When getting through an entire book feels a little too ambitious for your monthly book club there’s no reason to skip a meeting! For busier months, or even just for a change of pace, consider choosing a short story to discuss. Tightly plotted with an economical approach to language, a short story can provide rich fodder for discussion. Lucky for you, Vintage Shorts is celebrating Short Story Month by publishing a work of short fiction each day in May! Check out some of our favorites below, and view the entire lineup here.
A Vintage Shorts Original by Alexander McCall Smith
Philosopher and amateur sleuth Isabel Dalhousie has an unstinting commitment to her principles. Sticking to her promises has always been one of them. Then Isabel runs into an old classmate facing marital and financial troubles, who reveals a secret that becomes more and more difficult for Isabel to keep. Thankfully, Isabel’s devoted husband, Jamie, is there to help our heroine navigate her competing moral obligations. Beautifully perceptive and witty, this original short story by Alexander McCall Smith shows Isabel calling upon all of her intelligence, charm, and tact.
From the collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
With hardly any notice, Johanna, a foolish and plain housekeeper, impetuously flees her employer and sets off to find the man with whom she’s fallen in love. Little does she know that his end of their correspondence has been a complete fabrication—a cruel teenager’s idea of a practical joke. So who will Johanna find when she steps off her train with the household furniture in tow?
Alice Munro is the universally celebrated master of the contemporary short story, the Chekhov of our time. Nowhere are her powers greater on display than in this exquisitely crafted story, which explores the wonderful and unexpected places where love, or the illusion of it, can lead.
A Vintage Shorts Original by Tim Gautreaux
One evening, when the temperature in Minnesota drops way below zero and the winds howl, the furnace man Mel Todd is asked to see about a broken furnace in Sauerville, six miles away. That night Mel first meets Jack Swensen. Jack is a junior in high school, has been raised by elderly grandparents, is smart, and quick to pick up the mechanics of Mel’s trade—like the son Mel would have liked to have. But, Mel is not able to tell Jack how he feels, and the moment Jack turns eighteen, he disappears without a word. From the widely celebrated novelist Tim Gautreaux, beloved chronicler of working-class America, comes this never-before-published, brilliant piece about our spirit and resilience, our dogged commitment to strive for opportunity even where there is little to be found, and the enduring importance of community.
by Joan Wickersham
In this witty and moving work of short fiction, “you” recall the romantic interests you had once pined for, crushed on from afar, kissed, and never forgot. Exploring the forces of attraction as well as the tender reaches of the heart, Joan Wickersham chronicles these brief episodes from a young woman’s history, from Boy 1, in the block corner of a kindergarten classroom, to Boy 23. Originally published by One Story and chosen for The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015, this selection is a generous meditation on the varieties and endurance of love.
From The Whore’s Child and Other Stories by Richard Russo
As his parents’ marriage disintegrates, a precocious if distracted fifth-grader starts to daydream about baseball, spaghetti, and his place in the universe. Pulitzer Prize–winning author Richard Russo is one of America’s finest writers, and here, truthfully and with compassion, he unwinds the slow disillusionment of childhood.
A Vintage Shorts Original by Maeve Binchy
It starts out like any other dull day in a busy airport bar in London. James, the bartender, would much rather serve regulars at a local pub than cranky travelers. Katy and Colin have been involved in a longtime affair that comes to literal blows when he reveals that he hasn’t kept his promise to leave his wife. Between some quick thinking by James and the kindness of an American couple, Jean and Maurice, the situation is defused. And Jean’s insistence that they all stay in touch sparks friendships that are maintained across years and an ocean. In “The September Letters,” never before published in the United States, Maeve once again brings us into the lives of ordinary people, where chance meetings have the potential to change lives.