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7 Classic Science Fiction Books Worth Revisiting

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Science Fiction stories delve into all things futuristic, technological, extraterrestrial — you catch our drift. Pivotal authors in the space include Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, N. K. Jemisin, and countless others.

In celebration of both Asimov, his peers, and the entire genre, we’ve put together a collection of sci-fi books that are always worth rereading (or reading for the first time if you’re just getting into these magical worlds of tomorrow). From fun and fascinating intergalactic travels to dystopian futures that will leave you with much to think about, these sci-fi tales are fundamental to the genre.

Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

The Foundation series began as a few short stories published in the magazine Astounding Stories of Super-Science back in the 1940s and ultimately became an entire series of seven epic books. The tale is set in the distant future where a man named Hari Seldon has invented “psychohistory,” a mathematical means of predicting the future. 

Unfortunately, its predictions aren’t very flattering: They foretell a time when humanity will more or less revert back to the Dark Ages. These predictions get Seldon and his crew exiled to a distant planet known as “the Foundation,” where they attempt to shorten the period of decline to come. Apple TV+ also turned the series into a TV show and released the first season in 2021. 

Dune – Frank Herbert

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

As fans of the 2021 Dune film may know, the story is based on the 1960s book by Frank Herbert and its sequels. Dune eventually became a bit like a literary version of Star Wars, as Herbert wrote six novels in the Dune series before he passed away. Later, his son Brian and author Kevin J. Anderson teamed up to produce numerous sequels and spinoffs based on the Dune -iverse.

The saga is set in a future where noble families rule different planets under a sort of intergalactic feudal system. In the first of the six foundational novels, readers are introduced to the heir of one such distinguished group, a boy named Paul Atreides whose family is charged with ruling a planet called Arrakis. When his family is betrayed, Paul embarks on a journey that blends everything from adventure to mysticism in one of the most epic sci-fi tales of all time. 

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

While some earlier sci-fi classics tend to reflect women in the light of the times in which they were written, The Left Hand of Darkness is a whole other experience altogether. The 1969 novel follows the adventures of Genly Ai, an envoy who is sent to a stray world called Winter in an attempt to bring it back into the intergalactic fold. 

However, to stand a chance, he must overcome his own preconceptions when he’s confronted with a culture that exists entirely without gender prejudice. As Ai soon discovers, some of the creatures on Winter express multiple genders, while others don’t identify with any at all. If you’re a reader who loves to go deep, this one makes for a fascinating read. 

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

While the actual 1984 may have come and gone, the dystopian novel that shares its name remains a pivotal work of science fiction. The Atlantic notes that “No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984 ,” and this assessment is indeed a fair one. Published in 1949, the story follows Winston Smith, who lives under a totalitarian government in which “the Party” controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives. 

“Big Brother,” an invisible yet omnipresent leader, is always surveilling the populace to ensure that no one commits so much as a thoughtcrime, which involves no more than thinking of rebelling against the Party. When Smith dares to think for himself, he sets off on a haunting journey that transports readers to a world that’s all too easy to imagine actually existing. While this isn’t necessarily an easy read, it’s an important one that will stay with you for years.  

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Though you may not think you’ve heard of this one, it may be a bit more familiar than you think — it’s the inspiration behind Ridley Scott’s film, Blade Runner (1982). First published in 1968, the novel takes place in a dystopian 2021 where entire species have been eliminated by a global war. In an effort to replace live animals, which are highly prized, series of incredibly realistic androids have been developed, some of which are even fashioned after human beings. 

However, when the government becomes wary of these AI humans and their disturbing capabilities, it eventually bans them from Earth. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard is sent to “retire” any rogue androids that remain, which doesn’t prove to be an easy task. 

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Kindred has become a foundational work of sci-fi and African-American literature alike. The story follows a modern young Black woman named Dana who is suddenly deposited back in time to the pre-Civil War South. Through a series of trips between that era and her own time, Dana is forced to contend with the horrors of slavery, racism and sexism while completing a series of tasks. 

Though each journey becomes more dangerous, Dana realizes that her own family’s future depends on their successful completion. First published in 1979, the novel remains relevant today with its skillful blend of romance, sci-fi, feminism, equality and adventure. 

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic story of good vs. evil presented through an adventurous sci-fi lens. The tale follows a high school student named Meg Murray, her friend Calvin O’Keefe and her younger brother Charles Wallace. When the three are introduced to tesseracts (or wrinkles in time) by an unearthly visitor, they set off on a journey through time and space to rescue Meg’s missing scientist father.

Along the way, she learns a series of timeless life lessons about everything from the power of individuality to the resiliency of love. Appropriate for both young and adult readers alike, this one is a fun and fascinating tale that seems impossible to outgrow. 


short historical fiction books under 200 pages

The Literary Lifestyle

23 Best Short Novels Under 200 Pages to Read in a Day

Posted on Last updated: January 31, 2023

Home » Books » Book Lists » 23 Best Short Novels Under 200 Pages to Read in a Day

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the best short novels to read in one day

If you want quick but meaningful short books to read, these are the best short novels under 200 pages to read in a day (or more, if you choose… no pressure!).

The list includes both classic short novels and modern short books to read in one sitting. To me, the most famous short books can really stand the test of time because not a word is wasted. Everything is important in moving these stories forward.

It’s almost like poetry!

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Table of Contents

What books can you read in a day?

Below are the best short novels under 200 pages to read in a day, including their page count.

NOTE: Page counts vary by publication (i.e., year and format). I did my best to give you the most accurate page counts and only pick the best novels that generally stayed under or really close to that 200-page mark across all publications thereof.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 140

75th Anniversary Edition

Animal Farm is one of the best short novels for high school. It’s the allegorical tale in which “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

A farm filled with overworked animals decides to create equality and find justice. But, what follows in this revolution against tyranny is totalitarianism just as terrible.

This classic short novel will give you chills and leave you with a lot to think and to talk about.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 192

Another Brooklyn is a really haunting and unforgettable coming-of-age short book to read about a group of girlfriends in Brooklyn in the 1970s — a time and place that was both dangerous and formative in what became of each girl.

Woodson writes with dark yet poetic prose as if she were a modern-day Toni Morrison. Needless to say, this one will really stick with you.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 144

The Awakening is a turn of the 20th Century feminist classic short novel set in New Orleans and listed on Rory Gilmore’s reading challenge .

On the Southern Louisiana coast, Edna Pontellier struggles with her roles as mother and wife and how they intersect with art, passion, and individuality. I imagine it would have been shocking at the time, and the ending will leave you completely stunned.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 179

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a great short storybook to read because it’s one of my favorite books of all time! Capote is an American treasure, carefully crafting into strings of thoughtful dialogue and prose the character of Holly Golightly, a New York socialite and a “drifter” in 1960s New York.

This one is for fans of character-driven novels, and I can pretty much assure you that you will not regret reading it.

I recommend the fantastic audiobook of this title — one of my favorite ways to read a classic book .

