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14 Excellent Literary Works You Can Read In The Time It Takes You To Have Lunch

We tend to believe that we don’t have time to read, especially when it comes to quality literature.

Life is hectic, jobs keep us busy, and it’s much easier to click through photo after photo than to fully immerse yourself in dense reading. But with these short and incredibly beautiful stories, all you need is a couple of minutes (lunchtime, for example) to read great works by the best writers. These stories are poignant revelations about life, only spanning a couple of pages and readable in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee.

Here are some of these great stories (and some spoilers).

1. “Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood

John and Mary meet.
What happens next?
If you want a happy ending, choose A.

Thus begins the daring and creative story of Atwood, which at least aims to give the reader the possibility to choose which end he wants for the story of the two characters. Although the author offers different endings as if they were part of a multiple-choice test, the story makes it clear that there is really only one ending to the entire story.

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 2. “Pygmalion” by John Updike

Inspired by the story of Ovid’s Metamorphosis Pygmalion, the story is about a sculptor who falls in love with a statue he sculpts. Updike reveals the narcissism that we all confer on love through this narrative.

Updike makes every sentence in this short story count, surprising readers with an unexpected twist to each paragraph. Before long, we began to wonder how much of a relationship is based on who the other person really is and how much is based on how we shape that person.


 3. “The Sock” by Lydia Davis

Davis has the incredible ability to reveal the sharpest truths of human existence through the everyday. “The Sock” is the perfect example of that skill, capturing all the tension that comes with meeting an ex’s new partner by reflecting on a simple sock.

With intimate and minute details, such as remembering the way his ex put his feet when reading, Davis describes a scenario with which the vast majority can relate.

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 4. ‘Once’ by Sandra Cisneros

Cisneros manages to capture over and over again what it means to be a child and the overwhelming shame that accompanies childhood. This story about a child’s 11th birthday perfectly portrays what it feels like to be that age and how that feeling never completely leaves us. In the words of Cisneros: “The way you age is like an onion or rings inside the trunk of a tree” You can add experiences, but you always keep the child in you.


5. “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway manages to take a seemingly simple conversation in a few pages and charge it with intensity and despair. The story shows a casual conversation between a couple, but reading between the lines reveals that this simple conversation hides deep pain. The story is set in Spain, and while the dialogue seems trivial and every day, it reflects the kind of jokes universally used by any couple trying to ignore the “elephant” in the room.


6. “Real Food” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie, the author of the celebrated novel Americanah, explores her heritage and family through her hatred of garri, a traditional Nigerian food. She discovers that not eating the food sets her free and separates her from her family at the same time. This short story masterfully explores what it means to belong to a culture.

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7. ‘Reunion’ by John Cheever

In this short tale, Cheever tells the classic story of a long-awaited reunion gone awry, telling it in a completely unique way. By exploring an unconventional father-son relationship, Cheever illustrates both guilt and disappointment without referring to it explicitly. The circular narrative structure, which begins and ends with reference to the last time the son saw his father, highlights the low probability of reconciliation.


8. “One Hour Story” by Kate Chopin

This 19th-century southern writer developed feminist themes in her novel El Despertar. In this short, witty, and poignant story, Chopin examines how marriage can become a prison for women no matter how full of love.


9. “The School” by Donald Barthelme

Told from the point of view of a schoolmaster who appears to be stalked by death, this strange story quickly escalates. The deaths intensify; They range from trees to fish, to a cub, to humans. All this with the narrator trying to coldly think that nothing bad is happening.

Barthelme never uses a word unnecessarily. Instead, use avoidance techniques and ellipses to highlight that something is missing. An absurd but perfectly crafted world is presented, testimony to Barthelme’s postmodernism, where nothing is what it seems.


10. “Those who abandon Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin

Le Guin maintains a dialogue with his readers by describing the Omelas community, which appears to be immensely happy.

This witty story takes an unexpected turn when we learn the dark secret behind this universal happiness. At the end of the story, it’s hard not to think that there may be more important and unexpected things than being happy.


11. “Adams” by George Saunders

This author is the king of writing with unreliable storytellers. In less than two pages, Saunders gets his readers to question even their own sanity. Through the story of an overprotective father, desperate to protect his children from his neighbor, Saunders manages to blur the lines so expertly that he casts doubt on which is the greater risk: the external threat or our own fear.


12. “Boys and Girls” by Alice Munro

This Nobel Prize winner is an expert in short stories, and this is one of her shorter works. The story subtly alludes to gender-based roles, telling the story of a young woman growing up in the family fox fur business.

Through this story, Munro portrays the painful process of growing up while yearning for freedom. In Munro’s words, “A girl was not, as I had assumed, simply what I was. It was what I had to become ”.


13. “The curved mirror” by Antón Chekhov

Nellie looks into a mirror and sees her future, which involves a desperate and desperate attempt to save her husband from typhus. The story shows the battle of a young woman who believes in the power of love even when facing the harsh reality of life. The surprising ending shows how quickly those realities can be forgotten.


14. “The Last Night in the World” by Ray Bradbury

Sci-fi legend Bradbury wrote this story as part of a twelve-volume series for Esquire magazine in 1951. The author explores a world in which everyone has the same dream that the world is going to end. However, no one panics. On the contrary, the world’s undeclared end brings a kind of tranquility to society, with all the inhabitants going about their daily routine exactly as planned. The story leaves you wondering what exactly you would do if you found out that the world is coming to an end.

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