The best short stories that land a big punch

Who am I?

I’ve always been a fan of short fiction. My debut book, The Escape to Candyland, is a collection of interrelated short stories. It was a finalist in two contests: The Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing and Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest. My latest book, Sometimes We Fall, is also a short story collection. It includes several contest winners. I’m working on a third collection which will be published in 2024.


I wrote...

Sometimes We Fall

By Yong Takahashi,

Book cover of Sometimes We Fall

What is my book about?

Sometimes We Fall takes readers into the lives of people searching for self, sense of belonging, and their version of truth: A son protects a secret that could destroy his family's reputation and fortune. A daughter searches for the truth as her mother descends into dementia. A mother asks an unexpected friend to look after the baby she plans to abandon. Their paths are not easy and inevitably they fall. Some pick themselves up and some can’t or won’t as they struggle to find the reason for their failures.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Metamorphosis

By Franz Kafka, Stanley Corngold (translator),

Book cover of The Metamorphosis

Why this book?

There are so many layers to The Metamorphosis. At first glance, it is a tale of the main character’s physical transformation into a bug. The real terror is how his family turns into monsters of their own when he becomes a burden to them. After he dies, his family is relieved and moves on to happier places. 

This is one of the only books I have in my library (11 in total). I have several copies of The Metamorphosis, the oldest copy from high school. I hope to buy the illustrated copy next. 


The Lottery

By Shirley Jackson,

Book cover of The Lottery

Why this book?

Shirley Jackson is a master of the short story. My favorite is The Lottery. The build-up to the main event is spectacular. The reader thinks the village is getting ready for a normal event. As time passes, we realize what is to come. The themes of tradition and mob mentality are still relevant as we read about current events. 

I paid homage to this story in my own tale which is included in my book


The Yellow Wallpaper

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman,

Book cover of The Yellow Wallpaper

Why this book?

I fell in love with The Yellow Wallpaper in high school. It is one of the earliest, if not only, stories we were reading about a woman’s mental health. The protagonist is depressed but is not taken seriously by her husband. He locks her away and ridicules her worries. She goes mad and becomes part of the wallpaper that first disturbed her. 

What first caught my attention is that she is not allowed any mental stimulation including reading and writing. It speaks to society’s expectations of women – they should be content with being wives and mothers, and nothing more.


If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This: Stories

By Robin Black,

Book cover of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This: Stories

Why this book?

If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award. I picked up this short story collection when I started my writing career. Everyone told me short stories weren’t popular. No one read them. Publishers weren’t buying them. 

It took Robin Black eight years to write these ten stories. Each word is exquisite. Penguin Random House bought it. We’re all reading them. 


Full Dark, No Stars

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Full Dark, No Stars

Why this book?

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four novellas dealing with the theme of retribution. One of the stories, "The Big Driver", is about a writer. I won’t give any spoilers but every time I am asked to attend a writing event, I ask myself if I should go. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in isolation, New England, and witchcraft?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about isolation, New England, and witchcraft.

Isolation Explore 12 books about isolation
New England Explore 54 books about New England
Witchcraft Explore 186 books about witchcraft

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Beyond Good And Evil, Existentialism Is a Humanism, and After the People Lights Have Gone Off if you like this list.