Join me for my 2014 Short Story Reading Challenge!

“In a novel you might get away with a loose line or two, a saggy paragraph, even a limp chapter. But in the … short story, the beginning and end are precisely anchored tent poles, and what lies between must pull so taut it twangs.”

- Geraldine Brooks

Only one week to go in 2013, so it’s time to set up my (4th) annual short story reading project, “Project: Deal Me In!” (aka DMI2014) I’ve gone through my heaps of anthologies and friends’ recommendations to come up with 48 stories to read next year, dividing them into “suits” and assigning them each to a card in a standard deck of paying cards, leaving four open spaces for a “deuces wild” element. That makes 52 stories total. One per week. On a certain day each week (I prefer Saturday mornings), I’ll draw a card to determine which story I will read that week. Pretty easy, huh? My selections are listed at the bottom of this post. I included only three past favorites this year, and have 23(!) authors I have never read before. What do you think of my choices? Do you know of a story you’d like to suggest that I read as one of my wild cards? Let me know, I’m happy to be guided…

BUT… What I’d really like to say is… “Why don’t you join me in this challenge in 2014?” (picking your own 52 stories, of course!) Let’s face it, it’s a much less onerous reading assignment than almost any other challenge you’ll find out in the blogosphere. One short story a week? Come on, anybody can do that, right!? All you need is a deck of cards, a short story anthology or two (or a public library, or an Internet connection) and a little imagination. There are hundreds (thousands?) of great short stories in the public domain too. I’ll share a few links below. Have a busy month or two and fall behind? Big deal. With short stories you can catch up in just a couple hours. Why not play along? It’s almost crazy if you don’t! :-) Dale at Mirror With Clouds joined me last year and will be doing so again this year (see his 2014 list), but the more the merrier, right?

I’ll be creating a separate page for this “challenge” in the next week or so, but if you’d like participate, leave a comment here with your blog’s url, and I’ll link to you on that page, and also link – on my weekly post – to any weekly DMI2014 posts you make.

My Prior Years:




My Stories for 2014:

Note: As the year progresses, I’ll note which week the story’s card was drawn and add a link to my post (if I write one) specifically about the story.

Hearts (stories by female authors)

A – “Meneseteung” by Alice Munro (week 27)
2 – Wild “The Garden” by Joanna Parypinski (week 25)
3 – “Bear Dance” by Edina Doci (week 44)
4 – “From Brussels to Ottignies” by Monica Westeren (week 12)
5 – “Class of 1990” by Rebecca Emin (week 33)
6 – “Hydraulic” by Ekaterina Sedia (week 10)
7 – “Fado” by Katherine Vaz
8 – “The Last Speaker of the Language” by Carol Anshaw
9 – “Axis” by Alice Munro (week 29)
10- “North Country” by Roxane Gay (week 20)
J – “Diem Perdidi” by Julie Otsuka (week 5)
Q – “The Other Place” by Mary Gaitskill (week 23)
K – “Undressing the Vanity Dolls” by Katherine Vaz (week 14)

Spades (mostly darker stories)

A – “A Stone Cast Into Stillness” by Maurice Broaddus
2 – Wild “Dark Cloud Rising” by Marianne Halbert (week 13)
3 – “Beautiful Monsters” by Eric Puchner (week 26)
4 – “The Hungry House” by Robert Bloch (week 8)
5 – “The Eyes” by Edith Wharton
6 – “Mrs. Bullfrog” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (week 16)
7 – “The Autopsy” by Michael Shea (week 9)
8 – “Tenth of December” by George Saunders (week 21)
9 – “That in Aleppo Once…” by Vladimir Nabokov (week 28)
10- “The Redfield Girls” by Laird Barron (week 32)
J – “Miracle Polish” by Steven Milhauser (week 1)
Q – “The Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx
K – “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby

Diamonds (stories recommended by others)

A – “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin (week 40)
2 – Wild – “Amphetamine Twitch” by Frank Bill (week 2)
3 – “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Andre Gide (week 34)
4 – “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury (week 17)
5 – “Perfection” by Mark Helprin (week 37)
6 – “Beyond the Wall” by Ambrose Bierce
7 – “The Business of Madame Jahn” by Vincent O’Sullivan (week 38)
8 – “Mateo Falcone” by Prosper Merimee
9 – “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella Consummate their Relationship” by Salman Rushdie (week 43)
10- “The White Wolf and the Spirit Hunter” by Frederick Marryat (week 15)
J – “The Things” by Peter Watts (week 6)
Q – “The Two Sams” by Glen Hirshberg (week 7)
K – “The Bell in the Fog” by Gertrude Atherton (week 31)

Clubs (“The Russians are Coming!”)

