Short stories for busy people provide quick entertainment on the go


Sometimes it seems we don't have enough time to read. Now that the autumn rains have returned, and life has slowed a bit, we can try to find some time. One way is to get a book of short stories from Multnomah County Library. Short stories are commonly defined as stories which can be read in one sitting. Many may only be three or four pages long. A book of short stories can be carried along to appointments and read while waiting to pick up the kids after school. They come in all genres, from classics to contemporary, mystery to science fiction, and for all ages.

As Hallowe'en leads us into November, Edgar Allan Poe always comes to mind. One of the earliest writers of short stories, Poe is best known for his suspense stories, although he also wrote humor, and was one of the first science fiction writers! 'The Tell-Tale Heart', 'The Pit and the Pendulum', and 'Ligeia' are some of the most well-known, along with my own personal favorite, 'The Masque of the Red Death', which I read annually to my daughter, as my father read it to me.

Other collections of mysteries include 'Crème de la Crime', which includes winners of such mystery awards as the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Silver and Gold Dagger awards. Stories by Lawrence Block, Jeffrey Deaver, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, and Anne Perry are included. The library also has the 'Mammoth Book of Golden Age Detective Stories', and a big collection from 'Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine'.

Individual writers also publish collections of their own short stories, often including their best-known protagonists. Faye Kellerman has a new book called 'The Garden of Eden and other Criminal Delights', which includes her shorter Lazarus/Decker stories and others. John Mortimer's hilarious Rumpole stories are collected in several different volumes, including 'Rumpole of the Bailey', 'Rumpole for the Defence', and 'Rumpole Rests his Case'.

Lovers of science fiction can always find lots of short stories. The library owns the annual 'Year's Best Science Fiction' collections for all recent years, as well as collections by many illustrious individual authors: Ray Bradbury, Philip Jose Farmer, the late Robert Sheckley, and Robert Silverberg are just a few of the writers represented.

Westerns continue to be popular. Collections by John Jakes, Louis L'Amour, and Wallace Stegner are available, as well as anthologies such as 'American West: Twenty New Stories from the Western Writers of America' edited by Loren D. Estleman, and 'Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West 1950 to the Present' edited by Larry McMurtry.

'McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales', edited by Michael Chabon, is one of many McSweeney's collections of modern fiction. For those who prefer the classics, the library has collections by O. Henry, Henry James, and Anton Chekhov. Many classics can also be found on the Internet.

Essays are also accessible short pieces to fit between chores. Recent collections include 'Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers' edited by Matt Kellogg and Jillian Quint; 'The Disappointment Artist and other Essays' by Jonathan Lethem; and 'Consider the Lobster and other Essays' by David Foster Wallace, which contains musings on subjects from politics to Kafka. 'The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death' tells stories about the experiences of learning to practice medicine with real patients. These stories move us while they inform and entertain.

Short stories of all kinds are available in all Multnomah County libraries. Sometimes they're hiding in the stacks, but the people at the reference desk can find them for you, and can place holds on books available in other library locations so you can obtain them. Multnomah County Branch Library personnel can also show you where to find stories on the Internet.