Best Short Stories of All Time – The Critics’ Picks

The following is a list of the Best Short Stories of All Time, as selected by critics, editors, academics and other experts. These are not my personal opinions. To create this meta-list, I combined a number of ‘Best Short Stories’ lists from the Internet and then added the stories contained in many short story anthologies. The meta-list below contains every short story included in at least two of the original sources.  The numbers in bold indicate the number of lists/anthologies containing the story; stories on the same number of lists are organized chronologically by publication date.  Although many of the resources I could find were focused on English-language stories, or American stories exclusively, I was able to find a significant number of lists and anthologies that included stories originally written in languages other than English. The list contains a significant number of stories by contemporary writers, although the older classics predominate at the top of the list.  For those who are chronologically inclined, I also have arranged the list in chronological order – click on Best Short Stories of All Time – Chronological.

NOTE: Some of the short story lists and anthologies I relied on included works that are more commonly referred to as novellas, such as Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I have left such works on the list if there are multiple authorities that refer to it as a short story.

UPDATE: Most of these stories are available to read online, so I have now added links. Click on the link to read the story.

On 15 Lists
The Rocking-Horse Winner, by D.H. Lawrence (UK, 1926)
The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson (US, 1948)

14 Lists
A Good Man Is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor (US, 1953)

13
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, by Mark Twain (US, 1865)

12
The Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant (France, 1884)

11
Araby, by James Joyce (Ireland, 1914)

10
The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (US, 1892)

9
The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1843)
The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1846)
A Hunger Artist, by Franz Kafka (Austria-Hungary, 1922)
The Snows of Kilimanjaro, by Ernest Hemingway (US, 1936)

8
Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1835)
The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1839)
Bartleby, the Scrivener, by Herman Melville (US, 1853)
The Bet, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1889)
The Monkey’s Paw, by W.W. Jacobs (UK, 1902)
The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry (US, 1905)
Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemingway (US, 1927)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber (US, 1939)
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, by Joyce Carol Oates (US, 1966)
Cathedral, by Raymond Carver (US, 1983)

7
Thrawn Janet, by Robert Louis Stevenson (UK, 1881)
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce (US, 1890)
The Lady with the Dog, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1899)
Paul’s Case, by Willa Cather (US, 1905)
The Secret Sharer, by Joseph Conrad (Poland/UK, 1909-1910)
The Dead, by James Joyce (Ireland, 1914)
Eveline, by James Joyce (Ireland, 1914)
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, by Ernest Hemingway (US, 1933)
Symbols and Signs, by Vladimir Nabokov (Russia/US, 1948)

6
A Passion in the Desert, by Honoré de Balzac (France, 1830)
The Overcoat, by Nikolai Gogol (Russia, 1842)
The Story of an Hour, by Kate Chopin (US, 1894)
To Build a Fire, by Jack London (US, 1908)
The Open Window, by Saki (H.H. Munro) (UK, 1914)
In the Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka (Austria-Hungary, 1914, pub. 1919)
The Garden Party, by Kathleen Mansfield (New Zealand/UK, 1922)
The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell (US, 1924)
A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner (US, 1930)
That Evening Sun (That Evening Sun Go Down), by William Faulkner (US, 1931)
Guests of the Nation, by Frank O’Connor (Ireland, 1931)
A Perfect Day for a Bananafish, by J.D. Salinger (US, 1948)
The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, by Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia, 1955)
The Artificial Nigger, by Flannery O’Connor (US, 1955)
The Swimmer, by John Cheever (US, 1964)

