For the Love of Short Stories

Here’s a cringe-worthy disclosure: I wrote a short story collection way back in high school. It was part of my senior year thesis, a requirement for graduation. Our school had its own publishing arm that printed anthologies and literary titles, and to my knowledge, mine was the only one they never released.

The admin at that time held a strictly conservative view on art. They questioned many aspects of my collection. Why write in colloquial Filipino? Why center the theme on something so bleak like poverty and political unrest? My biggest influences then were the prose of Jun Cruz Reyes and Lualhati Bautista, and the poetry of Emman Lacaba.

The school decided that my language was too vulgar and the theme was too mature for my age. They had a point. But I was a typical teenager with a penchant for romanticizing identity and selfhood. Ultimately I felt defeated and, ah, misunderstood.

That collection started and ended my writing career. I was 16.

What didn’t end, however, was my love for short stories. High school was a shit-bomb, but it condoned and honed my nascent love for reading. I was acquainted with kids who were voracious readers, and often I felt intimidated by their ability to devour advanced books. My roommates, for example, could already tackle Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters and Krip Yuson’s Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café at 14. Meanwhile I could barely even endure Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which was stylistically a children’s book.

This struggle stemmed from my discomfort with the English language. Even if I could understand the words as independent units, it was an entirely different endeavor to find their meanings between the lines. Have you ever read a novel and thought, ugh, ba’t hindi ko ma-gets? That was me, even over the simplest of texts.

And then came short stories.

Unlike full length novels, short stories could be read in a matter of minutes. That’s the clincher: the fact that these stories are short, brief, but not always to the point, still allowing some space for critical interpretation. Short stories also capture moments, not sagas — and I think that’s beautiful.

My appreciation for short stories have only gone deeper now that I am older. They’re like precious little kittens that I could keep, and they’re always there for me without demanding so much of my time. (I think I’m a dog person though, but that’s beyond the point.)

Below is a list of short stories in English that I compiled. I didn’t write a blurb for each of them, but hopefully this post is enough to encourage more people to give them a try. Some stories are shorter than others, and a few may be a little dense for the casual reader. But I have read them and I have loved them, and I am hoping that you, dear stranger, would also find joy in keeping them.

“Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood

“Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff

“Apollo” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“The Miracle Worker” by Mia Alvar*

“Zoetrope” by Richard Calayeg Cornelio

“In a Grove” by Ryosuke Akutagawa

“In The Garden” by Jose Dalisay Jr.

“Dead Stars” by Paz Marquez Benitez

“May Day Eve” by Nick Joaquin

“A Ghost Story” by Francezca Kwe

“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Kurt Vonnegut

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin

The featured image includes photos that were outsourced via Google (1) (2) (3).

*I did not find “The Miracle Worker” online, but it’s part of Mia Alvar’s short story collection In the Country, of which I have a copy. The collection explores themes on Filipino diaspora with particular attention to the immigrant experience in the Middle East. You can email me if you want to read it. And if you enjoy it, I suggest you get your own copy because I think it’s worth the money.

24 thoughts on “For the Love of Short Stories”

  1. Omg i thought i liked short stories but havent ready anything on this list. So…I just read the May Day Eve! 😭 Will be reading the rest for sure. Gusto ko tlaga short stories plus Philn setting pa. Thank you for the recommendations! ❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, did you like May Day Eve? If you did, you might want to try Joaquin’s other works as well! And among the works in this list, I highly suggest “Dead Stars” — it’s considered to be the first Philippine short story in English. It’s a pioneer, so to speak, and I’ve seen its plot reflected in other art forms like movies, songs, etc. 🙂


        1. Truth hahaha. Naalala kita d’yan dahil sa palm trees, hehe, at naalala ko rin ‘yung times na malungkot ka kahit nasa paraiso ka (huhu). Pero mukha namang panatag at payapa ka ngayon batay sa recent posts mo. Belated happy happy happy Halloween! Charat hahaha. 😁


    1. Saya ng Happy Endings ‘di ba? Parang plot notes lang, very “post-modern” haha. Favorite line ko d’yan sa Postcards ‘yung “…too sweet / like a mango on the verge / of rot…” Ganda ng juxtapozishun hahaha. 😍

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Teka, marami akong kuda dito.

    Nabasa ko na volumes 4 to 7 ng PSF. Palagi kong iniisip hanggang ngayon na kung may Hollywood-level CGI capabilities lang ang industriya natin, wild sa ganda siguro ng spec-fic movies na kaya nating gawin. Kasi andiyan na ‘yung writers at imagination e.

    Zoetrope — amazing lang na parang 19-year-old lang ‘yung nagsulat nito, pero medyo mature subject, at siyempre mahusay pagkakasulat.

    In a Grove — pinabasa samin sa high school, first unreliable narrator story I’ve ever read (dapat lang haha). Antagal bago ko nalaman na ito pala source ng Rashomon ni Kurosawa. Wala lang, ‘di ko pa naman napapanood ‘yung Rashomon.

    Dead Stars — classic introductory text ng Phil. lit. diba? Pero amazed ako sa ending about dead stars, kasi ang scientific nung concept diba, for such an old story.

    May Day Eve — favorite Nick Joaquin short ko ‘yung Guardia de Honor, kasi mas action-packed kaysa dito. Mas cinematic sa imagination ko e.

