To provide some balance to all my novel talk, I thought I’d post this, my list of “toolbox stories.” These are the stories I carry around with me in my handy-dandy toolbox, also called “my head.” When I read a short story or essay by a friend or student that needs some work, I think to myself, “What story does s/he really need to read? Of course! I know! S/he needs to read [blank].”

These are my go-to stories. I forced myself to limit some authors to just three stories.

Remember, everyone’s toolbox of stories is different. This is simply mine.

  • Conrad Aiken, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow”
  • Sherman Alexie, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”
  • Sherman Alexie, “What We Mean When We Say Phoenix, Arizona”
  • Sherwood Anderson, all the stories in Winesburg, Ohio
  • Sherwood Anderson, “Death in the Woods”
  • Margaret Atwood, “Death by Landscape”
  • Margaret Atwood, “Happy Endings”
  • James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”
  • Russell Banks, “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story”
  • Donald Barthelme, “Me and Miss Mandible”
  • Donald Barthelme, “The School”
  • Richard Bausch, “The Fireman’s Wife”
  • Charles Baxter, “Snow”
  • Charles Baxter, “Gryphon”
  • Ann Beattie, “Janus”
  • Ann Beattie, “The Burning House”
  • T.C. Boyle, “The Love of My Life”
  • T.C. Boyle, “Heart of a Champion”
  • T.C. Boyle, “The Women’s Restaurant”
  • Ethan Canin, “The Year of Getting to Know Us”
  • Ethan Canin, “The Emperor of the Air”
  • Raymond Carver, “Boxes”
  • Raymond Carver, “Are These Actual Miles?”
  • Raymond Carver, “Cathedral”
  • Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case”
  • Dan Chaon, “Big Me”
  • Dan Chaon, “Here’s a Little Something to Remember Me By”
  • Anton Chekhov, “The Lady with the Dog”
  • Charles Chesnutt, “The Goophered Grapevine”
  • Charles Chesnutt, “The Passing of Grandison”
  • Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”
  • Walter Van Tilburg Clark, “The Portable Phonograph”
  • Samuel Clemens, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”
  • Robert Coover, “The Babysitter”
  • Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat”
  • Stephen Crane, “The Blue Hotel”
  • Stephen Crane, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky”
  • Lydia Davis, “Kafka Cooks Dinner”
  • Rebecca Harding Davis, “Life in the Iron Mills”
  • Junot Diaz, “Fiesta, 1980″
  • Andre Dubus, “A Father’s Story”
  • Andre Dubus, “The Fat Girl”
  • Stuart Dybek, “Pet Milk”
  • Stuart Dybek, “We Didn’t”
  • Tony Earley, “Charlotte”
  • Tony Early, “My Father’s Heart”
  • Ralph Ellison, “The Battle Royal”
  • Louise Erdrich, “The Red Convertible”
  • William Faulkner, “A Rose for Miss Emily”
  • William Faulkner, “Barn Burning”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Winter Dreams”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”
  • Gustave Flaubert, “A Simple Heart”
  • Richard Ford, “Communist”
  • Richard Ford, “Rock Springs”
  • Mary Wilkins Freeman, “The Revolt of ‘Mother'”
  • Mary Gaitskill, “Tiny, Smiling Daddy”
  • Hamlin Garland, “Under the Lion’s Paw”
  • William Gass, “In the Heart of the Heart of the Country”
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
  • Susan Glaspell, “A Jury of Her Peers”
  • Barry Hannah, “Testimony of Pilot”
  • Bret Harte, “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Minister’s Black Veil”
  • Ernest Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants”
  • Ernest Hemingway, “Soldier’s Home”
  • Ernest Hemingway, “Indian Camp”
  • Aleksandar Hemon, “The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders”
  • Aleksandar Hemon, “The Noble Truths of Suffering”
  • Amy Hempel, “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried”
  • Amy Hempel, “The Man in Bogot”
  • Cary Holloday, “Merry Go Sorry”
  • Mary Hood, “How Far She Went”
  • Pam Houston, “How to Talk to a Hunter”
  • Zora Neale Hurston, “The Gilded Six Bits”
  • Washington Irving, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
  • Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle”
  • Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”
  • Sarah Orne Jewett, “The White Heron”
  • Denis Johnson, “Car Crash While Hitchhiking”
  • James Joyce, “Araby”
  • Anna Keesey, “Be My Boo Radley”
  • Ring Lardner, “Haircut”
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
  • Kelly Link, “Stone Animals”
  • Bernard Malamud, “The Magic Barrel”
  • Katherine Mansfield, “Bliss”
  • Katherine Mansfield, “Miss Brill”
  • Bobbie Ann Mason, “Shiloh”
  • Guy de Maupassant, “The Necklace”
  • Reginald McKnight, “The Kind of Light that Shines on Texas”
  • Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener”
  • Susan Minot, “Lust”
  • Rick Moody, “The Grid”
  • Rick Moody, “Demonology”
  • Lorrie Moore, “People Like that Are the Only People Here”
  • Lorrie Moore, “How to be a Writer”
  • Lorrie Moore, “You’re Ugly, Too”
  • Alice Munro, “Friend of My Youth”
  • Alice Munro, “Meneseteung”
  • Joyce Carol Oates, “Where are You Going? Where Have You Been?”
  • Joyce Carol Oates, “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again”
  • Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”
  • Tim O’Brien, “The Lives of the Dead”
  • Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”
  • Flannery O’Connor, “Everything That Rises Must Converge”
  • Flannery O’Connor, “Good Country People”
  • Tillie Olson, “I Stand Here Ironing”
  • Grace Paley, “Conversation with My Father”
  • Dorothy Parker, “Big Blonde”
  • Jayne Anne Phillips, “Lechery”
  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”
  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat”
  • Katherine Anne Porter, “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”
  • William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), “The Gift of the Magi”
  • Anne Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain”
  • Annie Proulx, “Job History”
  • Annie Proulx, “The Bunchgrass Edge of the World”
  • Mark Richard, “Strays”
  • Mark Richard, “The Birds for Christmas”
  • Mary Robison, “Coach”
  • Mary Robison, “Pretty Ice”
  • Philip Roth, “Defender of the Faith”
  • Delmore Schwartz, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”
  • George Saunders, “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline”
  • George Saunders, “Sea Oak”
  • George Saunders, “In Persuasion Nation”
  • Lee Smith, “Intensive Care”
  • John Steinbeck, “The Chrysanthemums”
  • James Thurber, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
  • John Updike, “A&P”
  • John Updike, “Separating”
  • Kurt Vonnegut, “Welcome to the Monkey House”
  • Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”
  • Alice Walker, “1955”
  • David Foster Wallace, “The Depressed Person”
  • Eudora Welty, “The Worn Path”
  • Eudora Welty, “Where is the Voice Coming From?”
  • Eudora Welty, “The Petrified Man”
  • Edith Wharton, “Roman Fever”
  • John Edgar Wideman, “newborn thrown in trash and dies”
  • William Carlos Williams, “The Use of Force”
  • Tobias Wolff, “Bullet in the Brain”
  • Tobias Wolff, “Hunters in the Snow”
  • Tobias Wolff, “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs”
  • Richard Wright, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man”
  • Richard Wright, “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow”
  • Richard Wright, “Big Boy Leaves Home”