5
The Nose, by Nikolai Gogol (Russia, 1835-1836)
The Minister’s Black Veil, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1836)
The Pit and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1842)
The Outcasts of Poker Flat, by Bret Harte (US, 1869)
The Three Questions, by Leo Tolstoy (Russia, 1885)
Vanka, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1886)
The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling (UK/India, 1888)
The Open Boat, by Stephen Crane (US, 1897)
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (Poland/UK, 1899)
A Dark Brown Dog, by Stephen Crane (US, pub. 1901)
How the Leopard Got His Spots, by Rudyard Kipling (UK/India, 1902)
A Haunted House, by Virginia Woolf (UK, 1921)
A Telephone Call, by Dorothy Parker (US, 1930)
Babylon Revisited, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (US, 1930)
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, by Ernest Hemingway (US, 1936)
The Use of Force, by William Carlos Williams (US, 1938)
Barn Burning, by William Faulkner (US, 1939)
A Worn Path, by Eudora Welty (US, 1941)
Sonny’s Blues, by James Baldwin (US, 1957)
Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (US, 1961)
The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien (US, 1987)

4
The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1842)
The Birthmark, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1843)
The Christmas Tree and the Wedding, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russia, 1848)
A Lodging for the Night, by Robert Louis Stevenson (UK, 1882)
The Death of Ivan Ilyich, by Leo Tolstoy (Russia, 1886)
How Much Land Does A Man Need?, by Leo Tolstoy (Russia, 1886)
The Nightingale and the Rose, by Oscar Wilde (Ireland, 1888)
Rikki Tikki Tavi, by Rudyard Kipling (UK/India, 1894)
Regret, by Kate Chopin (US, 1894)
The Odour of Chrysanthemums, by D.H. Lawrence (UK, 1911)
Sredni Vashtar, by Saki (H.H. Munro) (UK, c. 1900-1914)
The Prussian Officer, by D.H. Lawrence (UK, 1914)
The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka (Austria-Hungary, 1915)
Kew Gardens, by Virginia Woolf (UK, 1919)
The Fly, by Katherine Mansfield (New Zealand/UK, 1922)
The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (US, 1922)
The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, by D.H. Lawrence (UK, 1922)
Haircut, by Ring Lardner (US, 1925)
The Killers, by Ernest Hemingway (US, 1927)
Dry September, by William Faulkner (US, 1931)
Silent Snow, Secret Snow, by Conrad Aiken (US, 1934)
Spring in Fialta, by Vladimir Nabokov (USSR/US, 1936)
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, by Delmore Schwartz (US, 1937)
The Door, by E.B. White (US, 1939)
Beware of the Dog, by Roald Dahl (UK, 1944)
The Aleph, by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1945)
A & P, by John Updike (US, 1961)
Gogol’s Wife, by Tommasso Landolfi (Italy, 1963)
Everyday Use, by Alice Walker (US, 1973)
Bullet in the Brain, by Tobias Wolff (US, 1995)
Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri (UK/US, 1999)