    A Ghost Story — haven’t read this, pero share ko lang na naging prof ko sa CW10 si Ma’am Kwe. I don’t like writing poetry (‘di ko alam na poetry ‘yung course, I was hoping na fiction o at least split sa poetry and fiction), pero dahil high-standards prof siya, ‘di ko makakalimutan ‘yung compliment niya sakin, one of the most inspiring I’ve received as a writer. I have that sense of the poetic syntax daw. Pero apparently I still could’t write good poems, ‘di umabot ng line of one grade ko haha.

    The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas — basahin ko ‘to. Nalaman ko lang ‘to from a tech criticism blog; the story is a metaphor daw for the (costly) choice to turn away from technology, or more specifically, the ‘technological complex’.

    Aaat, ‘di ako naniniwalang tapos na dapat writing career mo. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oy Deej! (Wuw, close?) ‘Yung PSF samplers pa lang ang nababasa ko. Ang mahal magpa-ship ng libro e, at puro sa Kindle lang available ang e-books (wala akong Kindle). Sana magtuloy-tuloy ang pagiging sci-fi oriented ng ToFarm! Malay mo ito ang susi, char.

      I think 18 lang si Richard n’ung nanalo ‘yung Zoetrope sa Palanca. Baka mas bata pa siya n’ung sinulat niya ‘yung kwento (amazing). Nagsusulat din siya para sa Rebel Kule. Sayang hindi siya pinayagan ng admin na mag-take ng editorial exam. Nabasa ko ‘yung editorial pieces niya. Mahusay na bata, baka siya pa ‘yung naging editor-in-chief ngayon.

      Sa high school ko rin nabasa ang In a Grove! Pinapanood din sa amin ‘yung Rashomon. In hindsight, feeling ko Kurosawa fangirl ‘yung teacher namin. Sa class ko rin napanood ‘yung Dreams at Seven Samurai e, kahit barely related sila sa mismong lessons haha.

      Very scientific nga ang ending ng Dead Stars, and I loved it! 🙂 May isang Eheads-themed Star Cinema movie noon na hinango sa Dead Stars ang twist. Chakadoll ‘yung pelikula, ‘wag mo nang hanapin. Hahaha.

      Hindi ko pa nababasa ang Guardia de Honor. Wala pa akong access sa Joaquin book na inilathala ng Penguin (d’un mo ba ito nabasa?). Babasahin ko kapag nakahanap/nakabili ako ng kopya.

      By any chance nabasa mo na ang The Last Question ni Isaac Asimov? Kung hindi pa, basahin mo please! Speculative hanash on entropy, interstellar travel, human existence, etc. I think it’s right up your alley. Pwedeng mali ako, pero it’s worth reading pa rin.

      Nagustuhan mo Omelas? It poses an interesting ethical question ‘no? Magandang inuman topic. Pwedeng matapos agad ‘yung usapan o pwede ring humaba nang humaba, depende sa mga kausap haha.

      Yez naging prof mo si Kit Kwe! Sobrang mythical ng existence niya para sa akin. Never ko pa siyang nakita, pero ang narinig ko siya raw ang titural “nymph of MTV,” ang musa sa mga tula ni Angelo Suarez noon. Naks naman sa poetic syntax! I don’t know what that is, haha, pero I like reading your prose — there’s an aural cadence to it, naririnig ko habang binabasa. Pwede pabasa ng mga tula mo? Dali na! Hehehe. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha okay lang! I’m always amazed na people independently come up with Deej from DJ. I couldn’t have thought of it myself e. Samantalang ikaw pala-isipan parin kahit tunay na palayaw man lang! Pero I respect your anonymity, kuntento ako sa Jolens haha.

        Sa ko nabili ‘yung PSF 7. Though ‘di ko ma-access website nila ngayon.

        Sayang! Anong issue ng admin sa kaniya?

        Sige ‘di ko papanoorin, pero ano at least ‘yung title? 😛

        Yep, sa Penguin compilation ko nabasa ‘yung Guardia de Honor. Pero bigyan kita copy!

        Binasa ko kanina habang nakapila for tickets sa UP gym haha. You’re right! There’s a reason some of my all-time favorite films are Interstellar and Arrival. Iba ‘yung transcendent feelings na binibigay ng cosmology e. Gets mo ‘yung it’s science, but imbued with a religious kind of awe (or despair, in the case of the idea of entropy). That’s why I wasn’t surprised the story ended that way, but I still like how it really went there. Kaya lang mas gusto ko parin ‘yung mas personal na drama na meron ang stories like Interstellar, masyadong impersonal ‘yung ganitong hard sci-fi e.

        Loved it! Funny din na the first paragraph reminded me so much of Guardia de Honor’s first paragraph. (A relatively famous paragraph, ni-reuse ni Mang Nicomedes sa Portrait e.) Pero after that, ang saya. Ang clever at self-aware ni Le Guin.

        Ngayon ko lang narinig ‘yan, pero tama lang, kasi wala pa akong kilalang nakakita kay Ma’am Kwe at hindi nagandahan sa kaniya. Aww, thanks. I guess that’s what most of poetic syntax means, ‘yung cadence, saka ‘yung sense of what kinds of phrases should go where. Binasa ko ngayon after six years mga tula ko, medyo nakakahiya, pero game ako kung magpapabasa ka din ng maikling kwento mo. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ang bulk ng reply ko ay naroon na sa Twitter, haha. Anyway, ‘pag may nabasa akong magandang cosmology-based personal dramarama sci-fi, padala ko sa ‘yo! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi. Salamat sa follow. Loved Miracle Worker, pati na rin Shadow Families in In the Country. I recommend Wenlock Edge by Alice Munro. Wouldn’t want to ruin it for you, pero ang tagal ko siyang inisip. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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