Anthologies and short texts

Short stories

There are lots of collections of short stories, organised by theme or genre (love, mystery horror, crime etc) or by writer (English, Irish, women, African American etc) or by period (nineteenth century, First World War, 2018 etc).

Popular short story writers include Raymond Carver, Roald Dahl, Angela Carter, Franz Kafka, Shirley Jackson, Saki and Stephen King.

There are also anthologies of stories intended to be read aloud:

A Little, Aloud: An Anthology
edited by Angela Macmillan 

Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud
edited by Jonathan Taylor 

Often called ‘flash fiction’, there are lots of these stories available free to download from the internet, such as this list.

Very short stories

Anthologies of very short stories that groups have enjoyed:

Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories
James Thomas and Robert Shapard

Flash Fiction, Very Short Stories
Tom Hazuka, Denise Thomas, James Thomas

There’s a whole genre of short stories in 6 words, made famous by the one supposedly composed by Ernest Hemingway:

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’

If you google ‘stories in six words’ dozens of sites come up.

Many groups enjoy reading and talking about a few of these stories and then writing their own in the meeting.

‘She saw and she stayed quiet.’

‘Wrong number,’ says a familiar voice.’

‘The perfect story had seven words.’

And suddenly there was no door.’

Non-fiction

The Pig that Wants to be Eaten 
and 99 Other Thought Experiments

Julian Baggini

These are ethical dilemmas presented in a
story. Each one is less than a page long,
followed by a short discussion of the
issues. There are no right answers but the
discussion helps clarify what is at stake.
Very popular with many groups.

Do you think what you think
Do You Think What You Think You Think? 

Julian Baggini and Jeremy Stangroom

This is a series of quizzes, designed to
expose the contradictions in what we
believe. After each person answers the
questions of a particular quiz, there’s a
scoring system that reveal tensions in
one person’s attitudes. There’s then a
section of discussion of big questions:
‘can you put a price on human life?’,
‘are there any absolute truths’, ‘what
should be legal?’ etc. 
The book is more complex (and
complicated) than The Pig that Wants
to be Eaten but it can work well with
more established groups.

Poetry

There are lots of anthologies around themes or genres (love, family, limericks, comic verse etc). Also collections like The Nation’s Favourite Poems, 365 Poems etc can intrigue groups. It’s a good idea to start with short poems with clear metre and rhyme and then perhaps move on to free verse and looser forms.

The Eagle
Alfred Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Graffiti
Valerio Magrelli (translated from the Italian by Jamie McKendrick)

Where does this foetal, feral language
come from, with its shimmering
alpha-numerical tags?
Who speaks this spray-on Esperanto
of walls, trams and entry-phones?
What is it telling us
this crackly static tongue
that calls from the deep?