The only books I actually read over break were collections of short stories. A couple of short story ideas have been bugging me forever, and I want to write them, but I seem not to have the short story form quite figured out - notably, readers often tell me, "This seems like the beginning of a longer work." I generally do prefer to write novels, but these ideas really want to be short stories. Thus, I've been reading short stories to try and figure out something about how they work.
So far, the main thing I've noticed is the frequent occurrence of framing statements. These establish a here's-a-little-story feel from the beginning of the piece, and are sometimes bookended by a similar piece at the end. They vary widely, but might sound like:
"The worst day of my life was the Thursday in October when Emily brought the lion to school."
"To most people, Marcus seemed ordinary, even boring, but that was because he never told anyone exactly how he had learned to read."
They basically tell you what the story will be about, which includes a notion of where it will stop. They may be extremely obvious about this:
"Since this is a story no one will believe, it won't matter if I write it down."
Or it might be vague, like a philosophical observation to be proven by the story. It can also be longer; several of the stories I read took a paragraph or more just to note that this was a story no one would believe.
I don't generally use framing statements, because they often throw off the immediacy of the story and can make it difficult to immerse yourself in reading it because they're right there reminding you that, "by the way, you know this is just a story, right?" I might give them a shot, though, in the name of writing stories that don't read like the first chapter of something.
I may also pick up a book of short mysteries, because I haven't read many and am interested in the form of short stories that have an established ending point (the solving of the crime) dictated by the plot structure of their genre.
Now, because it is awesome, a book trailer that consists of watching the designing of a cover on fast forward.