While we took a break over the holidays, Library of America presented—in case you missed any of them—the ten most-read* stories from the past year (“most-read” based on traffic during the two weeks after the story was posted). Story of the Week will return with new selections beginning next week. In the meantime, we hope you’ll investigate any of the stories you might have ovrelooked in 2021 or that you might be motivated to do a little re-reading.
1. James Weldon Johnson, “Stranger Than Fiction”
An author surveys the critical reaction to his debut novel after some readers mistake it for a real memoir and others find its premise impossible even as fiction.
2. Mark Twain, “The Killing of Julius Cæsar ‘Localized’”
A former journalist for a San Francisco newspaper imagines how the murder of Julius Caesar might have been covered by an American crime reporter.
3. O. Henry, “An Unfinished Story”
Barely making ends meet, a “shop-girl” prepares for an evening with one of the rich “swells” who prey on struggling young working women in department stores.
4. Zora Neale Hurston, “Spunk”
Everything changes for a meek-mannered man when he realizes all the townsfolk know that his wife has been skipping out on him with Spunk Banks, a swaggering “giant” of a man.
5. Edgar Allan Poe, “The Oval Portrait”
A traveler sheltering in an abandoned chateau for the night notices a mysteriously lifelike painting and learns the story behind its creation.
6. Dashiell Hammett, “The Gutting of Couffignal”
During a violent storm, the sleepy island community of Couffignal is suddenly invaded and attacked by what seems to be a military operation.
7. Elizabeth Spencer, “The White Azalea”
After nursing various family members through lengthy illnesses until their deaths, Theresa Stubblefield takes a long-anticipated trip to Rome, where she is unable to escape news from home.
8. F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Lees of Happiness”
The idyllic marriage of Jeffrey and Roxanne Curtain is shattered by circumstances beyond their control.
9. Octavia E. Butler, “Positive Obsession”
The popular and influential science fiction author describes her determination from an early age to become a writer — and the challenges she surmounted to become one.
10. John Muir, “Yosemite Valley in Flood”
While living in Yosemite Valley early in his new career as a writer, Muir experiences a torrential and spectacular late autumn storm.