3
Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving (US, 1819)
Diary of a Madman, by Nikolai Gogol (Russia, 1835)
The Eclipse, by James Fenimore Cooper (US, 1833-1838)
The Purloined Letter, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1844)
The Signal-Man, by Charles Dickens (UK, 1866)
Boule de Suif, by Guy de Maupassant (France, 1880)
The Lady or the Tiger?, by Frank Stockton (US, 1882)
The Looking Glass, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1885)
The Griffin and the Minor Canon, by Frank Stockton (US, 1885)
The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde (Ireland, 1888)
The Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde (Ireland, 1888)
A Horseman in the Sky, by Ambrose Bierce (US, 1889)
Without Benefit of Clergy, by Rudyard Kipling (UK/India, 1890)
Desiree’s Baby, by Kate Chopin (US, 1893)
Gooseberries, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1898)
Youth, by Joseph Conrad (Poland/UK, 1902)
One Autumn Night, by Maxim Gorky (Russia, 1902)
A Dog’s Tale, by Mark Twain (US, 1903)
The Mezzotint, by M.R. James (UK, 1904)
The Cop and the Anthem, by O. Henry (US, 1904)
The Last Leaf, by O. Henry (US, 1906)
I Want to Know Why, by Sherwood Anderson (US, 1918)
A. V. Laider, by Max Beerbohm (UK, 1919)
The Interlopers, by Saki (H.H. Munro) (UK, 1919)
Bliss, by Katherine Mansfield (New Zealand/UK, 1920)
I’m a Fool, by Sherwood Anderson (US, 1922)
The Story of My Dovecot, by Isaac Babel (Ukraine/USSR, 1925)
My First Goose, by Isaac Babel (Ukraine/USSR, 1926)
A Jury of her Peers, by Susan Glaspell (US, 1927)
The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, by Katherine Anne Porter (US, 1930)
Flowering Judas, by Katherine Anne Porter (US, 1930)
Theft, by Katherine Anne Porter (US, 1930)
Our Lady’s Juggler, by Anatole France (France, 1933)
The Leader of the People, by John Steinbeck (US, 1937)
Leiningen versus the Ants, by Carl Stephenson (Germany, 1938)
The Wall, by Jean-Paul Sartre (France, 1939)
Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1940)
The Garden of Forking Paths, by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1941)
Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland, by Carson McCullers (US, 1941)
The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury (US, 1950)
Goodbye, My Brother, by John Cheever (US, 1951)
Bestiary, by Julio Cortázar (Argentina, 1951)
A Sound of Thunder, by Ray Bradbury (US, 1952)
Gimpel the Fool, by Isaac Bashevis Singer (Poland/US, 1953)
All Summer in a Day, by Ray Bradbury (US, 1954)
The Five-Forty-Eight, by John Cheever (US, 1954)
The Country Husband, by John Cheever (US, 1954)
The Habit of Loving, by Doris Lessing (UK, 1957)
The Adulterous Woman, by Albert Camus (Algeria/France, 1957)
The Sacrificial Egg, by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria, 1959)
The Ledge, by Lawrence Sargent Hall (US, 1959)
Borges and I, by Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1960)
I Stand Here Ironing, by Tillie Olsen (US, 1961)
Almos’ a Man (The Man Who Was Almost a Man), by Richard Wright (US, 1961)
Pigeon Feathers, by John Updike (US, 1962)
The Jewbird, by Bernard Malamud (US, 1963)
The Night Face Up, by Julio Cortázar (Argentina, 1967)
Henne Fire, by Isaac Bashevis Singer (Poland/US, 1968)
The Suitcase, by Cynthia Ozick (US, 1971)
Naga, by R.K. Narayan (India, 1972)
The School, by Donald Barthelme (US, 1976)
Rape Fantasies, by Margaret Atwood (Canada, 1977)
The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick (US, 1980)
Greasy Lake, by T.C. Boyle (US, 1985)
You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town, by Zoë Wicomb (South Africa, 1987)
Emergency, by Denis Johnson (US, 1992)
The Bear Came Over the Mountain, by Alice Munro (Canada, 1999)
What You Pawn, I Will Redeem, by Sherman Alexie (US, 2003)
The First Day, by Edward P. Jones (US, 2004)
Safari, by Jennifer Egan (US, 2010)

