Reading a novel is an endeavor that requires commitment, effort, and, most essentially, time; lucky for us, literature is not a one-size-fits-all business. Perfect for commuters and part-time readers, short stories condense big messages into digestible portions! Here are some short stories you certainly won’t regret giving up ten minutes for:

“Memento Mori,” Jonathan Nolan

For those of you who’ve seen Christopher Nolan’s psychological thriller Memento, the short story “Memento Mori” should seem very familiar. That’s because the Academy Award nominated film was based on the short story, written by the younger Nolan brother and published in Esquire magazine in 2001. The narrative centers around a man who develops anterograde amnesia from a traumatic brain injury, leaving him unable to create new memories. Although he retains memory from before his injury, the protagonist’s mind is wiped clean every few minutes, perpetually resetting itself to factory mode. Jonathan Nolan does an incredible job of allowing the reader to experience the world through the protagonist’s fractured mind by transitioning from third person to epistolary narration throughout the story. The character’s condition forces him to keep track of his life in unconventional ways, using notes, photographs and even tattoos to record important information. And just what sort of important information would a mentally impaired man with no memory need to keep track of? If you’ve seen the film, you already have your answer, and if you haven’t then I suggest you start reading and find out before it slips your mind (pun intended)!

“The Hitchhiking Game,” Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera, one of the Czech Republic’s most well-known writers, has been praised for his distinct ability to examine the duality of human relationships. His short story, “The Hitchhiking Game,” was published in 1969 in a collection of Kundera’s stories, Laughable Loves. Do not let the title fool you however, as this is no typical love story. The plot begins innocently enough: two young lovers are traveling on a long-awaited vacation, driving through the Czech countryside. Wishing to spice up their drive a bit, they begin to play a game in which the woman takes on the role of a sexy hitchhiker. The game allows them to escape their ordinary selves for a bit, something both characters initially revel in; the further they travel, the more serious the game becomes, eventually leading to a sinister change in the characters’ relationship. The narrative is written in third-person point of view, giving the reader access to both characters’ thoughts and feelings and allowing us to see how the game is affecting each of them. Disturbing as it is heartbreaking, Milan Kundera’s “The Hitchhiking Game” will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading and leave you wondering how well you know those closest to you, and how well you know yourself.

Part of our TRANSITION issue.