Even the longest journey can be transformed into a holiday in its own right with a great book. The pleasure that we extract from reading fiction has long fascinated psychologists. They postulate – although it is near-impossible to prove – that reading novels significantly improves a person’s capacity to navigate their social world, changing the way we see ourselves and helping us identify what we want from social interaction. Novels help us make sense of the world around us; they help us carve out our sense of right and wrong, they influence what we look for in our romantic relationships and they help us assess our life priorities.
It’s impossible to imagine ourselves being what we are today without our favourite fictional heroines, whether it be Elizabeth Bennet or Bridget Jones. The books we read make us the people we are, and the process never ends; any good book forces you to see the world differently than you did yesterday.
Here at Stylist, we firmly believe that literature makes the world a better place, and are proud to bring you five exclusive short stories written by our favourite female authors just for Stylist readers.
Main picture credit: Rex Features
Vermin by Lionel Shriver
US-born Shriver won the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction for her book, We Need To Talk About Kevin. Of her story Vermin, she says, “I came late to property purchase which I found an ambivalent experience. This story explains the effect of the responsibility of home ownership on one couple, who once considered themselves above such middle-class obsessions.”
Fall by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue is best known for her novel Room (a haunting portrait of human nature) which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year. She says, “Fall is inspired by Annie Edson Taylor, who in 1901 was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She hoped to make her fortune but died destitute in the Niagara County Infirmary 20 years after her fall.”
Everything Must Go by Belinda Bauer
Bauer is one of the leading names in crime fiction. This year, Darkside, a literary thriller about the hunt for a killer was a big hit. She wrote Everything Must Go after a trip to Ikea. “I don’t have children but it looks relentless,” she explains. “This story was inspired by a visit to Ikea with my sister and her daughter, and my neighbours, who have twins.”
The Meeting by Aimee Bender
Bender is well known for her modern-day fairy tales including 2010’s The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake, about a girl who can taste emotions in her food. Of her short story, The Meeting, Bender says, “I wrote this story to question all that lightning-bolt stuff about relationships we run into every day. Sometimes it just takes time to see what’s what.”
Chemistry by Adele Parks
Born in Teesside, Parks is one of the biggest-selling women’s fiction authors in the UK. Explaining Chemistry she says, “We live in a world where connections are made through social media. I’m a big fan of Twitter but am still an old-fashioned girl. I wanted to write about the frail chances that pop up all the time; chances which we might rush past and miss.”