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 36

I first read Brokeback Mountain after watching (and loving) the movie, and the novella was just as spectacular — another great short storybook to read.

Wyoming is the most beautiful backdrop to the secret love story of Ennis and Jack, two sheepherders who begin a relationship one Summer while working with each other in the wilderness.

The men are married to women yet continue to meet each Summer for decades as they navigate their sexuality and social norms, with heartbreaking consequences in this very famous short book.

Candide by Voltaire

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 167

Candide is a widely translated French satire short book to read, originally published in 1759 by a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment.

A young man named Candide is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with optimism and the belief in “what’s meant to be” by his mentor. When he’s kicked out of the castle (literally), Candide slowly and painfully comes of age and becomes disillusioned by the hardships he witnesses and experiences.

Several adventure and romance cliches are parodied in a very bitter tone, yet this compulsively readable, famous short book also explores historical events.

Naturally, Candide also contends with the struggle of good versus evil in this once “banned” book, which ironically has also been named one of the most influential books ever written.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 176

I recall A Clockwork Orange being the most shocking book I read (and movie I watched) in high school. It’s also one of the books Rory Gilmore read .

Ultimately, it’s about the human struggle between good and evil, set in a futuristic England. Alex and his “Droogs” spend their nights engaging in mischievous acts, which ultimately lead to violence and his jailing. When he submits to behavior modification in order to earn back his freedom, he is conditioned to dismiss violence, which has an incredibly ironic result.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Convenience Store Woman is a surprisingly heartwarming, great short story book to read about a 36-year-old Japanese woman who works as at a convenience store … and loves it! Working in the store provides her with purpose and allows her to observe and learn about human interactions, leading her to search for a husband upon the prompting of her family.

It’s a close look at the pressure to conform for fans of Eleanor Oliphant, and it maintains a loveable main character at its core.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 105

I recall Ethan Frome being one of the required reads for high school that I truly felt was one of the best short fiction books to read (and Rory Gilmore also enjoyed this book on Gilmore Girls).

As Ethan works on an unproductive farm in the New England countryside, he also deals with his hypochondriac wife. So, it should come as no surprise that, when her cousin becomes their hired help, he becomes obsessed with her.

It’s an intense narrative that moves the trio toward their tragic fates, which will immerse you in the deepest emotions of these characters.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

If you liked Catcher in the Rye, you will like this one — especially Zooey’s story.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 123

If you have not yet read The Great Gatsby , what are you waiting for? This is one of the most classic short novels on the Rory Gilmore reading list about an outsider in Jazz Era Long Island, peering into the social life of a wealthy man.

It’s an easy read filled with symbolism and social commentary on social class in America.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 168

The Hound of the Baskervilles is another one of the best short novels for high school. It’s about the mysterious sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville, who may be the victim of a ghostly hound that haunts his family. Further, his heir may be the object of murder.

When the heir arrives, several odd things happen, and Sherlock Holmes observes a bearded man following him around the city. So, Watson heads to Baskerville hall to do some digging.

Upon his arrival in Baskerville Hall, more strange things happen as the case unfolds for fans of detective stories and classic mysteries.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 110

The House on Mango Street is one of the best short books under 200 pages that Jenna Bush Hager has called a favorite.

It’s told in short and sweet, poetic vignettes about the life of a young Latina girl in Chicago named Esperanza and the people in her life. Her tales are sometimes joyous and sometimes heartbreaking, but always compulsively readable.

You’ll adore this young lady and her unique perspective on life.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 96

The Little Prince is one of Megan Markle’s favorite books , and it is a beloved short fiction book to read that is recommended by so many others worldwide as well.

It’s a lyrical fable that explores the meaning of life amidst sweet illustrations and can be read in about an hour. It’s one of those books that everyone should read at least once.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 60

The Metamorphosis is a quirky short story on Rory Gilmore’s reading list about a salesman who wakes up to find he has been transformed into a bug. He must learn to adapt to his new condition and deal with his family’s reactions to him at the same time.

It’s super quick and interesting, with themes you’ll want to research after reading it.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 128

The Old Man and the Sea is another one of the best short novels for high school. It’s a simple yet enduring tale about an old Cuban fisherman, who has been down on his luck, and his epic battle with a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream.

In his customary brief prose, Hemingway shows the meaning of courage and personal triumph. 

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 107

Of Mice and Men is another one of the best short novels that were on my high school reading list that I really enjoyed and, naturally, it’s also a book Rory Gilmore read .

It’s a story of friendship between an unlikely pair of California laborers: George, a smaller man, and Lennie, a large man with the mind of a child. Together, they dream of owning land and a shack of their own, but these dreams are challenged when a flirtatious woman enters the picture.

You won’t be able to put this one down!

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Our Souls at Night is a great book for fans of Olive Kitteridge . Elderly, lonely woman Addie asks her elderly, lonely neighbor, Louis to engage in a unique type of friendship with her so they can have some companionship. As they get to know each other better, for better and for worse, a story of second chances unfolds.

It’s a tender peek into the thoughts and feelings of modern elder Americans.

A Room With a View by E.M. Forester

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 122

A Room with a View is a classic romance novel on Rory Gilmore’s book list and The Office’s Finer Things Club book list .

Young Lucy visits Florence, Italy, with her proper aunt and meets a young man and his father, who make an impression on her.

When she returns to England and becomes engaged, they re-enter her life and she must decide between convention and passion.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 121

A Room of One’s Own is one of the best short books under 200 pages in which it is imagined that Shakespeare had an equally talented sister— with a strikingly different legacy. She never writes a word, despite her inherent genius.

The theme is a simple one with feminist leanings—that women need their own income and a room of their own in order to be free to create.

It was different than I expected — an extended essay exploring the history of women in writing and in literature. It was really thoughtful and interesting, and definitely a must-read if you are looking for feminist works. 

Sula by Toni Morrison

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Sula is my favorite Toni Morrison novel I’ve read to date, and it’s also an Oprah’s book Club pick . Ultimately, it’s a story about death and friendship, told as poetically dark as all of Morrison’s work.

Nel and Sula are friends who share a tragic childhood secret that reverberates into their very different adulthoods, with consequences.

I found this one to be easier to read than most of her novels, and difficult to put down. These characters and how the secret shapes their lives are bound to stick with you.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 169

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

Their Eyes Were Watching God  is the renowned Southern love story of Janie Crawford, as she comes of age from being a voiceless teenage girl awakening to become an independent woman in control of her destiny.

It’s an absolute classic of the Harlem Renaissance that has been so widely read and deserves a place on your “to be read” list as well. For such a short novel, the content is truly epic, with memorable characters, suspense, and an unforgettable plot.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Page count: 146

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a dark, gothic short fiction book to read about an odd, unreliable narrator named Merricat and her family’s dark secrets.

It’s a tangled web of neurotic behavior, as a cousin arrives at the isolated family’s estate and it turns out this strange family may actually be murderous.

It really excels at building intrigue and suspense, keeping you completely glued to the pages to try to figure out what’s really going on.

