“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
“Rikki Tikki Tavi” by Rudyard Kipling
“The Haircut” by Ring Lardner
“A Piece of Steak” by Jack London
“To Build a Fire” by Jack London
“The Doll’s House” by Katherine Mansfield
“A Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
“Survival Ship” by Judith Merril
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
“The Phone Call” by Dorothy Parker
“The Waltz” by Dorothy Parker
“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe
“Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Tell-tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter
“Leiningen Versus the Ants” by Carl Stephenson
“The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton
“The Catbird Seat” by James Thurber
“The Dog that Bit People” by James Thurber
“The Night the Bed Fell” by James Thurber
“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain
“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
“The Hat” by Jessamyn West
Thank you to my Facebook friends for sharing their stories, and to the high school teachers and librarians who introduced us to these classics.