From Beginner to Advanced: Short English Stories to Elevate Your Skills

Ellison Claptonreviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process11 min
Created: Apr 20, 2023Last updated: Jan 24, 2024
English stories

We all know that reading books is a great way to practice English, expand your vocabulary, and broaden your horizons. But let’s be honest – in today’s busy world, we don’t always have time to read a newspaper, let alone a full-length book. But reading is still essential for language learners – so what can they do? The best option is to start by reading no less exciting but very short English stories. 

This practice can bring you more benefits than you can imagine. And today, we will tell you about them all and even more. So, grab a cup of tea, get cozy, and let us take you on a fascinating journey through the best short stories.

Non-Obvious Advantages of Reading Stories in English

While it’s well-known that reading in English can positively affect vital skills, like vocabulary or comprehension, there are still numerous benefits that may not be as widely recognized. Every English story can bring you much more than you can expect. Here are just a few examples.

  • Confidence about finishing the story. When you know in advance that you won’t finish the book, you are not motivated to start reading it. But short stories are different – as they only take a few hours, you can always be sure that you will finish them and experience this pleasant feeling of accomplishment.
  • Great way to get acquainted with new genres and authors. There are so many books and stories in the world, so finding the ones you will like is challenging. Reading short stories can help you familiarize yourself with as many authors and genres as possible, and probably find the ones that suit you best.
  • A perfect novel break. If you are fond of reading and spend a lot of time doing so, you’ve most likely faced another problem – difficulty switching between books. And that is when the short stories come! You can choose a few and start reading them in pauses between longer novels – it will help you distract yourself while still learning something new and exciting.
  • Bringing back the daily reading. Finally, short stories can be a perfect way to build a new helpful habit. Such novels are created to keep you engaged for a short period. Therefore, after finishing them, you feel the need to start reading a new story immediately. And after doing it for a while, you will find yourself reading longer books on a daily basis.

As you can see, reading English stories for beginners and professionals can be equally beneficial for both language learners and native speakers. But when the natives can fully comprehend the concept of the story and don’t worry about grammar nuances, ESL students can face some difficulties. But you don’t have to be concerned about it! Keep reading; you will find the best tips for your next short story reading session.


Tips for Taking the Most Out of Every Short Story in English

You should follow a few essential rules to make every English short story work for you. By obeying them, you will see how pleasant and profitable the reading process becomes and how much more information you receive. Below, you will find the best tips that will help you make your reading as valuable as possible.

  • Choose the stories you really want to read. When you are not interested in something, you are forcing yourself into doing things you don’t want to do. The same thing with stories – if you are making yourself read something you don’t like, you won’t see the expected results. That is why you need to actually enjoy the narration.
  • Don’t try to translate anything when reading the story for the first time. Yes, it may sound weird, but you don’t have to do it immediately, especially if you see the text for the first time. Instead, just try to read the whole story and notice the words that cause confusion or misunderstanding.
  • Write down unfamiliar words and use dictionaries to translate them. The third tip is connected to the second one – it is also related to unknown vocabulary. But now, when you’ve already noted what terms you are struggling with, you can do the simple thing. Just write down all the words, and use regular or online dictionaries to find their meanings.
  • Correctly determine your fluency level. Another common mistake that appears when it comes to reading stories in English is choosing too difficult ones for your proficiency level. We know it is hard sometimes to evaluate yourself objectively, but in this case, it’s necessary. If you don’t know how to determine your proficiency, you can pass a special test like TOEFL or IELTS or work with a professional tutor who can define your level.
  • Don’t give up. Regardless of your fluency, how many words you know, and how many books you read, don’t give up if you face any problems. For example, if you select a story in English that feels too difficult to understand, it doesn’t mean you should stop reading. Postpone the current narration for some time and find one that will be a bit more comfortable. And after finishing it, return to the previous one – you will see how easier it will become. 

With these simple tips, you will nail any short story in English. Speaking of which, have you already chosen something to read? Because if not, we’ve got a pleasant surprise for you. Below, you can see the best stories available for different fluency levels. So don’t hesitate, and find the best one for yourself!

9 Best English Stories: From Beginner to Advanced

In this section, we’ve collected unique short stories in English for students with different fluency levels. They all contain a few hundred words but have an exciting plot and thoughtful morals that can benefit beginners and advanced readers. So, are you ready to find your first simple short story in English?

A1-A2 Stories

If you believe reading something worthy is only available for higher-proficiency students, we will prove you wrong. Below, you won’t find fairy tales. Instead, we will show you understandable thrillers, suspense fiction, and even murder mysteries. Here are the three exciting stories to improve English suitable for levels A1 and A2

Soapy’s Choice by O. Henry

William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, is renowned for his short stories. And this one is no exception. Written in 1904, the story tells about a homeless New Yorker named Soapy. Our main character is desperate to spend winter in a warm prison cell. To achieve this, he tries to get himself arrested but repeatedly fails. The story is humorous and heartwarming, and it teaches valuable lessons about the consequences of our actions. It is an excellent book for A1-A2 learners because the language is simple and the story is engaging and easy to follow.

Cash On Delivery by Edmund Crispin

It is a murder mystery novel set in a small English village. The story follows the investigations of a detective named Gervase Fen, who is trying to solve the murder of a wealthy businessman. The book is full of twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing until the very end. It is a good book for A1-A2 learners, because although the language is more complex than in Soapy’s Choice, it is still accessible, and the plot is engaging.

Mr. Harris and the Night Train by J. Bassett 

This short story in English for beginners is about a man named Mr. Harris who falls asleep on a train and wakes up in the middle of the night to find himself alone in the carriage. Mr. Harris becomes increasingly paranoid and scared as the train continues through the countryside. The story is a classic example of suspense fiction and, surprisingly, is great for A1-A2 learners.

