August Heatwave Reading List

RamonaGravitarEvery 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.

12 thoughts on “August Heatwave Reading List

  1. What a spectacular list! I haven’t read all of them, but when I came to a title I knew, the memory of the read made me smile. I have to thank my high school English teachers for introducing me to them. Made my own list of the ones I haven’t read!


  2. Thank you for this. I went to a college prep high school, and the only stories I recognize having studied were the two by O.Henry. We spent much too much time on Silas Marner and Canterbury Tales (blech!blech!blech!) .

    I have recently discovered a new-to-me author and much of her backlist is short stories. Her name is Augusta Trobaugh, of course her work is available on the Zon, and her work is authentic southern and truly entertaining. She explores race relations and women’s places in society in the 1940s (or so), but she is alive and well and living in Athens GA. Yesterday I devoured The Uninvited Guest with my lunch, and earlier I read Mother of the Groom. I let Sophie and the Rising Sun distract me from my summer cold last month.

    I hope you give her a try! And now I’m off to remedy my lacking literary education.


  3. Great post. Thanks much for the list. I taught ‘August Heat,” and every summer I feel I’m in it all over again. Haunting. I read “The Gift of the Magi” at a library volunteer Christmas party and at the end there were gasps all over the room. Most of the women were in their sixties or seventies, and they’d never read the story. Their reaction was one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received. (My assistant’s husband liked to hear me read and could have attended but declined; told his wife everyone in town already thought he was strange, and if he heard the story he would cry, and then they’d know they were right. [He and assistant were from Cleveland. Hence they were strange.])

    I discovered August Trobaugh when I was librarian. A treasure. I handed Sophie and the Rising Sun to an assistant, who passed it to a patron, who passed it to… We all cried a lot. I love Praise Jerusalem, too, particularly a few lines of dialogue about, according to Jesus, who has to love whom. Just thinking about the last line makes me laugh. Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb… I’m glad to know Trobaugh is alive and well and has written more books. Now to Amazon.


    1. Kathy! Did you know Sophie and the Rising Sun has been made into a movie? Not released yet… but that’s what got me started. I like to read the book , and then, if it sounds promising, I
      m i g h t see the movie.
      …because everyone knows the book is always better.


      1. No! Thank you for telling me. I hope the movie does it justice, as much as a movie can. I rarely see a movie before reading the book. I did see The Painted Veil first, and liked it very much. Then I read the book, and the ending was so different from the movie’s, and so powerful, that I was disappointed it had been changed for the movie. The public wouldn’t have liked it, though.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Kathy, I love the Gift of the Magi story! I can imagine that reaction at a Christmas party.

      Pamela already convinced me, but now I am double convinced. I”m going to buy work by August Trobaugh the very next time I book shop. (Meaning, tomorrow!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Ramona. So many of these stories are why I have thought of writing as a sacred thing to do. The power of short stories to enter into consciousness and stick there is like no other art form (save for certain Vermeer’s, matisse’s, etc.). Silent Snow…scared me as a middle schooler and still does, without even having to read it again. After reading the list I reread Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well Lighted Place”, & “Big Two-Hearted River”. I loved the Nick Adams stories and read some of them over and over. That a story could seem to be about nothing at all and be about the most profound at the same time became what I sought in all art forms. Next I will reread Raymond Carver and Lorrie Moore. It is the day of the short story and I am grateful to you.


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