A – “The Cloak” by Nikolai Gogol (week 36)
2 – WILD
3 – “The Bet” by Anton Chekhov (week 30)
4 – “God Sees the Truth but Waits” Leo Tolstoy (week 39)
5 – “The Shades: A Fantasy” by Vladimir Korlenko (week 42)
6 – “The Christmas Tree and the Wedding” by Fyodor Dostoevsky (week 3)
7 – “Lazarus” by L.N. Andreyev (week 11)
8 – “The Outrage: a True Story” by Alexander Kuprin (week 22)
9 – “St. John’s Eve” by Nikolai Gogol (week 19)
10- “Her Lover” by Maxim Gorky (week 24)
J – “The Black Monk” by Anton Chekhov (week 18)
Q – “The Queen of Spades” by Alexander Pushkin (week 41)
K – “Twenty-Six and One” by Maxim Gorky (week 4)

Sources: The Best American Short Stories of 2012, Public Domain/Linked by Fellow Bloggers, Dark Futures: Tales of SF Dystopia, Great Short Stories of the World, The Meantime: Nine Short Stories from Brussels, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, The Best American Short Stories of the Century, Twenty-Six and One and Other Stories, Haunted Legends anthology, A Knowing Look and Other Stories, and “others”… :-)

Classic Horror Stories: short story of the day
EastoftheWeb’s short story of the day:
TheLibrary of America’s short story of the week archive:

These links alone would provide you with enough FREE short stories to do this project for years, and there are MANY other sites if you look around a bit. There’s even a short stories app for the iPhone (also free).

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  1. Megan said,

    December 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I’m glad someone recommended “All Summer in a Day” to you. There was a short TV movie made out of it that I saw as a kid which really stuck with me, and every several years, I remember it and realize that I’ve completely forgotten the title, and so I google it and get all excited when I find it. This has happened to me about 3 times now. However, given that seeing the title triggered me to remember that, I think that maybe I’ll actually remember from now on!

    • Jay said,

      December 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

      Hi Megan,
      “All Summer in a Day” was recommended by the director of “The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies” here in town. He has such a great way of describing RB’s works that leaves you intensely wanting to read them. I’ve heard from many others since then that are fans of this particular story too, so I look forward to reading it in the new year.

  2. Candiss said,

    December 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I recently discovered your 2013 posts for this endeavor, and I ended up making my own tentative list, although I didn’t know if you would be “officially” hosting any sort of challenge for 2014. I am already participating in a few reading challenges for the coming year, but this one is unique among all those I’ve looked over, and it seems so do-able. I love short stories, and there are so very many authors I’ve never read (of course.) So I think I’m going to try this!

    I’ll post again once I’ve finalized my list and have made a post about it to link to on my blog.

    If you want to get the word out, you might want to consider submitting your challenge over at A Novel Challenge – They aggregate yearly and short-term reading challenges and events, so people can find you and get involved. (It’s a dangerous place to browse.)

    • Jay said,

      December 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

      Hi Candiss,

      Thanks for the comment. I do hope you’ll join us. I was introduced to several new stories by Dale’s posts in 2013, some of which I also read independently of my own project. Other participants’ lists are also good sources to find a “wild card” story if you incorporate that twist.

      Thanks so much for letting me know about “A Novel Challenge” as well. I’ve filled out their form and hope they will put up a link to my challenge, which I honestly feel should be attractive to many for both its unique-ness and its do-ability. :-)

      Half the fun (for me anyway) is in coming up with the list. In talking with Dale, who I know IRL from being in the same book club years ago when we lived in the same city, we both have kind of “discovered” that the reading of a story a week becomes a habit, and one that I see continuing indefinitely, reading challenge or not. :-)


      • Candiss said,

        December 28, 2013 at 4:38 pm

        Question-laced comment: I’m not sure whether I should post at my blog (with my story list) now or wait until you have that dedicated post ready. I don’t want to end up linking to the wrong page here at your blog.

        Also, a resource link: The Mookse and the Gripes book blog has posted a page aggregating all of this year’s (and each year back through 2009) stories posted at The New Yorker, with links to the stories. Some of them involve a New Yorker members-only paywall, but the majority are free for all. There are some big, big names represented and lots of good stories.

        • Jay said,

          December 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm

          Hi Candiss,
          I’ll have the dedicated page up tonight. Thanks for your patience (can you tell I’m a rookie at challenge-hosting?) :-)

          Thanks so much also for that link. I’m an e-subscriber to the New Yorker (specifically for access to the SS archive) but I do know many are available to anyone on line. That will be a useful resource to many as well.

