My January Reads - A Monthly Round Up of Short Stories & Other Pieces

February 3, 2020
I have been wanting to read more short stories and so this year, I am attempting to regularly blog about my monthly short story reads. This all came about because I have submitted a lot to literary magazines this past year and I want to make an active effort to read short stories that get published. Over the month of January, I spotted quite a few pieces that were worthy to add to this list (many NOT short stories at all) but all well-written, entertaining, moving, touching, and unique.

I hope you find a few good ones on this list to check out:

1) Green Tunnels by Taimur Ahmad

This is an environmental-themed story that doesn't come across so at first. You start out reading about a girl who misses home. At first, I figure home is but a drive away. That isn't the case, though. This story is rich in detail and ends with a bit of a surprise. It also shows me a lot about nonverbal communication in characters and using more descriptive action words (which I need help with in my own writing). The author uses the main character's dreamlike state to weave you into the world she desires to be in. One of my favorite quotes:

"The trees lean over each other, bows arching across the sky, making a royal hall for Alice to proceed down. By the roots of the trees are sunflowers, their heads heavy as they bow before Alice, turning as she passes by."

A very poignant short story that reminds me that not all stories are told in a standard way.

Read now.

2) There were 9... by Lucy Ash

I discovered this long-form investigation piece thanks to the newsletter I just subscribed to Sunday Long Reads. It's an article about a group of students who trekked through the Ural Mountains, a remote mountain region that divides Europe and Asia. The 9 students (except for 1, who ended his trip early) were found dead in mysterious, chilling ways and their deaths are still not resolved or understood completely. It's a read that feels like it is part of urban legends. It has a mix of first-hand observations from the journalist writing the story, along with interviews, journal entries from the students who went missing, and photographs. I liked it because it drew me into a mystery that felt as chilling as the winter. Not a short story per se, but an invigorating read that had strong writing.

A quote:

"My guide Alexander tells me, officially, it was stated that the skiers had died of hypothermia and frostbite, but some of the other bodies had serious injuries that had nothing to do with them being too cold."

Read now.

3) I Quit My Job at 50 to Reinvent Myself Pro Tip: Don't Do This by Ivy Eisenberg

I think we all daydream about reimagining our life. Turns out, though, it isn't as easy as we think it would be. In this creative nonfiction essay published with Narratively, author Ivy Eisenberg tells us about her attempt to shed the burden of a corporate job and start anew. This teaches me a lot about the approach of telling a creative nonfiction essay. This almost has the same technique as a short story actually! What I notice the most is that this piece begins with that desire for me to want to know more. I wanted to know more. Read more. Isn't that the best type of writing?

A quote, "One morning, I come up with a phenomenal business idea, which will propel me out of Verizon and make me rich and famous: I’m going to start my own line of custom corporate fortune cookies."

Read now.

Another Narratively essay that struck me as poignant. It gives me the idea that you never know what is behind the scenes of someone's life. It may seem like someone's life is this great success story that you can't measure up to, but in reality, we don't have any idea what goes on behind the curtains of someone's life. Well-written, emotional, and honest. 

A quote: "I could feel my entire life changing with his words."

Have you ever seen or heard of the painting "The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)." Check it out if you haven't. I likely have only seen it in passing. In this piece, I could almost imagine the prompt or question that inspired this story. "What's the story behind that painting?" This piece answers that question in a dark way that has sort of a gothic feel to it. It was poetic at times while giving me insights into a different way of telling a story.

Favorite quote: "Even if you are the painter, exorcising his ghost, twelve years of labor still won't banish the guilt."

Read now.

Major first sentence goals happening with this story. This story gave me such a heartwrenching feeling as I read it - from beginning to end. It actually began like a true account of a real moment. I felt really close to the narrator and it took me by surprise to see how this story transformed. I love when stories take me by surprise in terms of direction. This also answered a question proposed by the narrator in the beginning in a very touching way. I absolutely recommend this one.

Favorite quote: "I remember the expression of ecstasy to the point of pain that burst from the woman when she saw her children’s faces again. But her other face, the empty one, was more firmly etched in my mind."

So, that's the short stories, creative nonfiction, and investigative long-form journalistic pieces (I'm sure there's another word for what I just wrote out) that ended up on my January monthly reads. If you happen to read - and enjoy - any of these pieces let me know. 

Also, the websites and literary magazines that published these pieces are:

Fireside Fiction (Website)
BBC (Website
Narratively (Website
Gordon Square Review (Website)

1 comment:

  1. I love short stories! They do so much in such a brief moment of writing. I feel like there's a strength in reading them and learning from them.
    Happy reading and writing in February!


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