Time is precious. Whether you are a voracious reader who cannot find enough time in the day to read, or a casual reader who's just looking to fill up those smaller free moments in an otherwise busy day, it's helpful to know the shortest route to reading. One of the best ways to maximize your reading time is to fill those free instants that life affords us with short stories. I've already talked before about the reasons why you should be reading short fiction. Here's a handy guide that will also point you to the goods, showing you the quickest way to the best short fiction available…

Pick a Story, Any Story

If you want the quickest route to short fiction, the best advice is: just pick a story and dive in. All too often the biggest impediment to reading is starting, either because we can't decide between all the tasty choices before us, or we are looking for something that we will be able to finish without life getting in the way. Short fiction can help.

Start here, with The Best Websites to Read Free Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror. The online venues listed there make it easy to read fiction on your lunch hour at work, on a bus, waiting in a queue, or whenever else you might otherwise be reading. Pick a venue, pick a story and read! You will find undiscovered gems, fiction from your favorite authors as well as newly discovered ones, award-winning fiction, and stories that will remind you of why you love reading in the first place. Your reading journey begins with this single step.

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Get Recommendations

OK, fair enough. Even throwing a dart in the dark is sometimes difficult. If that's the case (and even if it isn't), it's also helpful when a story comes with a recommendation. That extra vetting process may be your minimum criteria for even starting a story. It's also reassuring to know that at least one other person likes a story you're about to start. If that's the case, the solution is easy: look for short fiction recommendations.

There are plenty of sites and blogs that review short fiction. A few of my favorites:

  • At Apex Magazine, itself a top-notch source for short fiction, you'll find the insightful Words for Thought column written by A.C. Wise. (She also writes short fiction, like The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again collection, so she knows her stuff.) I experienced that insight firsthand when she wrote the fantastic Women to Read column at SF Signal, where she regularly added to my to-be-read pile. That column is still ongoing at The Book Smugglers website.
  • At the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog you'll find author Maria Haskins and her short fiction review series where she rounds up the best online reads. Maria's reviews also include the links to the online stories reviewed, so there's that benefit of instant gratification of click-and-read.
  • Locus Online—the online sister of Locus Magazine, which has been covering the science fiction and fantasy field for 40 years—also posts short fiction reviews. You'll find reviews by lifelong fans and professionals who live and breathe short fiction, including longtime reviewers (like Rich Horton, Gary K. Wolfe and Karen Burnham) as well as editors who are shaping the field (like Gardner Dozois and Paula Guran).

Be Aware of New Short Fiction Anthologies and Collections

Another great source of short fiction is not dispersed all over the Internet, but conveniently packaged between two covers. Every year, publishers produce dozens of books that are either multiple-author anthologies or single-author collections. Seek out the former if you're looking to discover new writers and expand your reading horizons; seek out the latter if you cannot get enough of your favorite author. Either way, you will be amazed at the variety and range of stories being written.

If you want to combine this tip with a recommendation, come back to this space every week. I regularly point you to great short fiction anthologies and collections, especially in my monthly "Best Science Fiction and Fantasy" book roundups.

John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.