Best Short Stories for Middle Schoolers (& High School)

This page lists some stories that might be suitable for middle and high school students. They’re divided into their own sections, but this is only a rough guide.

Stories considered appropriate for students of different ages will vary by school and classroom. Teachers and other educators will have to consider the standards for their own area and use their own judgment. These stories have been read by many students. I hope you find something enjoyable and educational.

Short Stories for Middle School

“The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty

At night a sniper waits on a rooftop. He risks lighting a cigarette which alerts a nearby sniper of his presence. They exchange some fire. The sniper feels trapped, but he knows he has to get off the roof before enemy forces converge on him. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier

Lizabeth recalls a time when she was fourteen, in Maryland, during the Depression. A woman in her neighborhood, Miss Lottie, lives in a dilapidated home, but has a colorful marigold garden. She’s an outcast, and the children make her a target of taunts. (Summary & Analysis)

This is the first story in the preview of Breeder and Other Stories

“To Build a Fire” by Jack London

A man is traveling on foot in the Yukon with a husky. He’s headed for a camp where there’ll be companions, fire and hot food. It’s –75 degrees and even though he’s careful, he breaks through some ice and soaks his boots. There’s a limited amount of time for him to get a fire going.

Read “To Build a Fire” (Includes Summary & Analysis)

“Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes

Mrs. Luella Jones, a large woman with a large purse, is walking home late at night in Harlem. A boy rushes up behind her and tries to grab her purse, but the strap breaks and he falls down. Mrs. Jones grabs the boy and brings him to her apartment. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “Thank You, Ma’am”

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

A woman receives the news that her husband has been killed in a train accident. She processes the news over the next hour, experiencing a range of emotions.

“The Story of an Hour” (Includes Analysis)

“The Landlady” by Roald Dahl

Billy Weaver, a seventeen-year-old salesman, gets into town at night. Looking for some accommodations, he finds a private bed and breakfast that looks pleasant and comfortable. He was headed for a hotel, but he feels drawn to this place. He rings the bell. (Summary and Analysis)

Read “The Landlady”

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

A man is on a bridge in Alabama, his hands bound and a rope around his neck. He’s a civilian, a confederate sympathizer, and is being held by Federal soldiers. He’s been sentenced to hang from Owl Creek Bridge during the American civil war.

Read “An Occurrence . . .” (Includes Analysis)

“Dead Men’s Path” by Chinua Achebe

The new headmaster of an African school wants to modernize it and rid the locals of their superstitious beliefs. He blocks off part of the school grounds, even though that means blocking a path with great religious significance for the locals. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“The Moustache” by 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. (Summary & Analysis)

“The Moustache”

“Charles” by Shirley Jackson

Laurie starts kindergarten and comes home every day with stories of a classmate, Charles, who’s constantly getting in trouble for being “fresh”. Laurie’s parents wonder about Charles’ parents and worry that he’s a bad influence on their son. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“The Open Window” by Saki

A man is visiting the country for some relaxation. While waiting to be introduced to all the members of the household, a young girl tells him the story of their tragic family history. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “The Open Window”

“The Scholarship Jacket” by Marta Salinas

A fourteen-year-old girl in a small town Texas school has been a straight A student for eight years. This means she will be awarded the school’s scholarship jacket, but a complication arises. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “The Scholarship Jacket”

“The Stolen Party” by Liliana Heker

Rosaura has been invited to Luciana’s birthday party. Rosaura’s mother works as a maid for Luciana’s mother. She doesn’t like the idea of her daughter going to “a rich people’s party.” (Summary & Analysis)

Read “The Stolen Party”

“Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan

Lindo is a mother and a Chinese immigrant. Her daughter, Waverly, is American born. Their mother/daughter relationship is explored as the daughter learns to play chess and progresses from her first tournament at age eight and continues as she becomes a stronger player. (Summary and Analysis)

This is the second story in the preview of Growing Up Ethnic in America: Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American.