Those are the best short novels under 200 pages to read in a day.

Pin this post to Pinterest because you can refer back to it when you want to squeeze in a short book.


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Under 200 Pages Books

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Lists Tagged “Under 200 Pages”

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short historical fiction books under 200 pages

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

The Best Books Under 200 Pages

Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get all the reading done that we’d like. I’ve long since accepted the fact that I’ll never be able to read all the books I want to read in my lifetime, because my TBR is constantly increasing and there are only so many books I can conceivably read in a year. But there is one way to get in more books, whether you’re just looking for shorter reads you can finish in a day or want to up the number of books you read in a year. The answer? These titles: some of the best books out there under 200 pages.

And these books aren’t some consolation prize you have to resort to in a pinch, either; they’re excellent stories in their own right. Even though each of these books clocks in at under 200 pages, the stories they tell are still complex and riveting. Some of them continue on into duologies or series to depict a longer narrative, while others are complete as a standalone. From SFF stories under 100 pages you can read in one sitting to 150 page novellas with rich narratives, these 20 of the best books under 200 pages are the perfect novels to read in a day.

Best Books Under 100 Pages

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo Book Cover

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho

A writer in 1920s London meets the famous author she recently eviscerated in a review, only to discover he has an interest in her. For Jade, the affair is the perfect opportunity for her to rebel against the societal norms she’s followed thus far. But Sebastian Hardie isn’t the man she loves. It might take an affair with the wrong man to discover that, though.

Trafik Book Cover

Trafik by Rikki Ducornet

A mostly human astronaut harvests minerals from asteroids using a virtual reality game alongside her excitable robot companion, Mic. But when an accident destroys their cargo, the two begin a madcap journey toward a new destination: the planet Trafik.

Finna Book Cover

Finna by Nino Cipri

When a wormhole opens up in an IKEA-like big box furniture store, the two newest employees learn it’s their job to jump through the portal before it closes and track down the customer who fell through before it’s too late. To make matters even worse, those two most recent employees are happen to be exes. And they broke up less than a week ago. It’s a rip-roaring multiverse adventure with a capitalist twist.

Book cover of The Only Harmless Great Thing

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

You’ve heard about the Radium Girls, who were poisoned by painting radium onto watch dials, and you might know about the elephant electrocuted around the same time in Coney Island. In The Only Harmless Great Thing , these true facts are reimagined and entwined as sentient elephants are forced to work in radium factories and later asked to alter their DNA to glow around radiation as a warning sign to humans to avoid nuclear waste. It’s a fascinating indictment of corporate greed and the evils of dehumanizing others.

The Strange Library Book Cover

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, Translated by Ted Goossen

A boy becomes trapped in a secret dungeon under the library in this surreal Murakami story. There’s a sinister library underneath the library, and when a lonely boy becomes trapped in its depths alongside a mysterious girl and a sheep man, he must figure out some way to plot their escape.

Binti Book Cover

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is the first of the Himba people to be offered a place at the prestigious Oomza University. In fact, she’s the first of her people to ever travel off world. She must journey through the stars among strangers who don’t understand or respect her culture in order to continue her education. But when the spaceship shepherding the students to the university is attacked, Binti finds herself in the middle of an alien war.

Best Books Between 100-150 Pages

The House on Mango Street Book Cover

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

This novella told in a series of vignettes follows a young Latina girl named Esperanza Cordero growing up in Chicago. Her journey to finding herself is at times joyous and others heartbreaking as she decides who and what she will become.

Prosper's Demon Book Cover

Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker

An exorcist with dubious morals but undeniable results looks to exorcise the world’s first philosopher-king who just so happens to be demonically possessed. It’s a story full of demonic possessions, double and triple crossings, and the fine line between good and evil.

River of Teeth Book Cover

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

In an alternate version of the United States, where a proposal to introduce hippos to the bayous of Louisiana was approved by Congress, a ragtag band of outlaws attempt to corral feral hippos and seek their revenge. River of Teeth is the hippo western of my dreams, and I can never get enough of it.

All Systems Red Book Cover

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Murderbot is no ordinary SecUnit. Most SecUnits have protocols that control them and keep them from going rougue; Murderbot hacked theirs. Most SecUnits want only to obtain their objectives; Murderbot mostly just wants to watch media all day. But when the newest humans Murderbot has been tasked with protecting find themselves in the middle of a murderous corporate conspiracy and almost entirely unable to keep themselves out of danger, it’s up to Murderbot to save them. The Murderbot novellas may be short, but they pack a serious punch. They’re not one of my favorite sci-fi series for nothing, let me tell you.

In the Vanishers' Palace Book Cover

In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard

In the Vietnamese reimagining of Beauty and the Beast , a failed scholar is sold to one of the last dragons found on Earth. The dragon needs a scholar to tutor her children, and soon the scholar begins to see a softer side to the dangerous dragon who has become her captor.

The Annual Migration of Clouds Book Cover

The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

In an Alberta decimated by climate disaster, a woman infected by a mysterious, mind-altering fungi must decide whether to escape her current life to pursue a rare opportunity or stay with her mother and the community that relies on her. A dangerous mission might give her the means to set her family up for life, but how can she ask others to trust her when she can’t even trust her own mind?

Best Books Between 151-200 Pages

cover of To Be Taught, If Fortunate Book Cover

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

What if, instead of terraforming planets to fit our needs, we modified ourselves? For the crew of extrasolar research vessel, that’s exactly how they manage to explore new planets. The crew lives a life of constant change, sleeping between planets and waking up with entirely new bodies and a world back home that may no longer even care about their mission. It’s a beautiful story told with the signature thoughtfulness and charm Becky Chambers is known for.

Convenience Store Woman Book Cover

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Thirty-six-year-old Keiko Furukura is perfectly happy working at the Smile Mart, where she’s been employed ever since she was a teenager, thank you very much. It’s only her friends, family, and coworkers who seem to think there’s something strange about it. But Keiko finds purpose in what she does, and in this quirky character study of a novella, she’ll eventually discover that that’s what matters most in life.

The Deep Book Cover

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

A seafaring society descended from the pregnant women thrown overboard during the Transatlantic Slave Trade have found means of thriving underwater, but it comes at a cost. One among them must retain all the memories of the past, the trauma too much to be held by everyone at all times. Yetu is the historian. She remembers so others don’t have to. But the weight of the past is slowly destroying her. It will take a journey to the world above the waves to discover the truth about her past and formulate a way forward.

Riot Baby Book Cover

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

A sister and brother with extraordinary powers must stay under the radar to protect themselves from the brutality of systemic racism in America. But when Kev is arrested for the crime of being a young Black man, his sister Ella tries to show him through means both natural and supernatural that it is time to fight back.

Ring Shout Book Cover

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

A racist film in the 1910s casts a spell across America and raises monsters known as Ku Kluxes, joining the ranks of the KKK and spreading terror across the nation. It’s up to resistance fighters like Maryse Boudreaux to send those monster straight back to where they came from: Hell. But something awful is brewing in Macon, Georgia, and the war on Hell is about to get a whole lot hotter.

