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This guide offers background information and resources on bibliotherapy, i. e., guided reading for Rutgers students, faculty, and staff.

Reading Short Stories

This page recommends a few short stories we have tested in various setting for individuals and groups. Each tab presents one title with a brief description why to read it, a link to the full text, and a link to find more content of interest, including discussion questions and talking points, the author’s background and other works, and more in related guides created by the Books We Read team.

DISCLAIMER: Although bibliotherapy works well as complementary treatment, please contact your healthcare professional if you are experiencing physical or mental health issues. Rutgers students are advised to reach out to Medical & Counseling Services at Student Health.

Short Stories to Read

 Eight Bites, by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado spins a slightly surreal, quietly affecting tale of a woman’s bariatric surgery, exploring the connections between food, family, femininity, and body image.

In Eight Bites, Carmen Maria Machado goes inside the mind of a woman who undergoes bariatric weight loss surgery. It's often said that food is family, and the relationship of Machado's narrator to food and her own body is refracted through her relationships with the women of her family: an iron-willed mother, gossipy sisters, and a concerned daughter. Weaving realistic storytelling with a surrealist twist, Machado explores the complicated feelings around a simple clinical procedure: desire, shame, love, envy, and a sense of having "lost" something more than merely weight.

Diem Perdidi, by Julie Otsuka

Julie Otsuka creates a compelling, heart-wrenching portrait of an elderly woman’s character and life story as she begins to lose her memory.

It might be more accurate to call Diem Perdidi an inventory rather than a narrative. In sentences beginning with “she remembers” and “she does not remember,” Julie Otsuka unfolds a portrait of an elderly woman with dementia, capturing her personality and personal history even as she begins to forget. The story invites us to reflect on what makes up individual identity––our experiences, our habits, our relationships––and what happens to them when they slip out of our grasp.

How To Talk To Girls At Parties, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of the most prolific authors of fantasy and young adult fiction today and has published across a wide range of genres.

Thirty years after a party that changed his life, Enn reflects on the night, the "girls" he met, and the circumstances that made him and his friend run as far from those "girls" as they could. Nominated for the 2007 Hugo award, Neil Gaiman’s short story uses science fiction to explore familiar teenage rites of passage and feelings of awkwardness and confusion.

Sleeping and Waking, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald's short piece about insomnia is what we might today call "autofiction" -- a story that might or might not be based on his own experience.

In a first-person, confessional tone, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story explores chronic insomnia: an unnamed narrator struggles each night to fall asleep.  From the mosquito he blames for first disrupting his bedtime routine to the escapist fantasies he uses to try and lull himself to sleep, the narrator draws us in with self-deprecating wit — but as the night goes on his desperation boils over into a personal crisis, only to collapse with exhaustion and wake up to face another day and night of the same.  Fitzgerald, a heavy drinker for most of his short life, portrays insomnia as a vicious cycle of self-reproach and oblivion eerily reminiscent of addiction.

Where is Here? by Joyce Carol Oates

A couple opens their home to a stranger who says he lived there as a child. Joyce Carol Oates narrates the couple’s growing unease with the stranger’s visit in a restrained, matter-of-fact style, capturing the anger and dread lying just behind the appearance of middle-class respectability. Part comedy of manners, part bourgeois tragedy, “Where Is Here?” poses the question of what makes a house into a home in ways that no greeting card or throw pillow would dare!

Hurricane Season, by David Sedaris

After David and Hugh’s North Carolina beach house, the Sea Section, is destroyed by Hurricane Florence, David reflects on old-fashioned names, disturbed renters, his aging sisters, and Hugh’s stormy temperament. Through David Sedaris’ typical self-deprecating humor and wit, he reveals a story about relationships and resilience.

Sample Short Story Collections

Blog Posts from Books We Read


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