“Cemetery Path” by Leonard Q. Ross

Ivan is known in his village as a timid, fearful man. When he walks home at night he goes the long way around the cemetery, even though it’s cold. One night he is challenged to cross the cemetery. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “Cemetery Path”

“The Treasure of Lemon Brown” by Walter Dean Myers

Greg Ridley is a fourteen-year-old student in danger of failing math. His father tells him he can’t play basketball anymore. While out walking one night, Greg takes refuge in an abandoned tenement building. He finds a local homeless man there, Lemon Brown. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“The Flowers” by Alice Walker

Myop is a ten-year-old girl who is out exploring the woods behind her family’s sharecropper cabin on a beautiful summer day. As she starts to head home she makes a shocking discovery. (Summary & Analysis)

“The Flowers” is the fourth story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story. (88% in)

“An Hour with Abuelo” by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Arturo doesn’t want to visit his grandfather in a nursing home during his summer vacation, but he gives in to his mother’s urging. His grandfather’s body is giving out but his mind is sharp. He tells Arturo the story of his life, which included teaching, the army, farming, and a love of books and learning. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “An Hour with Abuelo”

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

On a summer morning, citizens of a small village are anticipating the annual “lottery”, a local tradition that is believed to bring a good harvest. The children gather first, making their usual preparations. The women and men arrive and make sure their whole family is present. Mr. Summers arrives with the black wooden box.

This story can be read in the preview of Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories(10% in)

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury

At 7 AM an automated house rings the alarm clock and prepares breakfast. It gives some practical reminders and says it’s time to go to school and work. Otherwise, the house is strangely silent.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” is the tenth story in the Amazon preview of The Stories of Ray Bradbury.

“The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs

The Whites live in an out-of-the-way place, and the weather is bad. Despite this, they receive a visit from Sergeant-Major Morris, who tells them interesting stories. Mr. White urges him to tell the story of something he had only mentioned before, a monkey’s paw. The visitor is hesitant, but he tells it.

This story can be read in the preview of The Monkey’s Paw and Other Tales.

“The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton

A long time ago, a barbaric king had a peculiar method of putting criminals on trial. They’re placed in an arena and the public is allowed to attend the proceedings. The accused is brought out before the king. Opposite him are two doors. Behind one is a beautiful woman; behind the other, a hungry tiger. The accuser must choose.

This is the first story in the preview of The Lady, or the Tiger? and Other Stories(Select Paperback preview first, then Kindle)

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

A poor husband and wife try to figure out how to get each other a nice Christmas present. Despite saving, Della is low on money. She realizes she does have something valuable.

This is the first story in the preview of The Gift of the Magi and Other Stories.

“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

An unnamed narrator describes how he killed a man; he tries to convince his listener of his sanity and wisdom. He believed his boarder, an old man, watched him with an “Evil Eye.”

This is the second story in the preview of Great American Short Stories.

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

All Americans are equal—no one is allowed to be better than anyone else in any way. An exceptional fourteen-year-old, Harrison, is taken away from his parents by the government.

This is the first story in the preview of Welcome to the Monkey House: Stories.

“The Fun They Had” by Isaac Asimov

In the year 2157 Tommy finds a real book. It is about how school was in the old days. He and Margie talk about how different school used to be with human teachers.

This story can be read in the preview of 50 Short Science Fiction Tales(Pg. 25)

“The School” by Donald Barthelme

A teacher relates all of the experiences with death that his class has in a single school year.

This is the second story in the preview of The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction(41% into preview)

“Raymond’s Run” by Toni Cade Bambara

A young girl, Hazel, trains for a May Day race while looking after her older, mentally challenged brother, Raymond. Hazel is known as the fastest runner in her neighborhood and is determined to live up to her reputation.

Read here

“A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury

In the future, a company offers guided hunting safaris into the past to kill dinosaurs. Extreme care is taken to ensure nothing happens that could alter the present.

Read “A Sound of Thunder” (PDF Pg. 3)

“All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

Humans are living on Venus. The children are eagerly awaiting an event that scientists have confirmed: it will stop raining for two hours, the only break from rain in seven years. The kids speculate about what the sun is like. One student remembers the sun from earth, but the others don’t believe her.

