These stories have characters motivated by greed and selfishness, and often show the effect this has on them and others.
These stories might interest an avid reader, or might be suitable short stories for middle school kids.
The Gold of Tomas Vargas | Isabel Allende
Tomas Vargas is a miserly, adulterous, and abusive man who is disliked by everyone in town. One day a young woman, one of Tomas’s affairs, comes looking for him. His wife is furious and finally takes a stand against him.
A Funeral | August Strindberg
Some men sitting in a tavern discuss the funeral procession going on outside. A clerk has died. He labored for his mother and sisters. When he told them he was getting married, they made things difficult for him.
The Necklace | Guy De Maupassant
Mathilde borrows a necklace from a rich friend to wear to a party, but she loses it.
Man from the South | Roald Dahl
An older man bets a younger man that he can’t light his lighter ten times in a row without missing one. He puts up his Cadillac, but the young man has to risk the pinky of his left hand.
The Green Leaves | Grace Ogot
African villagers look for a group of cattle thieves. One of the villagers tries to steal from one of the dead thieves.
A Mother | James Joyce
Mrs. Kearney arranges for her daughter to play the piano at a series of concerts. The concerts are poorly attended, and Mrs. Kearney worries that her fee will be withheld.
After the Storm | Ernest Hemingway
A fisherman comes across a sunken ship and tries to plunder its riches.
The Pearl | John Steinbeck
Kino is a poor Mexican pearl diver. Kino’s baby gets stung by a scorpion but he doesn’t have enough money to pay the doctor. He goes diving and finds the “pearl of the world” – the largest pearl he has ever seen. It seems like a great blessing but it brings out the worst in everyone.
This story is a novella.
The Red-Headed League | Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes is visited by Mr. Jabez Wilson, a man with striking red hair. Wilson had responded to an ad in the paper from the Red-Headed League. He was hired to copy from the encyclopedia for four hours a day. One day he showed up for work but the League was gone without explanation.
Captain Rogers | W. W. Jacobs
After a long walk, a stranger enters town and goes to an inn, The Golden Key. He demands to speak to the landlord, whom he calls Rogers. The landlord says his name is Mullet. The stranger says there is a hundred guineas on the head of his old shipmate, Rogers, and demands clothes, food, lodging, and money. The landlord reluctantly starts to accommodate his visitor.
I will try to add more stories that could be helpful for teaching reading and reading comprehension to middle or high school students. Eventually, I hope these pages will become a teaching resource.