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Did you know just 30 minutes of reading can reduce stress by 68%? Research has shown that reading boosts brain power. The human brain can retain large amounts of information and with each new information, it creates new memories. And this in turn, creates new brain pathways or synapses, giving more power to the brain as you age. And reading heals mild to moderate mental health disorders.

Living in the fast-paced world with smaller spaces, time and storage are a constraint. But we can try reading short stories for our daily dose. Moreover, they also introduce you to new authors and in this global world, we are always in search of new and exciting reading material. Here are some stories I have read online and the best part is that this knowledge is all for free:

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1. Cookie Jar by Stephen King

This story was my introduction to the acclaimed American author who is known as ‘The King of Horror’. Well, I didn’t find anything ghastly in this story, but there was his signature supernatural and fantasy style. The story revolves around a teenage child who goes to meet his 90-year-old great grandfather in an old-age home for a school project. But the old man knows his time has come and tells the child the tale of the cookie jar. How, when and where is the suspense that I am not going to kill for you.

The Virginia Quarterly Review, a ‘national journal of literature and discussion’, has been around for over 75 years. There is a wide range of topics to read on in the form of prose, verse and essays: literary works public affairs, the arts, history, economy.

2. Seven Months with the Witch Who Had the Broom by Mustafa Taj Aldeen Almosa

 It was originally written in Arabic and has been translated into English by Kenda Flehan. This story is so short that it can be read in 5-7 minutes. But the depth and the sensitivity will remain in your mind for years to come. It is based on true events in Syria. In March 2011, a group of 15 boys made graffiti to protest against the corrupt government. One was brutally tortured and killed. You have to read it to see how the author has taken a spin on the childhood dream of travelling on brooms and turned it into a story that will tear your heart apart.

Started in 2004, Guernica is published in affiliation with The Los Angeles Review of Books. This non-profit organization promotes incisive and engaging writing on literature, politics, culture, and the arts. It is run by volunteers and has stories from across the globe.

3. A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf

Considering I did my graduation in English Literature, I should have read Virginia Woolf decades back. But I didn’t. This short story was my introduction to the famed English writer, who is considered a pioneer in the stream of consciousness narrative. Sadly, she was considered mentally ill and confined to an asylum many times. In the early 20th century, there was no treatment for bipolar sickness and she committed suicide at the age of 59.

    Coming back to the story, this is just 771 words. The impressive use of phrases really catches the reader. The house is inhabited by a ghostly couple and Woolf describes how the two love exploring it.

    Classic Short Stories lists some of the best literary works. You can search by title or author name. It also has links to other websites where you can read short stories.

    4. A Day at the Beach for Aphrodite by Robin Perry Pollitan

    This is a very modern story. And it is the first one published by the author in a national magazine. The story revolves around two neighbouring families. And then one becomes a widow. She is an ace Olympics swimmer and becomes a lifeguard. The children are friends until they discover a hideous secret. It’s interesting how the story moves between the past and present and finally, we realise the meaning of the title right at the end.

    Narrative is a digital magazine which started in 2003. It supports the finest literature from emerging and established authors. This non-profit organization relies on donations, grants and grassroots support.  It calls itself a modern, global library, hosting contests and connecting readers and writers.

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    5. A Place for Fire by Elisa Gabbert

    This is a unique story. It stems from the prompt by the magazine: writers consider the aspects of their homes, gardens and interior design that have driven them to distraction.

    It’s a very contemporary story and all of us will relate to it. We are all in search of a home that matches our desires. But most of the time, this doesn’t match our pocket. And then when we begin furbishing the home, we make changes that go against our innate likes, primarily because we have chosen comfort over old-world warmth. You will enjoy reading this story.

    The Paris Review is a quarterly magazine, which started in 1953 in Paris. Over the years, it has featured works by stalwarts such as V. S. Naipaul, Samuel Beckett, Nadine Gordimer and featured interviews of Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda, Vladimir Nabokov and more. Since 1973, it is headquartered in New York.   

    6. Light by Lesley Nneka Arimah

    The author was the Africa regional winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She grew up in Nigeria and now lives in the US.

    This is a beautiful story of an African family, living in the outback in a small, wooden home in Africa. And the wife goes off to the US to study business administration. The small girl of 11 is left with the father who lets her grow up in an unruly fashion. The mother doesn’t approve and the father adores the girl and doesn’t prepare her for the world. The mother is worried and eventually lands a job in the US. She calls the girl to the US, who changes there. And the father still looks forward to the child who lived with him in Africa. It’s so beautifully written with a lot of phrases that would be used in African English, rather than UK English. But then, the beauty lies in the sensitive phrasing and the deep expressions brought out in a short story.

    As the name suggests, Commonwealth Foundation is a consortium of countries that were once under the commonwealth flag, that is British rule. It was established as a chartable foundation in March 1966.

    Eight governments came together in 1949 to form the modern Commonwealth. Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Through various projects, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Short Story Prize, they are ‘united as free and equal members’ co-operating in the pursuit of peace, liberty, and progress.    

    7. Laura: Lady of the Mexican Nights by Edward Stanton

    This story won the Grand Prize Bronze Winner (tie) in the Fifteenth Annual Solas Awards. It is a simple story that gives insights into the life of a native in Mexico. It talks about beliefs, religion and very gently tells us things related to native clothing and eating and drinking habits. There is a lot of dialogue in the story and also how the views of the natives differ from those who come for a short stay.

    The author, Edward Stanton was born in Colorado and raised in California. He has lived in Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Spain. His book, Road of Stars to Santiago is a story of his 500-mile walk on the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and was on the best books list by The New York Times.

    His novel Wide as the Wind, the first to treat the tragic history of Easter Island, won the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Young Adult Fiction and three other international prizes.  

    Based in Palo Alto, California, Travelers’ Tales was started in 1993 by travel writers James O’Reilly and Larry Habegger, and writer and publisher Tim O’Reilly (James’s brother). The goal was to produce a travel book, based on true stories, with a style that was more like sitting in a cafe filled with fellow travellers exchanging stories. It has published more than 150 books till now.

    All these sites have a huge volume of short stories. Daily, we meet different characters and authors. There are many more sites too, should you like to explore more. Do share your results with us.

    This post is a part of book marathon by Outset Books.


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