Short Stories for Middle School
It can be a challenge to get young people interested in reading. Some students wouldn't consider reading a novel on their own time. The short story is a great place to start for those who don’t take to reading easily.
They’re also great for reading fans as a change of pace from novels. The world of the short story can be experienced in one uninterrupted sitting, and the best short stories are every bit as engaging and resonant as the best novels.
I hope you find some favorites here, and discover some new titles to add to that list.
Some of these stories are not as well known but all are worth a careful reading.
The Most Dangerous Game | Richard Connell
A man lost at sea swims to an island owned by General Zafoff. They bond over their love of hunting, but then the general reveals that he hunts people on his island. If his quarry can elude him for three days, they are free to go.
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America and I | Anzia Yezierska
An immigrant seeks a life of creative self-expression in America, but encounters disappointments and unfairness.
America and I vividly portrays the challenges of an immigrant. It deals with poverty and the role of charity.
To Build a Fire | Jack London
It's -75 degrees in the Yukon as a man travels on foot with his husky to meet up with some acquaintances. Despite travelling carefully, he breaks thru some ice and soaks his boots.
Indian Education | Sherman Alexie
A chronicle of Victor's life in school from grade 1 through high school. He's bullied, judged unfairly by teachers, and sees his classmates take wrong turns.
Black Boy | Kay Boyle
A young girl in a seaside city becomes friends with a black boy who earns money by pushing people around the boardwalk on a chair (similar to a rickshaw). One day she has an accident while riding her horse.
Black Boy comments on prejudice, childhood perceptions, and fantasy.
The Dog of Tithwal | Saadat Hasan Manto
Indian and Pakistani soldiers are entrenched in a standoff along their borders. A dog is sent back and forth between the camps.
The Dog of Tithwal contrasts humans with nature, darkness and light, and unity and separateness.
- Short Stories With a Twist Ending
A short description of famous short stories with a surprise ending.
The Moustache | Robert Cormier
Mike, seventeen-years-old, is going to Lawnrest Nursing Home to visit his grandmother. She has a chronic circulatory disease and a fading memory. He isn’t eager to make the visit, uncertain if his grandmother will be having one of her bad days.
The Green Leaves | Grace Ogot
In an African village, the men pursue a group of cattle thieves. Later, one of the villagers tries to steal from one of the dead thieves.
Read "The Green Leaves" (It's a bit faded. Increasing the size helps.)
The Green Leaves illustrates themes of greed, modernization, and community versus the individual.
A Visit of Charity | Eudora Welty
A fourteen-year-old girl visits an Old Ladies' Home. She is trying to earn points as part of her duties as a Campfire Girl. She is brought in to a room with two old residents. She tries to get thru it as best she can.
The Swimmer | John Cheever
An upper-class man, who spent the night at a friend’s place, makes his way home by going through his neighbors’ yards and swimming the length of their pools.
The Swimmer’s themes include denial and the emptiness of wealth.
The Lady, or the Tiger? | Frank Stockton
In ancient times, a king has an unusual method of putting criminals on trial. The man is placed in an arena with two identical doors. Behind one is a hungry tiger; behind the other door is a beautiful woman. The accused gets to open one of the doors, and chance decides whether he is guilty or innocent.
The Treasure in the Forest | H. G. Wells
Evans and Hooker are on a canoe approaching land. They are looking at a rough map they took from a Chinese man. They overheard him talking about a treasure he had found and reburied.
The Wives of the Dead | Nathaniel Hawthorne
Two women, who had married two brothers and lived in the same household, get the news on consecutive days of the death of their husbands.
It deals with reactions to loss, and blurs the lines between reality and dreams.
The Cask of Amontillado | Edgar Allan Poe
A man schemes to take revenge on someone who injured and insulted him.
This is a dark story with a lot of tension. There’s suspense in the physical action (will the narrator’s revenge be successful?) and the characterization (is the narrator reliable?), making it an engaging experience that’s worth a careful reading.
Night Drive | Will F. Jenkins
As Madge is getting ready to drive to Colchester, she gets a phone call from Mr. Tabor, who asks her if she would drive his niece Eunice back home. She agrees but is uncomfortable – Mr. Tabor’s wife was killed on the Colchester road along with another woman. Madge picks up Eunice; she finds her off-putting and unsettling.
The Wish | Roald Dahl
A young boy attempts to cross a long carpet in his home, imagining it to be full of snakes and hot coals.
Dahl is probably best known for his classics Charlie and the Chocolate factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda.
A Burlesque Biography | Mark Twain
Twain goes back hundreds of years to describe some of the notables in his family line.
A Burlesque Biography is a funny family history and when the reader realizes the subterfuge of the story it’s hard not to read it again.
The Scholarship Jacket | Marta Salinas
A fourteen-year-old girl is going to be awarded her school's scholarship jacket because she's been a straight A student for years, but a complication arises.
The Story of the Bad Little Boy | Mark Twain
A boy’s many misdeeds go unpunished.
This is a mockery of the many stories for children with a moral where the good are always rewarded and the bad always punished.
The Sentimentalists | Morley Callaghan
A department store detective watches three women. Two young men bet on which one is the real thief.
The Friday Everything Changed | Ann Hart
A girl in a small town classroom upsets the boys by challenging a local tradition.
The Carved Table | Mary Peterson
A woman goes to dinner with her new husband’s family and compares their values with the values of her and her first husband.
The Veldt | Ray Bradbury
A family lives in an automated house, including a virtual nursery for the children, which takes care of all their needs. The children plot to keep things the same when the parents decide to become more self-reliant by giving up some of their technology.
A Sound of Thunder | Ray Bradbury
A group of people take a hunting trip into the past but must be careful not to do anything that could affect the future.
Bradbury is best known for his classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.
Tobermory knows what you did
Tobermory | Saki
At a party, a man presents a cat that he has taught to speak. The cat embarrasses the guests by revealing things they’ve said about each other.
Civil Peace | Chinua Achebe
In post-civil war Nigeria, Jonathan Iwegbu and his family rebuild their lives.
This story deals with war, lawlessness, and the value of hard work.
Gabriel-Ernest | Saki
A man encounters a feral boy who later infiltrates his home.
Astronomer's Wife | Kay Boyle
Mrs. Ames deals with a plumber who comes to her home. She thinks about the differences between the plumber and her husband.
Astronomer’s Wife has a Joyce-style epiphany ending, and illustrates the conflict between body and mind.
The Lesson | Toni Cade Bambara
A teacher takes her inner-city class on a field trip to a high end toy store. They discuss the disparity of wealth in the world.
The Lesson deals with poverty, inequality, and resisting racism.
Araby | James Joyce
A boy goes to a bazaar to buy a present for his crush, the older sister of his friend.
Araby is one of the standout stories from the short story gold mine, Dubliners. It deals with alienation and transformation, has religious undertones and a characteristic Joycean “epiphany” ending.
The Night the Ghost Got In | James Thurber
In the middle of the night, the narrator reports hearing footsteps downstairs, causing his mother to call the police and his delusional grandfather to shoot one of the officers.
This humorous story finds comedy in common things. It deals with absurdity and defiance of authority and social norms.
© 2013 Howard Allen
More by this Author
Summary of and commentary on The Pelican by Edith Wharton, a short story from the collection The Greater Inclination.
A summary of Home with an analysis of theme.
Well-known, popular short short stories. Perfect for high school or middle school students, or anyone who loves reading.