2
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving (US, 1820)
The Devil and Tom Walker, by Washington Irving (US, 1824)
The Queen of Spades, by Alexander Pushkin (Russia, 1833)
The Ambitious Guest, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1835)
The Gray Champion, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1835)
David Swan, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1837)
The Gold Bug, by Edgar Allan Poe (US, 1843)
Rappaccini’s Daughter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (US, 1844)
The District Doctor, by Ivan Turgenev (Russia, 1852)
The Lightning-Rod Man, by Herman Melville (US, 1854)
The Luck of Roaring Camp, by Bret Harte (US, 1868)
Scarlet Stockings, by Louisa May Alcott (US, 1869)
Tennessee’s Partner, by Bret Harte (US, 1869)
A Fight with a Cannon, by Victor Hugo (France, c. 1870)
The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller, by Gustave Flaubert (France, 1877)
The Private History of a Campaign That Failed, by Mark Twain (US, 1885)
The Huntsmen, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1885)
The Horla, by Guy de Maupassant (France, 1887)
Chickamauga, by Ambrose Bierce (US, 1889)
A New England Nun, by Mary Wilkins Freeman (US, 1891)
The Boarded Window, by Ambrose Bierce (US, 1891)
The Bottle Imp, by Robert Louis Stevenson (UK, 1891)
Under The Lion’s Paw, by Hamlin Garland (US, 1891)
The Red-Headed League, by Arthur Conan Doyle (UK, 1891)
The House with the Mezzanine, by Anton Chekhov (Russia, 1896)
The Figure in the Carpet, by Henry James (US/UK, 1896)
Little Herr Friedemann, by Thomas Mann (Germany, 1896)
A Pair of Silk Stockings, by Kate Chopin (US, 1896-1897)
The Omnibus, by Arthur Quiller-Couch (UK, 1902)
Was it Heaven? Or Hell?, by Mark Twain (US, 1903)
Eve’s Diary, by Mark Twain (US, 1905)
The Skylight Room, by O. Henry (US, 1906)
Lazarus, by Leonid Andreyev (Russia, 1906)
The Furnished Room, by O. Henry (US, 1906)
The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood (UK, 1907)
On The Gull’s Road, by Willa Cather (US, 1908)
The Cactus, by O. Henry (US, c. 1905-1909)
The Princess and the Puma, by O. Henry (US, c. 1905-1909)
A Municipal Report, by O. Henry (US, c. 1905-1909)
Gabriel-Ernest, by Saki (H.H. Munro) (UK, 1909)
The Machine Stops, by E.M. Forster (UK, 1909)
The Schartz-Metterklume Method, by Saki (H.H. Munro) (UK, 1910)
The Other Side of the Hedge, by E.M. Forster (UK, 1911)
How the Widow Won the Deacon, by William James Lampton (US, 1911)
Casting the Runes, by M.R. James (UK, 1911)
The Sisters, by James Joyce (Ireland, 1914)
Dracula’s Guest, by Bram Stoker (Ireland, 1914)
The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm, by Mark Twain (US, pub. 1916)
The Tale, by Joseph Conrad (Poland/UK, 1917)
A Madman’s Diary, by Lu Xun (China, 1918)
The Other Woman, by Sherwood Anderson (US, 1920)
Rain, by W. Somerset Maugham (UK, 1921)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (US, 1922)
The Doll’s House, by Katherine Mansfield (New Zealand/UK, 1922)
The Gardener, by Rudyard Kipling (UK/India, 1926)
The Dunwich Horror, by H.P. Lovecraft (US, 1929)
Terra Incognita, by Vladimir Nabokov (USSR/US, 1931)
Guy de Maupassant, by Isaac Babel (Ukraine/USSR, 1932)
Death in the Woods, by Sherwood Anderson (US, 1933)
A Day’s Wait, by Ernest Hemingway (US, 1933)
Shooting An Elephant, by George Orwell (UK, 1936)
The Devil and Daniel Webster, by Stephen Vincent Benét (US, 1937)
The Chrysanthemums, by John Steinbeck (US, 1938)
Flight, by John Steinbeck (US, 1938)
First Confession, by Frank O’Connor (Ireland, 1939)
The Girls In Their Summer Dresses, by Irwin Shaw (US, 1939)
Nightfall, by Isaac Asimov (USSR/US, 1941)
The Hitch-Hikers, by Eudora Welty (US, 1941)
Sorrow-Acre, by Isak Dinesen (Denmark, 1942)
The Demon Lover, by Elizabeth Bowen (Ireland/UK, 1945)
