There is a lot more to life than YouTube and Facebook. Yes, we love the easy access to everything that the Internet has made possible, but we get so busy indulging in online activities that we forget about our hobbies that are off the screen. Reading, for instance.

No matter how many latest episodes of trending sitcoms you watch, you’ll never get the pleasure that only reading can offer. But with multiple time constraints, to finish a 300 page novel becomes a challenge! Does that mean we give up on a habit so close to our heart? Absolutely not.

So for the love of reading, here are 12 captivating short stories that will take you less time to read than you take to eat lunch. And you thought you didn’t have the time?

1. Pygmalion – John Updike

Inspired by Pygmalion from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this story reveals how much of a relationship is based on who the other person really is and how much is based on how we transform them. The original story featured a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he carved. Updike transforms the original plot capturing the narcissism that we all bring to love. It’s barely a fifteen minute read, but the nonchalant twists in every paragraph guarantees that you will be hooked on until the very last line.

Read the full story here .

2. Happy Endings – Margaret Atwood

John and Mary meet.

What happens next?

If you want a happy ending, try A.

Beginning with the illusion of options, Atwood instantly captures the readers interest. Through a tapestry of options, one cannot fathom what she actually means to get at. The captivating read tells you by the end that there is only one possible ending to every story.

Read the full story here .

3. Eleven – Sandra Cisneros

We all eventually grow up. But what we fail to put into words is that even when we do become all mature there is parts of that little child somewhere within us. Cisneros captures this reality through the vision of an eleven year old child. A two-page story that everyone can connect to.

Read the full story here .

4. Hills Like White Elephants – Ernest Hemingway

Set in Spain, the story captures the pain, intensity and desperation of a couple through a simple conversation. It is the kind of trivial banter universally practiced by any couple trying to ignore the real “elephant” in the room. In a few pages, Hemingway brings out the dilemmas of relationships and beautifully portrays the unspoken conflicts.

Read the full story here .

5. Real Food – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Exploring the heritage of her country and her family through food, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes about her hatred for garri (their local meal) . She finds that not eating the food both frees her and separates her from her family, and this brief story expertly explores what it means to belong to a culture.

Read the full story here .

6. Reunion – John Cheever

We all look forward to reunions. The excitement of meeting someone you haven’t been in touch with, anticipating the changes in their life and personality, and reconnecting with them is meant to be a joyful affair. Especially if the person is close to you. But John Cheever’s Reunion wasn’t even close to what he might have expected. An interesting account of a Reunion gone totally awry. The circular narrative structure, and the additional detail mentioning that it was the last time he saw his father, highlights the futility of reconciliation.

Read the full story here .

7. The School – Donald Barthelme

This story told from the perspective of a school teacher strikes a strange chord in our hearts. The story is of a time when the school was coping with a lot of deaths – be it animals, shelter children, parents or grandparents. Barthelme throws a peculiar light in the way the children in his class were learning to cope with losses such as death. The highlight of this story is how it beautifully portrays our absurd but perfectly crafted world.

Read the full story here .

8. Adams – George Saunders

It takes Saunders less than two pages to make us question our own sanity during a pressing situation. His unpredictable and unreliable story line captures our attention until the very end. Picturing the case of an overprotective father, the script makes the reader wonder which fear is greater? The external threat or the one that is inside.

Read the full story here .

9. The Looking Glass – Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekov nails the portrayal of desperation in this story. He accounts a young girls believe in the power of love and simultaneously shows how quickly those realities can be forgotten. Nellie’s future is clear through the looking glass, yet the background becomes significant when she fails in her desperate attempt to save her husband.

Read the full story here .

10. The Story of an Hour – Kate Chopin

This 19th century writer beautifully carves her story on feminist lines explaining how marriage can become a prison for women no matter how loving the relationship is. The death of her husband intensely grieves Mrs Mallard, but there was a sensation of freedom in that too, and the joy of his return was too much for her to handle. An unpredictable story, with an ending that cannot be anticipated till the last line.

Read the full story here .

11. The Last Night of the World – Ray Bradbury

What if you knew the world was coming to an end? What if you had the same dream as everyone else, and somehow, though the media refuses to acknowledge the fact, you know it and everyone else does too? This is what Ray Bradbury talks about, but in his story there is no panic, no one screaming – just quiet acceptance for nothing can be done. The story ends without revealing if the world wakes up the next day, and keeps the reader longing for an answer. But it leaves you wondering how you would react if you knew the world was ending.

Read the full story here .

12. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas – Ursula K. Le Guin

The story starts with the portrayal of the apparently happy community of the Omelas, but as the reader proceeds there is a twist that leaves you shocked. When we learn of the dark secret of the Omelas, the story strangely makes the reader think that perhaps there are some things that are more important than happiness.

Read the full story here .

Don’t waste your lunch break. Seep in some literature. Happy reading!

Images by our talented designer Rohit Jakhu .