Strange Weather in Tokyo Book Cover

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami, Translated by Allison Markin Powell

After running into an old high school teacher in a sake bar and unable to remember his name, Tsukiko falls back into the habit of calling him sensei. They continue to meet up over edamame beans, cold beer, and a trip to the mountains where they eat wild mushrooms. As they friendship deepens, Tsukiko realizes the solace she feels around sensei may be something more.

What Moves the Dead Book Cover

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

In this haunted, horrifying retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher , a former soldier comes to the aid of an ailing childhood friend, only to discover there is something far more sinister going on in this house than any known illness.

Release date: July 12, 2022

Tokyo Ueno Station Book Cover

Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yū, Translated by Morgan Giles

Kazu’s life and afterlife have been tied through a series of coincidences to Japan’s Imperial family and to a park near Ueno Station, which his spirit now haunts. It’s here that Kazu worked as a laborer in the lead up to the 1964 Olympic Games and later where he ended his last in one of the parks vast homeless villages, his life upended by the 2011 tsunami and enraged over the announcement of the 2020 Olympics.

And that’s not all the short fiction we have to recommend. Check out these other short novels and novellas as well:

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

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short historical fiction books under 200 pages

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

50 Great Classic Novels Under 200 Pages

Getting you through february.

We are now past the mid-way point in February, which is technically the shortest month, but is also the one that—for me, anyway—feels the longest. Especially this year, for all of the reasons that you already know. At this point, if you keep monthly reading goals, even vague ones, you may be looking for few a good, short novels to knock out in an afternoon or two. Last year, I wrote about the best contemporary novels under 200 pages , so now I must turn my attention to my favorite short classics—which represent the quickest and cheapest way, I can tell you in my salesman voice, to become “well-read.”

A few notes: Because the “contemporary” list surveyed novels published since 1970 (inclusive), this list will define “classic” as being originally published before 1970. Yes, these distinctions are somewhat arbitrary, but one has to draw the line somewhere (though I let myself fudge on translation dates). I did not differentiate between novels and novellas (as Steven Millhauser would tell you , the novella is not a form at all, but merely a length), but let’s be honest with ourselves: “The Dead” is a short story, and so is “The Metamorphosis.” Sorry! I limited myself to one book by each author, valiantly, I should say, because I was tempted to cheat (looking at you Jean Rhys).

Most importantly for our purposes here: lengths vary with editions, sometimes wildly. I did not include a book below unless I could find that it had been published at least once in fewer than 200 pages—which means that some excellent novels, despite coming tantalizingly close to the magic number, had to be left off for want of proof (see Mrs. Dalloway ,  Black No More , Slaughterhouse-Five , etc. etc. etc.). However, your personal edition might not exactly match the number I have listed here. Don’t worry: it’ll still be short.

Finally, as always: “best” lists are subjective, no ranking is definitive, and I’ve certainly forgotten, or never read, or run out of space for plenty of books and writers here. And admittedly, the annoying constraints of this list make it more heavily populated by white and male writers than I would have liked. Therefore, please add on at will in the comments. After all, these days, I’m always looking for something old to read .

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Adolfo Bioy Casares, tr. Ruth L.C. Simms, The Invention of Morel (1940) : 103 pages

Both Jorge Luis Borges and Octavio Paz described this novel as perfect, and I admit I can’t find much fault with it either. It is technically about a fugitive whose stay on a mysterious island is disturbed by a gang of tourists, but actually it’s about the nature of reality and our relationship to it, told in the most hypnotizing, surrealist style. A good anti-beach read, if you plan that far ahead.

steinbeck of mice and men

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men (1937) : 107 pages

Everybody’s gateway Steinbeck is surprisingly moving, even when you revisit it as an adult. Plus, if nothing else, it has given my household the extremely useful verb “to Lenny.”

George Orwell, Animal Farm

George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945) : 112 pages

If we didn’t keep putting it on lists, how would future little children of America learn what an allegory is? This is a public service, you see.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) : 112 pages

A people-pleaser, in more ways than one: Sherlock Holmes, after all, had been dead for years when his creator finally bent to public demand (and more importantly, the demand of his wallet) and brought him back, in this satisfying and much-beloved tale of curses and hellbeasts and, of course, deductions.

James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice

James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1933) : 112 pages

A 20th century classic, and still one of the best, most important, and most interesting crime novels in the canon. Fun fact: Cain had originally wanted to call it Bar-B-Q .

nella larsen passing

Nella Larsen, Passing (1929) : 122 pages

One of the landmarks of the Harlem Renaissance, about not only race but also gender and class—not to mention self-invention, perception, capitalism, motherhood and friendship—made indelible by what Darryl Pinckney called “a deep fatalism at the core.”

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Albert Camus, tr. Matthew Ward, The Stranger (1942) : 123 pages

I had a small obsession with this book as a moody teen, and I still think of it with extreme fondness. Is it the thinking person’s Catcher in the Rye ? Who can say. But Camus himself put it this way, writing in 1955: “I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: “In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.” I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Juan Rulfo, tr. Margaret Sayers Peden, Pedro Páramo (1955) : 128 pages

The strange, fragmented ghost story that famously paved the way for One Hundred Years of Solitude (according to Gabriel García Márquez himself), but is an enigmatic masterpiece in its own right.

the cloven viscount

Italo Calvino, tr. Archibald Colquhoun, The Cloven Viscount (1959) : 128 pages 

This isn’t my favorite Calvino, but you know what they say: all Calvino is good Calvino (also, I forgot him on the contemporary list, so I’m making up for it slightly here). The companion volume to The Nonexistent Knight and The Baron in the Trees concerns a Viscount who is clocked by a cannonball and split into two halves: his good side and his bad side. They end up in a duel over their wife, of course—just like in that episode of Buffy . But turns out that double the Viscounts doesn’t translate to double the pages.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899) : 128 pages

I know, I know, but honestly, this book, which is frequently taught in American schools as an example of early feminist literature, is still kind of edgy—more than 120 years later, and it’s still taboo for a woman to put herself and her own desires above her children. Whom among us has not wanted to smash a symbolic glass vase into the hearth?

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

Leo Tolstoy, tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886) : 128 pages

Another classic—Tolstoy can do it all, long and short—particularly beloved by the famously difficult-to-impress Nabokov, who described it as “Tolstoy’s most artistic, most perfect, and most sophisticated achievement,” and explained the thrust of it this way: “The Tolstoyan formula is: Ivan lived a bad life and since the bad life is nothing but the death of the soul, then Ivan lived a living death; and since beyond death is God’s living light, then Ivan died into a new life—Life with a capital L.”

Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar

Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar (1968) : 138 pages

Brautigan’s wacky post-apocalyptic novel concerns a bunch of people living in a commune called iDEATH. (Which, um, relatable.) The landscape is groovy and the tigers do math, and the titular watermelon sugar seems to be the raw material for everything from homes to clothes. “Wherever you are, we must do the best we can. It is so far to travel, and we have nothing here to travel, except watermelon sugar. I hope this works out.” It’s all nonsense, of course, but it feels so good.