Miriam, by Truman Capote (US, 1945)
First Love, by Samuel Beckett (Ireland/France, 1946, pub. 1973)
Sinners, by Seán Ó Faoláin (Ireland, 1947)
A Man From the South, by Roald Dahl (UK, 1948)
Miami-New York, by Martha Gellhorn (US, 1948)
The Saint, by V.S. Pritchett (UK, c. 1940s)
For Esmé – with Love and Squalor, by J.D. Salinger (US, 1950)
The Chaser, by John Collier (UK, 1951)
Christmas Every Day (Christmas Not Just Once a Year), by Heinrich Böll (Germany, 1951)
The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin, by Tennessee Williams (US, 1951)
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas (UK, 1952)
A Mother’s Tale, by James Agee (US, 1952)
Good Country People, by Flannery O’Connor (US, 1955)
Continuity of Parks, by Julio Cortázar (Argentina, 1956)
The Challenge, by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru, 1958)
The Last Mohican, by Bernard Malamud (US, 1958)
Defender of the Faith, by Philip Roth (US, 1959)
The Landlady, by Roald Dahl (UK, 1959)
Patriotism, by Yukio Mishima (Japan, 1960)
Lifeguard, by John Updike (US, 1961)
Let Them Call It Jazz, by Jean Rhys (Dominica/UK, 1962)
The Doll Queen, by Carlos Fuentes (Mexico, 1964)
One Arm, by Yasunari Kawabata (Japan, 1964)
All at One Point, by Italo Calvino (Italy, 1965)
Parker’s Back, by Flannery O’Connor (US, 1965)
How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again, by Joyce Carol Oates (US, 1969)
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, by Ursula Le Guin (US, 1973)
Five-Twenty, by Patrick White (Australia, 1974)
Bluebell Meadow, by Benedict Kiely (Ireland, 1975)
A Family Man, by V.S. Pritchett (UK, 1977)
The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter (UK, 1979)
Why Don’t You Dance, by Raymond Carver (US, 1981)
The Old Demon, by Pearl S. Buck (US, pub. 1981)
Hollow, by Breece D’J Pancake (US, 1982)
The Chosen Husband, by Mavis Gallant (Canada/France, 1985)
The Elephant Vanishes, by Haruki Murakami (Japan, 1985)
Communist, by Richard Ford (US, 1986)
White Angel, by Michael Cunningham (US, 1988)
The Management of Grief, by Bharati Mukherjee (India/US, 1988)
You’re Ugly, Too, by Lorrie Moore (US, 1989)
Friend of My Youth, by Alice Munro (Canada, 1990)
Death by Landscape, by Margaret Atwood (Canada, 1990)
A Real Doll, by A.M. Homes (US, 1990)
The Pugilist at Rest, by Thom Jones (US, 1991)
They’re Made out of Meat, by Terry Bisson (US, 1991)
Silver Water, by Amy Bloom (US, 1991)
Never Marry a Mexican, by Sandra Cisneros (Mexico/US, 1991)
I Want to Live!, by Thom Jones (US, 1993)
Drown, by Junot Díaz (Dominican Republic/US, 1996)
Night Women, by Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/US, 1996)
Tiny, Smiling Daddy, by Mary Gaitskill (US, 1997)
Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx (US, 1997)
Sea Oak, by George Saunders (US, 1998)
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, by ZZ Packer (US, 2000)
Travis B, by Maile Meloy (US, 2002)
Paradise, by Ali Smith (UK, 2003)
The Man on the Stairs, by Miranda July (US, 2007)
A Tiny Feast, by Chris Adrian (US, 2009)
Lorry Raja, by Madhuri Vijay (India/US, 2012)
Italy, by Antonio Elefano (US, 2012)
The Zero Meter Diving Team, by Jim Shepard (US, 2014)

8 thoughts on “Best Short Stories of All Time – The Critics’ Picks

  1. Pingback: Songs and Stories | Make Lists, Not War

  2. Marc

    Some of your “short stories” are really novels or at least novellas. I mean A Christmas Carol, Heart of Darkness, Jekyll and Hyde, etc. Short stories are usually no more than about 10,000 words, though some definitions go a little higher. I’d avoid using source lists that include both short stories and longer works, since they really aren’t comparable. It would be like comparing a Chopin mazurka to a Beethoven symphony: pointless.

    Reply

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