In this study we examined the effects of self-questioning on students’ interpretation and appreciation of complex short stories. Two experiments were carried out, in which tenth grade students from different secondary schools participated. In Experiment 1 self-questioning instruction was compared to instructor-made questions about stories. In Experiment 2 two forms of self-questioning instruction were compared: an unguided and a guided form. Literature discussions in peer groups formed a substantial part of all conditions. Results showed that (unguided) self-questioning had a positive effect on students’ appreciation of literary stories, compared to instructor-prepared questions and to guided self-questioning. The results for quality of interpretation were more diffuse. In Experiment 1 effects on students’ story interpretation could not be established. In Experiment 2 a main effect on story interpretation was found for both the guided and unguided form of self-questioning instruction. In addition, students’ reading experience appeared to be important for the effectiveness of the unguided self-questioning condition: avid readers tended to benefit more from this condition than infrequent readers. We conclude that an open literature approach, based on ‘authentic’ student-generated questions in response to short stories, can be beneficial for students’ story interpretation and appreciation.