James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) : 140 pages

Another early novel on the subject of passing—originally published in 1912, then again under Johnson’s name in 1927—this one presented as an “autobiography” written by a Black man living as white, but uneasily, considering himself a failure, feeling until the end the grief of giving up his heritage and all the pain and joy that came with it.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Thomas Mann, tr. Michael Henry Heim, Death in Venice (1912) : 142 pages

What it says on the tin—a story as doomed as Venice itself, but also a queer and philosophical mini-masterpiece. The year before the book’s publication, Mann wrote to a friend: “I am in the midst of work: a really strange thing I brought with me from Venice, a novella, serious and pure in tone, concerning a case of pederasty in an aging artist. You say, ‘Hum, hum!’ but it is quite respectable.” Indeed.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle_Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) : 146 pages

If you’re reading this space, you probably already know how much we love this book at Literary Hub. After that excellent opening paragraph , it only gets better.

a single man isherwood

Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man (1964) : 152 pages

Isherwood’s miniature, jewel-like masterpiece takes place over a single day in the life of a middle-aged English expat (who shares a few qualities with Isherwood himself), a professor living uneasily in California after the unexpected death of his partner. An utterly absorbing and deeply pleasurable novel.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Fyodor Dostoevsky, tr. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, Notes from Underground (1864) : 154 pages

Probably the best rant ever passed off as literature. Doestoevsky’s first masterpiece has been wildly influential in the development of existential and dystopian storytelling of all kinds, not to mention in the development of my own high school misanthropy. Maybe yours, too? “It was all from ENNUI, gentlemen, all from ENNUI; inertia overcame me . . .” Actually, now I’m thinking that it might be a good book to re-read in pandemic isolation.

Anna Kavan, Ice

Anna Kavan, Ice (1967) : 158 pages

The narrator of this strange and terrifying novel obsessively pursues a young woman through an icy apocalypse. You might call it a fever dream if it didn’t feel so . . . cold. Reading it, wrote Jon Michaud on its 50th anniversary, is “a disorienting and at times emotionally draining experience, not least because, these days, one might become convinced that Kavan had seen the future.” Help.

Cane, Jean Toomer

Jean Toomer,  Cane   (1923) : 158 pages

Toomer’s experimental, multi-disciplinary novel, now a modernist classic, is presented as a series of vignettes, poems, and swaths of dialogue—but to be honest, all of it reads like poetry. Though its initial reception was uncertain, it has become one of the most iconic and influential works of 1920s American literature.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World (1962) : 158 pages

Only in a Ballard novel can climate change make you actually become insane—and only a Ballard novel could still feel so sticky and hot in my brain, years after I read it in a single afternoon.

knut hamsun hunger

Knut Hamsun, tr. Sverre Lyngstad, Hunger (1890) : 158 pages

The Nobel Prize winner’s first novel is, as Hamsun himself put it, “an attempt to describe the strange, peculiar life of the mind, the mysteries of the nerves in a starving body.” An modernist psychological horror novel that is notoriously difficult, despite its length, but also notoriously worth it.

giovanni's room

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (1956) : 159 pages

Still my favorite Baldwin, and one of the most convincing love stories of any kind ever written, about which there is too much to say: it is a must-read among must-reads.

Willa Cather O Pioneers

Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913) : 159 pages

A mythic, proto-feminist frontier novel about a young Swedish immigrant making a home for herself in Nebraska, with an unbearably cool and modern title (in my opinion).

Françoise Sagan, tr. Irene Ash, Bonjour Tristesse

Françoise Sagan, tr. Irene Ash, Bonjour Tristesse (1955) : 160 pages

Sagan’s famously scandalous novel of youthful hedonism, published (also famously) when Sagan was just 19 herself, is much more psychologically nuanced than widely credited. As Rachel Cusk wrote , it is not just a sexy French novel, but also “a masterly portrait that can be read as a critique of family life, the treatment of children and the psychic consequences of different forms of upbringing.” It is a novel concerned not only with morals or their lack, but with the very nature of morality itself.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (1924) : 160 pages

Bartleby may be more iconic (and more fun), but Billy Budd is operating on a grander scale, unfinished as it may be.

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) : 160 pages

Everyone’s gateway to Pynchon, and also everyone’s gateway to slapstick postmodernism. Either you love it or you hate it!

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Franz Kafka, tr. Willa and Edwin Muir, The Trial (1925) : 160 pages

Required reading for anyone who uses the term “Kafkaesque”—but don’t forget that Kafka himself would burst out laughing when he read bits of the novel out loud to his friends. Do with that what you will.

Kenzaburo Oe, tr. John Nathan, A Personal Matter

Kenzaburo Oe, tr. John Nathan, A Personal Matter (1968) : 165 pages

Whew. This book is a lot: absolutely gorgeous and supremely painful, and probably the Nobel Prize winner’s most important.

nightwood book cover

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936) : 170 pages

In his preface to the first edition, T.S. Eliot praised “the great achievement of a style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterisation, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy.” It is also a glittering modernist masterpiece, and one of the first novels of the 20th century to explicitly portray a lesbian relationship.

Yasunari Kawabata, tr. Edward G. Seidensticker, Snow Country

Yasunari Kawabata, tr. Edward G. Seidensticker, Snow Country (1937) : 175 pages

A story of doomed love spun out in a series of indelible, frozen images—both beautiful and essentially suspicious of beauty—by a Nobel Prize winner.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) : 176 pages

This novel, Rhys’s famous riposte to one of the worst love interests in literary history, tells the story of Mr. Rochester from the point of view of the “madwoman in the attic.” See also: Good Morning, Midnight (1939), which is claustrophobic, miserable, pointless, and damn fine reading.

George Eliot, Silas Marner

George Eliot, Silas Marner (1861) : 176 pages

Like Middlemarch , Silas Marner is exquisitely written and ecstatically boring. Unlike Middlemarch , it is quite short.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Muriel Spark, The Girls of Slender Means (1963) : 176 pages

The girls of Spark’s novel live in the May of Teck Club, disturbed but not destroyed by WWII—both the Club, that is, and the girls. “Their slenderness lies not so much in their means,” Carol Shields wrote in an appreciation of the book, “as in their half-perceived notions about what their lives will become and their overestimation of their power in the world. They are fearless and frightened at the same time, as only the very young can be, and they are as heartless in spirit as they are merry in mode.” Can’t go wrong with Muriel Spark.

Robert Walser, tr. Christopher Middleton, Jakob von Gunten

Robert Walser, tr. Christopher Middleton, Jakob von Gunten (1969) : 176 pages

Walser is a writer’s writer, a painfully underrated genius; this novel, in which a privileged youth runs off to enroll at a surrealist school for servants, may be his best.

truman capote breakfast at tiffany's

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) : 179 pages

Read for proof that Holly Golightly was meant to be a Marilyn.