        • Jay said,

          December 30, 2013 at 9:00 am

          Hi Candiss,
          Here’s the home page:

        • Candiss said,

          January 1, 2014 at 5:40 pm

          Thanks, Jay. I’ve got my list linked in the dedicated post. I can’t wait to pull my first card!

        • Jay said,

          January 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm

          Great! Heading over to check out your picks!

  3. Dale said,

    December 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    You have a fantastic list! And many new authors (to me)! I agree with Candiss that this project is unique compared to a lot of the other challenges out there. I would say that its the best bang for the buck (or rather time spent) as far as reading challenges. You don’t have to spend a lot of time all at once and you get to read (depending on your choices) a wide variety of stories and authors. I’m excited about getting started on 2014’s list.

    Happy Holidays!

    • Jay said,

      December 26, 2013 at 8:25 am

      Hi Dale,

      Half the fun IS in the planning, isn’t it? Like you, I am anxious to get started, but at the same time, I am comfortable leaving myself now in the hands of fate (or “the luck of the draw”) to determine when these stories get read. And I admit, though I’m a very rational person, that I really enjoy noting any coincidences that pop up in the timing.

      In my “totally objective” view, I do think this challenge holds up well against others in The Reading Challenge Universe. “More bang for your buck” is a good way to put it too. It’s practical as far as not requiring a huge investment of time (and as I pointed out, you can fall WAY behind – as I did one year – and still catch up quickly with a modicum of effort) and it’s beneficial as it can expose you to lots of new writers.

      I had to leave off a lot of writers I wanted to include this time, but I do have a few wild cards to work with. How did I leave off Hemingway, Murakami, and Trevor?! Oh well, I’m sure ‘Ill be reading them ad hoc next year too, though.


      • Dale said,

        December 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm

        Jay! I plan on reading some novels by Hurakami and Trevor, but I imagine some short stories will show up, too.

        • Jay said,

          December 28, 2013 at 11:19 am

          Hi Dale,
          I may buy another Murakami collection in 2014. Trevor too. They are two of my favorite writers of my “Blogging Era.” I also just added another Japanese author’s book to my TBR list too, Yoko Ogawa’s “The Diving Pool,” which comes highly recommended.

        • January 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm

          I have found a lot of Murakami short stories online. I will put up links on my blog.

        • Dale said,

          January 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm

          Murakami online! Thanks for posting the links!

    • Jay said,

      December 26, 2013 at 8:30 am

      One other thing, Dale. I do want to say that I was impressed that you posted about every single story in your deck. I didn’t do that, maybe only getting two-thirds of them. I will make it a goal to write something every week this time.

      I had thought about doing a collective post at least mentioning the ones that I don’t write about specifically, kind of an”Orphan Stories of DMI 2013″ summary. Maybe I’ll get to that this week. :-). I also want to do an “awards” post where I recognize may favorite stories, characters, writers, new writers, etc. I think that could be fun.

      • Dale said,

        December 27, 2013 at 5:21 pm

        Orphan stories sounds good! There were at least a few stories (several by Willa Cather) that I had to really think about what to write. They just didn’t grab hold of me like a lot of the other ones did. So I understand sometimes the difficulty in coming up with something.

        • Jay said,

          December 28, 2013 at 11:13 am

          I had a post a few years ago titled “Orphan Stories from the Monkey House” where I talked about the stories in that collection that got left out at the KVML book club meeting. We’re reading that one again in February, and I intend to lobby for “equal time” for them this go-around.

  4. December 26, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I’ll do it – I don’t usually read short stories but I think I could get through one a week :) “Onerous reading burden” is not a phrase in my vocabulary. I will definitely include Carol Anshaw on my list – a copy of her book Carry the One mysteriously appeared in my husband’s car and I thought it was excellent.

    • Jay said,

      December 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Awesome! I think you’ll love it. If you don’t have a website, I’d be happy to append your list to the challenge page (once I create it) on my site. Or, you could create a WordPress site for free. It’s very easy, especially if you just want to do the basics. I look forward to following your reading. :-)

    • Jay said,

      December 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      P.S. I just realized that “onerous reading burden” is kinda redundant. :-) I went back and edited that to “onerous reading assignment”…

  5. Paula Cappa said,

    December 27, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I love your list, Jay. Nice mix. Of course I read a short story a week (more actually) for Tales of Terror blog and I’ve been toying with the idea of reading more modern authors and not just 19th century authors. So, I will select some and read along with you from time to time. Happy Reading for 2014!