“The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell

Raisnsford is on a ship headed for the Amazon. He’s a big-game hunter. While on the afterdeck smoking his pipe, he hears the sound of gunshots in the distance. When he investigates, an accident puts him in a dangerous situation.

Read “The Most Dangerous Game”

“The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury

A family lives in a futuristic house that automatically meets all their needs, including a nursery for the children that can create any scene they want. The parents are thinking about reducing their reliance on technology by taking a break from the nursery and all the automation, but the children are against the idea.

Read “The Veldt”

“Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl

Mrs. Maloney’s husband comes home from work in a bad mood. He eventually tells her that he’s leaving her. She is dazed by the news. She automatically starts getting supper ready. She selects a frozen leg of lamb from the deep freeze.

Read here

“The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst

The narrator, Brother, reminisces about the time a rare bird landed in his family’s garden, and about his brother, Doodle, who was physically disabled and mentally challenged.

“The Friday Everything Changed” by Anne Hart

In a small town classroom, a girl challenges a local tradition that is only carried out by the boys.

Read here

“The Interlopers” by Saki

Ulrich is out patrolling his forest with a rifle. He’s not hunting the usual game; he wants to catch his neighbor, Georg, poaching on his land. Their families have a long standing feud over the territory, going back to their grandfathers. They hate each other intensely. Ulrich leaves his men on a hill and walks deeper into the growth.

Read “The Interlopers”

Short Stories for High School

“The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams

A doctor makes a house call to examine a young girl. He finds that she has hidden the severity of her illness and she resists the examination, leading to a battle of wills. (Summary and Analysis)

Read here

“A & P” by John Updike

Three young women wearing bathing suits enter a grocery store. Sammy, a nineteen-year-old cashier, watches them as they move through the aisles. He focuses in particular on one he calls Queenie, who looks like the leader of the group. The other employees and customers also notice the girls. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“The Chaser” by John Collier

Alan Austen enters an out-of-the-way shop. It’s tiny with little furniture. The merchant, an old man, only has about a dozen jars and bottles for sale. He talks about one of his offerings which is very expensive. Alan is looking for a love potion. He’s concerned about the price of such a valuable mixture. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “The Chaser”

“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid

In this prose/poem hybrid, a mother gives her daughter some advice about how to behave and on becoming a woman. (Summary and Analysis)

“Girl” is the sixth story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story.

“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe

The narrator, Montresor, tells the story of how he sought revenge against a man, Fortunato, who insulted him. He was careful to hide his feeling of ill-will toward the man. They meet one evening at a carnival, after Fortunato has been drinking. Using Fortunato’s knowledge of wine as bait, Montresor gets him to insist on a visit.

Read “The Cask of Amontillado” (Includes Summary & Analysis)

“A Continuity of Parks” by Julio Cortázar

A man returns to a novel he has been reading for a few days. At his estate, in his study, he sits in his favorite chair and starts the last few chapters. The story comes back to him easily, and he becomes immersed in the narrative again. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “A Continuity of Parks”

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

A Southern spinster, Emily Grierson, has died. She had been a recluse, so the townspeople are curious about her and her house. The narrator recounts episodes from her life. (Summary & Analysis)

This story can be read in the preview of A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. (18% into preview)

“Condensed Milk” by Varlam Shalamov

The narrator is in a Russian labor camp working in a mine. He envies Shestakov, an engineer-geologist who works in the office. While longing for some bread, the narrator is approached by Shestakov. They walk behind the barracks to talk. Shestakov has an escape plan. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “Condensed Milk”

“Say Yes” by Tobias Wolff

While doing the dishes together, a husband and wife start discussing interracial marriage. The wife thinks it is fine, but the husband believes the cultural differences would be insurmountable. (Summary & Analysis)