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (1958) : 181 pages

A powerful, clear-eyed, and haunting novel, which at the time of its publication was transgressive in its centering of African characters in all their humanity and complexity, and which paved the way for thousands of writers all over the world in the years to follow.

fat city

Leonard Gardner, Fat City (1969) : 183 pages

Universally acknowledged as the best boxing novel ever written, but so much more than that: at its core, it’s a masterpiece about that secret likelihood of life, if not of literature: never achieving your dreams.

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn (1968) : 185 pages

House Made of Dawn , Momaday’s first novel, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and is often credited with ushering in the Native American Renaissance. Intricate, romantic, and lush, it is at its core about the creaking dissonance of two incompatible worlds existing in the same place (both literally and metaphysically) at the same time.

If he Hollers Chester himes

Chester Himes,  If He Hollers Let Him Go   (1945) : 186 pages

Himes’ first novel spans four days in the life of a Californian named Bob Jones, whose every step is dogged by racism. Walter Mosely called Himes, who is also renowned for his detective fiction, a “quirky American genius,” and also “one of the most important American writers of the 20th century.”  If He Hollers Let Him Go , while not technically a detective story, is “firmly located in the same Los Angeles noir tradition as The Big Sleep and Devil in a Blue Dress ,” Nathan Jefferson has written . “Himes takes the familiar mechanics of these novels—drinking, driving from one end of Los Angeles to another in search of answers, a life under constant threats of danger—and filters them through the lens of a black man lacking any agency and control over his own life, producing something darker and more oppressive than the traditional pulp detective’s story.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) : 189 pages

All my life I have wanted to scoff at The Great Gatsby . Usually, things that are universally adored are bad, or at least mediocre. But every time I reread it, I remember: impossibly, annoyingly, it is as good as they say.

Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin

Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin (1957) : 190 pages

Still one of my favorite campus novels , and short enough to read in between classes.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Charles Portis, Norwood (1966) : 190 pages

Portis has gotten a lot of (well-deserved) attention in recent years for True Grit , but his first novel, Norwood , is almost as good, a comic masterpiece about a young man traipsing across a surreal America to lay his hands on $70.


Philip K. Dick, Ubik (1969) : 191 pages

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and A Scanner Darkly have more mainstream name recognition (thank you Hollywood) but Ubik is Dick’s masterpiece, filled to the brim with psychics and anti-psis, dead wives half-saved in cold-pac, and disruptions to time and reality that can be countered by an aerosol you get at the drugstore. Sometimes, anyway.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Clarice Lispector, tr. Alison Entrekin, Near to the Wild Heart (1943) : 192 pages

Lispector’s debut novel, first published in Brazil when she was only 19, is still my favorite of hers: fearless, sharp-edged, and brilliant, a window into one of the most interesting narrators in literature.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1962) : 192 pages

This novel is probably more famous these days for the Kubrick film, but despite the often gruesome content, the original text is worth a read for the language alone.

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Barbara Comyns, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (1954) : 193 pages

Comyns is a criminally under-read genius, though she’s been getting at least a small taste of the attention she deserves in recent years due to reissues by NYRB and Dorothy. This one is my favorite, permeated, as Brian Evenson puts it in the introduction of my copy, with marvelousness, “a kind of hybrid of the pastoral and the naturalistic, an idyllic text about what it’s like to grow up next to a river, a text that also just happens to contain some pretty shocking and sad disasters.” Which is putting it rather mildly indeed.

Their Eyes Were Watching God book cover

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) : 194 pages

In 194 pages, Janie goes through more husbands than most literary heroines can manage in twice as many (and finds herself in equally short order).

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome (1911) : 195 pages

To be honest with you, though it has been variously hailed as a masterpiece, I find Ethan Frome to be lesser Wharton—but even lesser Wharton is better than a lot of people’s best.

joan lindsay picnic at hanging rock

Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) : 198 pages

The mood this novel—of disappeared teens and Australian landscape and uncertainty—lingers much longer than the actual reading time.

Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop

Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop (1967) : 200 pages

“The summer she was fifteen,” Carter’s second novel begins, “Melanie discovered she was made of flesh and blood.” It is that year that she is uprooted from her home in London to the wilds of America, and it is that year she comes to term with herself. “It is often the magical, fabular aspects of Carter’s stories that people focus on, but in The Magic Toyshop I responded to the way she blended this with a clear-eyed realism about what it was to live in a female body,” Evie Wyld wrote in her ode to this novel. “In a novel so brilliantly conjured from splayed toothbrush heads, mustard-and-cress sandwiches and prawn shells, bread loaves and cutlery, brickwork and yellow household soap, the female body is both one more familiar object and at the same time something strange and troubling.”

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

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23 Wonderful Short Books to Read Now

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Enjoyable as it is to immerse yourself in an inches-thick work of fiction, having the time — and focus — to do so is increasingly a luxury. In order to keep you turning pages in between Netflix binges and DVR purges, we’ve assembled a list of excellent books that will take you less than a day to read, each of them 200 pages or fewer.

This is not “The Best Novellas of All Time,” because lists of that sort are readily accessible , and you probably read many of those books in grade school anyway. Rather, these are some of the most entertaining and mind-opening stories, novellas, essays, and short treatises from the recent past. The works vary by degrees of digestibility — some can satisfy your cravings within an hour while others may take a full day to absorb — but every one will leave you glad you made the time for it.

Slow Days, Fast Company, by Eve Babitz (1977)

Pure throwback fun. Eve Babitz, a contemporary of Joan Didion and Renata Adler, is the ideal guide to Los Angeles in the ’60s and ’70s, a time and a place that are easy to romanticize — and these ten irresistible essays don’t let us down. Just like many a Hollywood “It” girl, they’re dishy, glamorous, and simultaneously sad and sunny.

Assembly, by Natasha Brown (2021)

A devastating novel about a Black British woman who works in finance and has perhaps turned the other cheek one too many times, Assembly portrays a kind of death that’s brought about by a million microaggressions.

The Hearing Trumpet, by Leonora Carrington (1974)

The Hearing Trumpet is a weird and wonderful cult classic that delights in its singular strangeness. Originally published in 1974 and reissued by NYRB in 2021, it’s the story of an eccentric elderly heroine who is placed in an old folks’ home unlike any you may have encountered, a place brimming with surreal intrigues and adventures that adhere to a twisted logic of its very own.

The Days of Abandonment, by Elena Ferrante (2002)

The literary world has rightfully been consumed by Ferrante fever for more than a decade. If you want a taste of how visceral and wounding the Italian writer’s prose can be, start with The Days of Abandonment . The short novel about the wrath of a woman who is left by her husband is a scathing introduction to Ferrante’s work and an ideal litmus test to determine if you should move on to her epic Neapolitan novels.

