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My Reading Rut Cure: When Less is More

September 14, 2022

I was talking to a friend the other day about how hard it is for her to keep a regular reading routine and that sometimes starting a novel can feel really daunting, especially because she is the type of person who HAS to finish reading what she starts as quickly as possible. My advice? I told her the BIG SECRET I shared with my students when they were struggling to either become a reader for the first time or get out of a reading rut.

What’s the secret? THE SHORT STORY. Low commitment, high return on investment. And if you don’t love it, you didn’t “waste” any time. 

A former 8th grader of mine said it best: 

“I think there’s something special about short stories. Good ones, I mean.”


Before I share five of my favorite short stories to help you out of a reading rut, let me remind you:

>> You don’t have to read a short story collection cover to cover, if you don’t want to.

>> You don’t have to finish a short story in one sitting.

>> Short stories are a great way to test out new genres.

>> Short stories are great for you — or your children — to mix up the complexity level of the literature you consume.

>> Great short stories, like B noticed, require excellence in craft. Less can be so much more.

OK, so now, let’s read a short story (or five!) together. (Please note that these are for adults, but you know your tweens and teens best!)

The Semplica Girl Diaries

It took George Saunders over a decade to write this story about a man who wishes he could provide more for his family.

Saunders’ inspiration to write it started with a dream he had one night, and I’ve thought about this story and his process a lot since I first read it nearly a decade ago.

If you’re in a reading rut, click here to start climbing out of it!

The Bog Girl

Karen Russell is brilliant, and this short story about young love between a teenage boy and the 2,000 year-old girl he found in a bog is magic.

If your children are reaching or of dating age, you and your partner may enjoy this together. But it may also hit a little too close to home! Click here to read.

Cattle Haul

Jesmyn Ward takes us on a 48-hour cattle haul with the truck-driving narrator. The way she brings us in and out of time with his thoughts is masterful, and this is one of those “stories as windows” for me.

If you’ve seen (or have!) Ward’s novels but are stuck in that reading rut, this short story might be the motivation you need to read more of her writing. Click here to read it.

The Lifecycle of Software Objects

This Ted Chiang speculative fiction story had my book club discussing parenting and our feelings about AI. Everyone loved it; everyone had different takeaways.

I’m sorry I don’t have a direct link to the story that I can ethically share with you, but click here (Bookshop affiliate link) to see if you might want to snag the whole collection. You can check your library, too!

Sell Out

I know I talk a lot about Simon Rich, but this story is a must-read. It’s technically a novella, but don’t let length keep you from it. If you have ever been or had an intern, or seen or purchased an artisanal product, I will be shocked if you don’t laugh. SHOCKED.

Click here to read, laugh, and cure what ails your reading life. And then tell me you don’t want to read more of his stories!

There’s my secret. I hope it helps, if not totally cures, your reading rut ailments. Long live the short story, I say!

Full novels can be intimidating, but short stories can help. So can jumping into my free 30-day reading challenge, which you can snag here!

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