B1-B2 Stories

You can start reading more complex (but still pretty short) stories if you are between the Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate levels. And to save you time, we’ve chosen the best and most exciting options. You can find them below.

The Blind Man and the Elephant by James Baldwin

This fable tells the story of six blind men who touch different parts of an elephant and draw different conclusions about what the animal is. The story is a metaphor for the subjective nature of truth and how our individual experiences shape our perception of reality. It is an excellent book for Intermediate learners because the language is simple, and the story is easy to follow. Still, it also offers a valuable lesson about empathy and understanding.

A Very Short Story by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway, like the previously mentioned O. Henry, also wrote plenty of extraordinary short stories. And this one is great for students with B1-B2 proficiency levels. It is a brief, poignant tale about a soldier and a nurse who fall in love during World War I. Their relationship is complicated by distance and circumstances. The story explores themes of love, loss, and the fragility of human connection. 

The Railway Crossing by Freeman Wills Crofts

It is challenging to find an engaging and short detective story. But “The Railway Crossing” is a great choice. This is a detective story about a train robbery that goes awry when one of the robbers is killed. The detective on the case must unravel the mystery of the crime and bring the culprits to justice. The story is a classic example of the whodunit genre and a great practice for Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate levels.

C1-C2 Stories

When it comes to the Advanced level, there is no need to choose particular stories with suitable vocabulary. You can already read everything you want. But we can’t leave you without anything. Therefore, take a look at our three all-time favorite stories that will definitely touch your heart.

Superman and Paula Brown’s New Snowsuit by Sylvia Plath

We all created imaginary worlds when we were little kids. And the narrator of this book (whose name is unknown) does the same – she makes up exciting adventures for her favorite fantasy character, Superman. In the middle of the story, the girl meets an unpleasant reality and seeks help from her Uncle Frank (not Superman) to overcome it. The novel contains a lot of symbolism and essential ideas, and it is an excellent read for advanced students. 

Eveline by James Joyce

“Eveline” is a short story by James Joyce about a young woman torn between her family responsibilities and her desire to escape her oppressive life in Dublin. She hesitates to leave her household despite being unhappy with her life and longs for a new beginning. In the course of the plot, Eveline reflects on her past and considers her future, ultimately deciding what she will do. The narration covers the importance of duty, family, and the challenges of growing up, and it offers a poignant exploration of the complexities of human emotions.

Flight by Doris Lessing

The last story on our list is our favorite one. It is a short novel about a grandfather known for carrying domesticated pigeons and his youngest granddaughter, Alice. The old man can’t accept the girl marrying her boyfriend, and he struggles with admitting this reality. Yet, the main point of the story is freedom. And in the end, Grandfather finally becomes free. The novel is very short but still emotional, and an open ending allows readers to create their own interpretation of the events.

Using English Story Reading As a Studying Method With Promova

We have a perfect solution for you, whether you want to determine your proficiency level or find a friendly environment to discuss the short stories you’ve just finished reading. And yes, we are talking about Promova – this international language-learning platform has everything you need. 

Our team of professional tutors is happy to help you determine your fluency and create a curriculum based on your knowledge and studying motivations. You can start learning English immediately by joining personal or group lessons or booking a free trial lesson to see what to expect. 

And our free Conversation club is a great place to practice speaking and discuss your favorite books and short stories. You can also install a convenient Promova application on your iOS or Android device and access hundreds of exciting topics and engaging lessons. The choice is up to you! Go to the official Promova website, and find the options that suit you best. 


All in all, reading short stories in English is an exciting and engaging pastime that can also bring you many benefits. The examples provided in the article are only a few of the many options available for you today. We hope you like them, and we will be patiently waiting for your review in the comments section. And don’t forget to tell us about your favorite short stories. We constantly look for something new to read.


Is listening to the audio version of the story less helpful than reading it?

Listening to the audio version of a story can be just as helpful as reading it, especially for ESL learners looking to improve their listening and comprehension skills. While reading a story can help improve vocabulary and reading skills, listening to an audio version can help with pronunciation and intonation. However, it’s important to note that different learners may have different preferences and learning styles, so it’s worth trying both methods to see what works best for you.

What are some tips for ESL learners who want to write their own stories in English?

There are a few tips that might be helpful. Firstly, we recommend reading a lot of stories in English. This practice will strengthen your writing skills, and you will also find a lot of inspiration in the works of other authors. In addition, it is better to focus on writing more simple stories first and complicating them after a while. Finally, you need to practice regularly and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. 

Are there any famous stories that have been adapted into movies or TV shows?

Of course, you can find countless adaptations of famous English stories. For example, the famous novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” inspired the creation of two movies. The first was released in 1971, and the second – in 2005. Both films are great, and they are also suitable for English practice. Like the original book, they contain simple vocabulary and daily phrases.

Are there any English story collections specifically designed for English learners?

Yes, there are many English story collections specifically designed for English learners. These collections often include simplified versions of classic stories, exercises, and activities to help learners improve their reading and comprehension skills. Some popular collections include the “Penguin Readers” and the “Oxford Bookworms Library” series.


PromovaAug 8th, 2023
Absolutely, the selection of stories has been carefully curated to cater to a wide range of English proficiency levels. For beginners, the stories offer manageable language complexity and foundational vocabulary. Intermediate learners will find opportunities to expand their vocabulary and grasp more intricate grammatical structures. Advanced learners can benefit from exposure to nuanced language usage, idiomatic expressions, and complex storytelling techniques. This diversity ensures that learners of all levels can find engaging and appropriately challenging material.
KyreeAug 8th, 2023
Are these stories suitable for different english proficiency levels?