The Odd Woman and the City, by Vivian Gornick (2015)

Cultural critic Vivian Gornick writes about New York City like no one else and is deserving of a spot on the list with all the favorites: E.B. White, Patti Smith, Teju Cole. Her second memoir is like taking a brief yet fast-paced walk through the city streets and talking with its weird and wonderful inhabitants.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid (2007)

The 9/11 novel that stuck with me the most, and it remains as relevant as ever today. The Reluctant Fundamentalist follows a Muslim man who’s an avid chaser of the American dream but who, while facing a bombardment of harassment after the attack, spirals toward hatred of the western way of life.

Justine, by Forsyth Harmon (2021)

It’s the late 1990s on Long Island, and a teenage girl named Ali gladly takes on the drudgery of working checkout at a grocery store in order to get closer to her obsession. The title character is a co-worker who seems more worldly, more experienced, more charismatic than any of the other people in Ali’s world. Justine is a lovely coming of age story that comes complete with illustrations that may remind you of art from your favorite zines.

When We Cease To Understand the World, by Benjamin Labatut (2021)

Translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West, When We Cease to Understand the World details the personal lives of a handful of 20th-century scientists and mathematicians whose discoveries resulted in unprecedented destruction. It’s a compact yet explosive novel that blurs the thin line between fact and fiction with every page diverging further from what’s been written in history books. When We Cease to Understand the World does nothing short of expanding the scope of what fiction can do.

The Man Who Saw Everything, by Deborah Levy (2019)

Something feels just a little off in Deborah Levy’s masterful most recent novel — the details don’t line up, the timeline doesn’t quite make sense — and that’s entirely the point. As we follow self-involved historian Saul Adler from an art exhibit in New York to a photo shoot on Abbey Road to a stint behind the Berlin Wall in the 1980s, we come to see the various flaws in the way Saul sees the world. He is an excellent addition to the canon of great unreliable narrators in literature.

The Story of My Teeth, by Valeria Luiselli (2015)

Mexican essayist and novelist Valeria Luiselli makes me want to be a better reader and thinker. Her debut novel is a simple yet wonderfully bizarre tale of a huckster who auctions off a collection of teeth. Come for the absurdist comedy, stay for the references to great writers and philosophers and see how in on the joke you really are.

Like Life, by Lorrie Moore (1990)

If you’re new to the magic of a perfect Lorrie Moore short story, this slim collection is a great place to start. You’ll get a sense of her word play, her cleverness, and wry humor even in times of great despair. Bonus: “You’re Ugly, Too” is one of the best short stories of all time, and it’s contained within these pages.

Bluets, by Maggie Nelson (2009)

No one combines the academic and the personal better than Maggie Nelson . Her ode to the color blue is part memoir, part philosophical study, part comedy, part really emo mixtape. It’s the book that can easily fit into the pocket of your favorite pair of jeans, and it demands to be revisited and worn out just as much.

Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill (2014)

Funny-sad is a very unoriginal yet concise adjective to describe my very favorite kind of writing, and Jenny Offill’s lovely novel in fragments delivers. She invokes the wisdom of philosophers and poets and scientists in her wry portrait of a marriage, but her own words are just as profound.

Glaciers, by Alexis M. Smith (2012)

A must-read if you like vintage clothes, the smell of old library books, and unrequited love. Alexis M. Smith’s novella about finding the beauty in damaged things is sweet but never twee, sensitive but strong.

Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit (2014)

This one goes out to all the ladies who’ve ever written insightful things on the internet only to have a man in the comments section explain it back to them. Rebecca Solnit has written many brilliant books — all highly recommended — but this tiny beacon of light serves as a short and affecting treatise on a scourge that has plagued us for centuries: mansplaining.

Spectacle, by Susan Steinberg (2013)

“The world should not be about wanting and wanting the way it was when I was younger and dumber, drawing in my bed, drawing some asshole’s name on my hand, and hearts. But here we all are.”

Yes, Spectacle has been described as “experimental,” but please know that I’m using the word to describe a style of writing that feels exciting and new and different, not pretentious or unnecessarily complicated. The linked stories in Spectacle feel as though they’re breaking new ground even as they zero in on universal emotions.

We the Animals, by Justin Torres (2011)

For a novel that’s volatile and messy, We the Animals is also remarkably controlled — there’s not an extraneous word to be found. It unfolds in gushes of memories, the recollections of the youngest son in a poor biracial family, in which rare moments of exuberance and tenderness are juxtaposed against the chaos of daily life.

Territory of Light, by Yuko Tsushima (1979)

An unnamed woman separates from her husband, takes their young daughter, and moves into a pristine apartment. While her new home may feel as light and airy as the shimmering cover of the English translation of the novel, published by FSG in 2019, she’s far from a fresh start. Being a single mother in Tokyo in the 1970s with little support from her community or government is a darker undertaking than the title suggests.

How To Get Into the Twin Palms, by Karolina Waclawiak (2012)

Karolina Waclawiak is a fearless writer, and her debut novel’s self-destructive heroine is motivated by loneliness and longing. A Polish immigrant struggling to make her way in L.A., Anka makes herself over as a Russian moll to get past the bouncers at the hot club around the corner from her dingy apartment.

Mouth to Mouth, by Antoine Wilson (2022)

Oh, to have an afternoon free and to have not yet read Mouth to Mouth ! These days it feels like any thriller with any sort of suspenseful momentum is favorably compared to a classic by Patricia Highsmith, but Antoine Wilson’s sleek train crash of a novel is one that truly deserves it. You may zoom through it, but you would be wise to go back and read it a second time in order to savor the seamlessness of its construction.

The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson (1996)

“I didn’t know what hate felt like, not the hate that comes after love. It’s huge and desperate and it longs to be proved wrong. And every day it’s proved right it grows a little more monstrous. If the love was passion, the hate will be obsession.”

Never has a piece of historical fiction set in a time that didn’t really call out to me (it’s the story of a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars) made me feel so damn much. Winterson writes heroically about love, about politics, and about the things that occupy our minds.

Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson (2016)

A satisfying novel you can read in an hour or two, Another Brooklyn follows the friendship of four girls in the 1970s. Jacqueline Woodson is a YA superstar, and though this novel is for adults, her subject matter reminds us of the great empathy with which she portrays teenagers. Woodson gives us a window into a way of life that’s full of struggle, yes, but also beauty and wonder.

The Wallcreeper, by Nell Zink (2014)

Much like fellow birder and chief blurber of The Wallcreeper , Jonathan Franzen, Nell Zink is an author you can either love or hate , but it’s hard to deny the power of her writing. Her debut novella is the perfect introduction to her off-kilter point of view, the small gems of humor found on nearly every page offsetting some (but not all) of the surrounding darkness.

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short historical fiction books under 200 pages

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Great Books Around 200 Pages

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short historical fiction books under 200 pages

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Great Books for a Quick Read

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

11 amazing reads under 200 pages

short historical fiction books under 200 pages

Here’s a round-up of short books, under 200 pages, that pack a punch. Whether classics or newly minted ones, these novels and memoirs have all the feels—and despite their short page count, explore the big questions of life.