    • Jay said,

      December 27, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Thanks, Paula. I’ve discovered many great stories via your blog this past year, and you can see your influence within my list. Don’t be surprised if I borrow another one for a wild card either… :-)

      I’ve thought about maybe doing a mini-project on just horror stories next october, but those ideas are still just floating around upstairs and haven’t coalesced yet…

      I look forward to following your reading again in 2014.


  6. December 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I love Mary Gaitskill. I hope you enjoy her story. You have some great picks here. I hope to add more short stories for myself next year. I’m definitely using your future and past picks to help with my selections.

    • Jay said,

      December 28, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Thanks, AFP. I found Gaitskill – and several others – in “The Best American Short Stories of 2012″ anthology, the 2011 version of which supplied several great stories for me last year. I look forward to reading of your short story readings in 2014.

  7. December 31, 2013 at 6:53 am

    […] This challenge, hosted by Jay (Bibliophilopolis), looks really interesting.  It involves reading 52 short stories, one per week, over the course of the year, choosing each week’s story by drawing a card at random from a deck of playing cards, and reading the story that has been assigned in advance to that card!  Full details at the sign-up post, here. […]

  8. December 31, 2013 at 7:04 am

    I found your challenge via “A Novel Challenge” website, and I’d love to join in. It sounds like a thoughtful way of reading short stories, much better than reading a whole book one after the other. My sign-up post is at, and I’ve grabbed your cards logo, I hope that’s okay. (I confess: I’ve already dealt my first card, in preparation for tomorrow!)

    • Jay said,

      December 31, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Excellent! Very happy to have you join us! I look forward to following your SS reading in the new year. Heading over to check out your selections now… :-)

  9. mannomoi said,

    December 31, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    This sounds like a lot of fun! I never really got to delve into short stories –not since 8th grade anyway– and I think this is a really good idea. I can stock my phone up with the stories and actually do this. Short stories are definitely a great way to branch out and to get exposed to lots of different topics, so yeah.
    Here’s a link to my blog:

    Thanks for creating this challenge and happy new year! :D

    • Jay said,

      January 1, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Great to hear from you and glad that you’ll be joining us this year! I look forward to seeing the list of stories you come up with!

  10. Julie said,

    January 1, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Yay! I’m so in. I’ve been wanting to do a challenge like this for a long time.

    • Jay said,

      January 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Wonderful! I think you’ll find it a fun challenge that quickly turns into a reading habit. Can’t wait to see your stories!

  11. January 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    […] Deal Me In 2014 Reading Challenge is hosted by Bibliophilopolis.  You can find out more at this informative post.  There is also a dedicated post for reviews here, and our host will be posting weekly round-up […]

  12. January 5, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    I read a lot of short stories. Anthologies and online both. I am not making a list but I am very much in.

    Here is my post

  13. cbjamess said,

    January 6, 2014 at 9:34 am

    This sounds like fun. I’m not sure that I want to do a story a week, but setting up my ‘deck of stories’ would certainly be a good time. I just may do it.

    • Jay said,

      January 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      Feel free to use whatever approach you want. Putting together a list is indeed a big part of the fun of this challenge. The first year I did it, I fell way behind the one story per week pace a couple times but caught up with a dedicated day of SS reading each time.

  14. cbjames said,

    January 7, 2014 at 12:14 am

    I’m in. My reading list is here:

    I’ll read a story as soon as I find a deck of cards. ;-)

    • Jay said,

      January 7, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Great! (Your link above, though, is to this page) :-)

      Also, when I’ve been away from my deck of cards, I’ve sometimes used the solitaire app on my phone and just “start new game” and use the first card from the left that I haven’t read yet. :-)


      • January 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

        James used to do Short Story Monday feature. When I was going through a reading block, reading short stories got me into the groove again, thanks to James.

        I am leaving James link for his post:

        • Jay said,

          January 13, 2014 at 10:13 am

          Thanks for helping me out with this link! WHen I clicked on James’ name, all I got was a gravatar image with out a url for his website. I added the link to the challenge home page and will add his recent post to the weekly wrap-up post.

    • January 7, 2014 at 7:32 am

      If you’re stuck, there’s a random card generator at !

  15. February 27, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    […] #9 of my Deal Me In 2014 project and chose Mark Helprin’s “Perfection” from Jay’s list at Bibliophilopolis.  He also sponsors the Deal Me In challenge.  And I chose this story because I […]

  16. March 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    […] Deal Me In Short Story Challenge draw for this week was “The Fish” by Isak Dinesen and “The Long Distance […]

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