“The Falling Girl” by Dino Buzzati

Marta, a nineteen-year-old, let’s herself fall off a skyscraper balcony after looking at the rich, important people in the city. She doesn’t fall in real-time; she has interactions on the way down and sees others falling as well. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“King of the Bingo Game” by Ralph Ellison

A black man sits through a movie, waiting for the bingo game to follow. He’s very hungry but knows he can’t ask to share anyone’s food, because things in New York aren’t like back South. He’s unemployed and has no money. He needs to win the bingo jackpot so he can take his sick wife to the doctor. (Summary & Analysis)

“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker

Mama is an African-American woman living in the Deep South with her daughter, Maggie. Her other daughter, Dee, an educated woman who’s drawn to a traditional African identity, is coming for a visit. (Summary & Analysis)

“In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” by Amy Hempel

The narrator visits her friend, who is dying of cancer, in a California hospital. The friend wants to talk about trivial things. The narrator has waited two months to visit. (Summary & Analysis)

Read “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried”

“One of These Days” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A corrupt mayor needs treatment for an abscessed tooth. He goes to an unlicensed dentist. The dentist doesn’t want to help, and they exchange some words. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

Mathilde is married to a minor government official. They’re of modest means, but Mathilde has expensive tastes. When they get invited to a party, she borrows a necklace from a rich friend.

Read “The Necklace”

“Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway

During the Spanish Civil War, an old man sits on the roadside, exhausted and discouraged.  Everyone is fleeing from the advancing Fascist army.

This is the fourth story in the preview of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway(92% in)

“Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin

Desiree had been adopted as a toddler. She is now an adult with a baby of her own. She and her husband, Armand, are very happy. After a while, there are some whispers about the baby’s background.

This story can be read by selecting it in the table of contents of The Awakening, and Selected Short Stories.

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Ernest Hemingway

On the African savannah, a man’s leg is rotting with gangrene. His wife tries to comfort and encourage him. As he waits for death, he thinks about his life.

This is the third story in the preview of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway(62% into the preview)

“The Fly” by Katherine Mansfield

Old Mr. Woodifield visits his former boss at work. When Woodifield mentions their sons who were killed in World War I, the boss becomes disturbed.

This is the second story in the preview of 50 Greatest Short Stories.

“The Garden-Party” by Katherine Mansfield

The Sheridans, an upper-class family, are making preparations for a garden party. Before it starts, they hear that a working-class neighbor has just died.

This is the first story in the preview of 50 Great Short Stories.

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin

The narrator, a high school teacher, reads in the paper that his younger brother, Sonny, has been arrested for dealing heroin. Their lives have gone quite differently—Sonny, a jazz musician and drug user, and the narrator who is educated and living in a middle-class neighborhood—so the narrator feels guilt over not having been able to help his brother more.

Read “Sonny’s Blues”

“The Guest” by Albert Camus

An Arab prisoner is brought to the home of a teacher, Daru, who’s supposed to deliver the man to police headquarters. He doesn’t want to do it, but the Arab’s soldier escort leaves him there anyway.

Read here

“Araby” by James Joyce

Every morning, a boy looks through an opening in the blinds at the door where his friend Mangan lives. The boy can’t stop thinking about Mangan’s older sister. When she leaves her house, he follows her as long as he can. When she finally speaks to him, he can hardly answer. She asks if he’s going to the bazaar; she would like to go but can’t. He says he will bring something back for her.

Read “Araby”

“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver

A woman and a blind man have kept in contact for ten years, mailing tapes to each other. His wife has recently died, so he’s going to visit her family. On the way, he’s going to spend a night at the woman’s place with her new husband. Her husband isn’t looking forward to the visit.

Read “Cathedral”

“Lather and Nothing Else” by Hernando Tellez

An armed man enters a barbershop for a shave. The barber recognizes him; they are on opposite sides of some kind of political conflict that has turned violent. He has to decide what he will do with this opportunity.

“Lather and Nothing Else”

“Yours” by Mary Robison

Allison and her husband, Clark, who is much older than she, spend an evening carving pumpkins until early the next morning.

Read here