Elaina Hundley
June 13, 2015 7:00 am

You might already know this, but maybe you forgot: The internet is filled with some really awesome stuff, and I am not just talking about all the cute animal videos. Believe or not, somewhere among all the cat gifs and world’s funniest vines, there’s some classic reading for you to tap into. From contemporary stunners like Zadie Smith and Jhumpa Lahiri to awesome classics, the internet can provide access to the latest and greatest as well as some lasting and treasured reads. Sites like Project Gutenberg and online magazines like The New Yorker make it possible to read, download, and share hundreds and thousands of short fiction pieces as well as incredible novels.

Much as I love IRL books—the crinkly paper, that lovely smell, the turning of the pages, these details all add to the experience of reading—there’s something so amazing about having all this literature available online. So curl up with one of these short works of fiction by an awesome woman. We promise they’re not TL;DR.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)

Why you should read it: If you aren’t already familiar this classic American literary short, you need to read it. It makes some acute observations of the patriarchy, the treatment of female mental and physical health, and at the time in which it was published (1892) it was quite a radical text. Today, it is known as one of the first pieces of American feminist writing. In the form of journal entries, the narrative captures a woman’s mental decay from sitting in a room and staring at the wallpaper. It chronicles her eventual diagnosis with a common female illness –  hysteria. What really happens in this tale is that our protagonist is trapped in the confines of domesticity and marriage, and in this stasis her thoughts begin to stagnate. You’ll be fascinated and it won’t take you long to get through it either. Read it at Project Gutenberg or the illustrated PDF version here.

Where are you Going, Where have you Been? by Joyce Carol Oates (1966)

Why you should read it: It will haunt you. I’ve read this story so many times and it still gives me chills. I don’t want to spoil too much but in it a young woman experiences a strange encounter with a very creepy man and has to make a choice to protect her family. It gave me some Southern Goth vibes when I first read it, maybe 3 odd years ago. It’s strange and complicated and will make you think and feel a lot, like most of Joyce Carol Oates’ writing!


(1978/1983)

Why you should read it: It will take you about 4 mins to read (if that) but will stay with you for weeks (probably longer). This one is incredibly short and fast-paced but also deeply poignant. It is more of a prose poem than a short story. It takes the form of a stream of consciousness laundry list of how-to’s from a mother to her daughter.  These how to’s include anything from how to avoid becoming a slut to how to prepare the bread pudding.

Rice by Jhumpa Lahiri (2009)

Why you should read it: It is a simple story, but a good gateway into reading more Lahiri (which you should)! Like many of Lahiri’s other stories, “Rice” takes a seemingly insignificant act, cooking rice, and exposes the power and significance it has for the narrator. In “Rice,” the narrator describes her father’s process of cooking a very special Bengali rice dish called pulao, and by cataloguing both the procedure behind the meal and the times for which the father prepared it, the narrator reveals beauty and deeper meaning of the rice for her and her family. You can also read more stories like this one in her magnificent short story collection entitled, The Interpreter of Maladies.

Birdsong by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2010)

Why you should read it: First of all, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recently included in Time – 100 Most Influential People – so you should definitely read her work. But also, this story is a first person narrative which follows a young woman’s affair with a married man in Lagos. What is striking about this piece and much of Adichie’s writing is the way she uses language, there are many details she tucks into this somewhat cliched story and she does so with brilliant phrases that will leave you thirsty for more of her words. Finally, the story’s narrator makes several small but great choices in the story, and ultimately, it is a story about empowering oneself and discerning what is best for oneself and stories like that are always must reads.

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