02 June 2023

Favorite Stories

Favorite short stories

Since my story "Cruelty the Human Heart" (first published in Argosy II magazine, 2004) ) was included in the college composition textbook WORD AND IMAGE (Pearson Learning Solutions, Boston, MA) the occasional college student will contact me about it and other topics. The other day, I was asked to name my favorite classic short story. I said there were too many to have a favorite but I mentioned Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

"That's old English. What about current English?"

That cracked me up. I gave the student a short list and moved one. The question lingered and I thought about it, went to my bookcase and brought down a few collections and one story hit me (again), and I re-read it as slowly as I could, to experience the well-written tale and feel the same charge with the opening lines and the same emotion at the end.

The story – “The Tonto Woman” by Elmore Leonard, one of his western tales.

Here are others:

“One” by George Alec Effinger


“Shambleau” by C. L. Moore (Catherine Moore)

"The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" by Harlan Ellison

“I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison

 “The Fog Horn” (alternate title: “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) by Ray Bradbury


“The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” by Ray Bradbury


“The Saliva Tree” by Brian W. Aldiss


“A Martian Odyssey” by Stanley G. Weinbaum


“The Doors of His Face; The Lamps of His Mouth” by Roger Zelazny


“Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov


“Cat’s Paw” by Bill Pronzini


“The Perfect Crime” by Max Allan Collins


“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce


“The Call of Cthulhu” by H. P. Lovecraft

“A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes


“The Wall” by Marcia Muller


“Crazy Horse” by Cornell Woolrich

“The Dog of Pompeii” by Louis Untermeyer 

I have to stop for the moment. There are too many favorites.

That's all for now.



  1. You have good taste. I have read 14 of them, I think.

  2. I've read most of this list and enjoyed them all. And "A Cask of Amontillado" is my favorite Poe, and my favorite Lovecraft is "The Shadow Out of Time". I also love W. Somerset Maugham's "The Round Dozen" and Thurber's "The Macbeth Murder Mystery." Got to have some humor in there, too!

  3. "A Cask of Amontillado" is my favorite by Poe, too. For Bradbury: "All Summer in a Day" and "There Will Come Soft Rains." I'm with Eve on the need for humor: Thurber's "Sitting in the Catbird Seat" and O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief."

  4. I was lucky to have access to several excellent anthologies when I taught English, and I tried to introduce my students to writers whose novels we didn't read. I'd have to do a separate list for sci-fi or mystery, although some of these fall into those categories. Here are some of my other favorites that I suspect most people won't mention (Sorry, it's a long list, but I love short stories):

    Sherman Alexie: Because My Father Always Said He Was the Only Indian Who Saw Jimi
    Hendrix Play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock
    Nelson Algren: A Bottle of Milk For Mother, He Swung and He Missed
    James Baldwin: Sonny’s Blues
    Toni Cade Bambara: The Lesson
    Stephen Vincent Benet: Too Early Spring, By The Waters of Babylon
    Ambrose Bierce: The Coup de Grace
    Ray Bradbury: The Whole Town’s Sleeping, There Will Come Soft Rains
    Raymond Carver: Cathedral
    Truman Capote: My Side of The Matter
    Kate Chopin: A Respectable Woman, Desiree’s Baby
    John Collier: Thus I Refute Beelzy, Midnight Blue, The Touch of Nutmeg Makes It
    Harlan Ellison: The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
    William Faulkner: A Rose For Emily, Shingles For The Lord
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman: The Yellow Wallpaper
    Susan Glaspell: A Jury of Her Peers
    Ernest Hemingway: The Killers, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Hills Like White Elephants
    O. Henry (William Sydney Porter): A Retrieved Reformation, The Ransom of Red Chief,
    Mammon & The Archer, Gift of the Magi
    Shirley Jackson: The Lottery
    Jamaica Kincaid: Girl
    Stephen King: Quitters, Inc.
    Ring Lardner: Haircut, Alibi Ike, The Love Nest, Ex Parte, Old Folks Christmas
    Laura Lippman: The Crack Cocaine Diet, One True Love, Hardly Knew Her,
    ARM and the Woman
    Steve Liskow: Hot Sugar Blues, Little Things, Two Good Hands
    Jack London: To Build A Fire
    Bernard Malamud: The Magic Barrel
    Daphne du Maurier: The Birds
    Joyce Carol Oates: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,
    Do With Me What You Will
    Tim O’Brien: The Things They Carried, Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong
    Flannery O’Connor: A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Good Country People
    Tillie Olsen: I Stand Here Ironing
    Edgar Allan Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher
    Irwin Shaw: The Girls in Their Summer Dresses
    Wilbur Daniel Steele: Footfalls
    John Steinbeck: Chrysanthemums
    James Thurber: The Catbird Seat, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
    John Updike: A & P
    Alice Walker: To Hell With Dying
    Edith Wharton: Roman Fever
    William Carlos Williams: The Use of Force
    Richard Wright: The Man Who Was Almost A Man

  5. Elizabeth Dearborn02 June, 2023 13:07

    I've read both Ellison stories you mention & the Zelazny, but I would nominate a different Zelazny story, "The Great Slow Kings". Also, Carson McCullers' "The Ballad of the Sad Café," & lots of flash stories which is what I usually write.

  6. My favorite Zelazny story is "A Rose for Ecclesiastes".

  7. I used to read a lot of sci-fi, so I'm pleasantly surprised how many stories I've read, although some plots have faded as new material arrives. Excellent list, O'Neil.

  8. daviddeansite03 June, 2023 19:03

    Terrific list O'Neil! I'll throw in M.R.James: A Warning to the Curious, Saki: The Penance, and Richard Matheson: Born of Man and Woman. Thanks for the list. I've read quite a few, now I have a lot more to read.

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  10. I could do blog post on favorite stories that would go on way too long! Just off the top of my head: "See You Later" by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. "The Eve of Saint John" by deCamp and Pratt. "The Theft From the Empty Room" by Edward D. Hoch. "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" and "The Brown Hand, both by Arthur Conan Doyle. "The Reach" by Stephen King (one of his best.) Also "Trucks" which was one of the first King stories to really grab me with it's description of a diner I felt I had been in. (I'm reading through a story in "Harts In Atlantis" just for the descriptions.) And "Footsteps Invisible" by Robert Arthur which I first read 50+ years ago and the ending still scares me! Wonderful post, O'Neil! (I deleted my typo-filled first attempt at this comment!)


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