10 Short Stories That Will Mess With Your Head
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10 Short Stories That Will Mess With Your Head

It only takes a few words to get you thinking

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10 Short Stories That Will Mess With Your Head
Stone Bridge Press

Do you ever come out of a work of fiction feeling a little messed up on the inside? Some pieces of literature leave you questioning everything you've ever known, some leave you questioning what you should know but don't.

After reading these ten short stories, you'll be left a little different than you were when you started the story. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to you.

1. "What the Water Feels Like to the Fishes" by Dave Eggers

You know when you're just going along with your life and then someone reminds you to blink, and then you have to actually think about blinking? That's a bit like this story. When the fish are asked what the water feels like, they in turn ask what air feels like. "Air feels like hair...it feels like language...it feels like blood." Suddenly, you remember that you're breathing.

2. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber

Chronic daydreaming? Check. Chronic daydreaming that violently throws a mundane man into insane situations? Also check. Maybe this story won't have you questioning your life, but it will have you thinking a lot harder about your daydreams

3. "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula Le Guin

In Le Guin's short story, the ethical theory of Utilitarianism is put into practice in the form of a city called Omelas, where the happiness of the citizens is dependent on the suffering of one child. When the people of Omelas descover what keeps the balance of their joy, they're given the choice to stay or leave. Would you walk away from Omelas?

4. "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" by Denis Johnson

A salesman, an oldsmobile, a drug addict, and death: what do they all have in common? Denis Johnson. His piece isn't hard to follow, but takes a bit of thinking to comprehend. "And you, you ridiculous people, you expect me to help you."

5. "A Modest Proposal" by Johnathan Swift

This satirical piece suggests that, in order to ease their economic struggles, the poor Irish people should eat their children. While we know better than to take Swift's piece seriously, it does get you thinking about the way poor people as well as Irish people in general were treated.

6. "Anthropogenesis" Laura van den Berg

Anthropogenesis: the process of becoming human. Van den berg personifies fire and ice as a couple living their life in a way comparable to their individual needs. Though they're nearly polar opposites, they live their lives happily...until they have children. Babies of fire and ice begin popping out of nowhere, putting a painful strain on the couple's relationship, and says a lot about the nature of romantic relationships once children are involved.

7. "Boys" by Rick Moody

In four pages, Moody tells an introspective story about the life of twin boys. In four pages, your heart is sucker punched and torn apart. What begins as a burst of life and brilliance fades in a rumpled mess of cancer, drugs, and death. While you're left with a bit of despair, Moody also gets you thinking about your own version of "Boys."

8. "To Build a Fire" by Jack London

Unfortunately, London's 1908 version of "To Build a Fire" doesn't have as happy an ending as his 1902 version. Man Vs. Nature, human nature vs animal instict; this story keeps you in suspense and leaves you wondering who to trust more: your dog or yourself.

9. "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid

It's not so much the topic of Kincaid's work that will get you thinking, but the fact that it's written as one continuous sentence. This page-long narrative depicts a mother instructing a girl on acting properly without a single period, yet completely correct grammar.

10. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This short story comes from 125 years ago but touches on a topic that is still incredibly relevant today: postpartum depression. When the narrator is taken to a vacation home in order to rest and recover from her own experience with the disease, she begins to obsess over the wallpaper. By the end of the story, you're left to question both the sanity of the narrator, and what exactly was going on behind the yellow wallpaper.


There are so many other works of literature that can spark an internal crisis. Many of Amber Sparks's short stories will have you questioning everything you know (see "Death and the People").

If reading isn't really your thing, short stories are a great way to get into it! It's amazing how just a few pages can blow your mind and get you to think way outside of the box.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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