‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens

My first thought upon being asked to do this was, ‘Well, it has to be A Christmas Carol,’ and then I felt embarrassed for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. THEN I looked it up and realised for the first time at the grand age of 41, that it’s (obviously) a novella not a shorty story. But, it would be wrong not to put it in here, because to me it had always been a short story.

It’s everything a piece of short fiction should be, when you’re eight, under your duvet, shivering with the pure brilliance of it, earnestly nodding at its meaning. I feel the same about it now though, and love it, without measure.  I love it so much, and reread it every year at Christmas, and can’t imagine life without it.

Also, whenever I stand near an open window at night I think of this: The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they wentSo, thanks for that, Dickens.

First published by Chapman & Hall on 19 December 1843, and now available from so many places, including online, you’d find it in seconds

‘The Signalman’ by Charles Dickens

Void of Dickens’s occasional lapses into sentimentality, this perfectly-structured piece is filled with other stories: the twisted nature of time, the uncanny effects of telegraphy, the hints of mental illness, the dissipation of a fixed narrative viewpoint, and spectrality and hauntology in all their forms run through it.

First published in All The Year Round, 1866. Read it online here