Page count: 145

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Page count: 70

Page count: 189

Page count: 122

Page count: 128

Page count: 172

Page count: 196 (publishing November 29)

Page count: 162

Page count: 210

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short historical fiction books under 200 pages

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12 books under 200 pages so you can actually finish reading for once

Don’t judge a book by its size

We like big books and we cannot lie. Yet, a lie-detector would bust us if we claimed we’ve been faithful to our reading goals and scaled Everest-like tomes. In fact, some of those heavy-weight titles are doubling as weights for our home workouts. The bitter truth remains that our once-upon-a-time secure relationship with reading is now endangered. We are falling prey to infidelity, and betraying A Suitable Boy for his questionable BBC adaptation .

With attention spans dwindling faster than our bank accounts in December, we’ve found a short cut to to resolve this misery. With the help of our overflowing bookshelves, and recommendations from our readers, we built an arsenal of s hort novels and novellas that don’t compromise on quality.

From Margaret Atwood and Rabindranath Tagore to Elena Ferrante and Milan Kundera, this selection of contemporary novels, all-time classics and some relevant literature under 200 pages promises a satisfying reading weekend, without turning our book dates into a drag fest. 

According to CapitalizeMyTitle’s survey of reading speed , it takes an average reader 2.8 hours to read 100 pages, which means a 200-page novel demands less than six hours. Easier than committing to the final season of Money Heist, isn’t it?

12 short novels to smash your reading goals

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (176 pages)

Japanese author Sayaka Murata’s award-winning novel follows Keiko Furukawa, a 36-year-old grocery store worker , who’s been single all her life, and finds it tough to fit into the conventional roles of society.

At 18, when she takes up a job at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart”, Keiko finds a purpose, fighting against corporate and social odds to make her own place.

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Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbag (124 pages)

In Vivek Shanbag’s dysfunctional family drama, with money, comes ghachar ghochar: a complex knot that can’t be untied . 

In Bengaluru, the unnamed protagonist goes about his famished, poverty-stricken life in a joint family. But when his uncle comes up with a business idea, the family goes from a shanty to a sprawling house. But their problems don’t seem to end. 

Shanbag’s psychological drama encourages us to have transparent money conversations with our closest ones, and remember that money isn’t always the answer.

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa (143 pages)

Discover the superpower of books (which includes short novels too) and cats in Natsukawa’s fantasy fiction. 

Young Rintaro is grieving his grandfather’s death, and decides to shut Natsuki Books, the hole-in-the-wall second-hand bookshop owned by his grandpa. It was also his safe space. 

His life changes when a cat called Tiger (also a book nerd) appears and asks Rintaro to join him on a mission, to save books from people who mistreat them. As they journey together through adventures, Rintaro faces his demons too, and emerges a brave heart. 

A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel Garcίa Marquez and Mercedes Barcha by Rodrigo Garcia (176 pages)

This poignant memoir of longing and loss by Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel García Marquez, is endearing to say the least. The son writes from his dying father’s bedside in Mexico City as well as recounts his final moments with his mother giving us a fragmented yet intimate portrait of the Marquez family. 

A must-read for fans of Marquez, and for everybody else, it’s a good place to start your voyage into Colombian literature.

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (192 pages)

Set in Turin, a woman called Olga grapples with reality after her husband leaves her and their kids for a younger woman. She raises questions in her mind like “ Am I no longer attractive? Is he bored with me?” and so on. 

While her neighbours and mother look at it as an inevitable progression in a relationship, she is determined not to let it be her fate. 

The book’s devoid of all the softer edges in Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet, and while it may be a shade darker and disturbing, you don’t want to miss it.

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (184 pages)

Atwood’s retelling of Homer’s Odyssey from the POV of the warrior’s wife, Penelope, d eals with themes of female subjugation, gender stereotypes and the patriarchy. Penelope is a straight shooter who redeems herself in this entertaining version of the Greek tragedy. Atwood cleverly challenges society’s idea of a “good wife” and elevates Penelope from her earlier status of a faithful wife who simply abided by rules in the long absence of her husband. 

The Broken Nest by Rabindranath Tagore (96 pages)

Set in the early 20th century, The Broken Nest is the story of Charu, the neglected wife of Bhupati, a workaholic publisher. The only thing she looks forward to is her time with Amal, Bhupati’s cousin. The two share an enviable bond, but when an innocent act of kindness breaks Charu’s trust, she loses a sense of purpose. 

PS: Satyajit Ray’s adaptation of the novella won the Silver Bear for direction at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Identity by Milan Kundera (176 pages)

The Franco-Czech writer delves into the psyche of two partners in a relationship and gives us an intimate dissection of the most primal nature. 

While the bigger picture is a shared feeling, on the micro level, the man and the woman are questioning, doubting, abandoning and circling back to each other. 

Kundera tries to find out if a bond can survive once jealousy, self-doubt and fears seep in. In his relationship drama, love evolves over time and changes forms before dissipating completely.

The Girl Who Reads On The Métro by Christine Féret-Fleury (192 pages)

Protagonist Juliette is a bit like you and me. Bad dates, a job she isn’t really fond of, and rush-hour metro commute to work. Her only solace? Stories she weaves in her head about co-passengers.

Life goes on, until she steps into a mysterious bookstore that prescribes books to readers. Without a thought, Juliette takes up the job of a bookseller and forges deep connections with the owner Soliman and his young daughter, Zaide.  Féret-Fleury’s book explores the power of intuition and how chance encounters can sometimes heal us.

Prelude To A Riot by Annie Zaidi (184 pages)

Short novels that make a big difference, that’s what makes this a masterpiece.

In an unnamed town in the southern part of India, communal peace is at risk; a riot is shaping up, fuelled by vitriolic messaging from the ‘Self-Respect Forum’. On grounds of religion, the movement is rapidly dividing the village into two factions.

Zaidi takes us into the inner chambers of a Hindu and a Muslim family who are embroiled in this battle like the rest of the community, and with the help of strong characters (a school teacher, a grandfather with a penchant for gardening and more), drives home a much-needed discourse.

The 39 Steps by John Buchan (100 pages)

An espionage thriller that even Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t resist adapting. A South African traveller Richard Hannay meets an intelligence agent called Scudder and learns about a Balkan political leader’s assassination.

Soon after, when Scudder is found murdered, and he becomes the prime suspect, Hannay needs to protect a secret as well as his life from the mysterious group called 39 Steps. Can he do it? You’ll find out in less than 100 pages. 

The Buddha In The Attic by Julie Otsuka (128 pages)

Otsuka’s historical fiction set in the early 20th century, following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, gives voice to Japanese immigrant women who became mail-order brides. Over a period of three decades, these women crossed oceans to meet their husbands for the first time, dreaming of a happy future, only to face hardships and a hostile reality. 

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20 Brilliant Novels Under 200 Pages

20 Brilliant Novels Under 200 Pages

Novels under 200 pages by women writers list is for those who want to read one more book at the end of each month or the readers who travel a lot. I’ve created novels under 150 pages and novels under 100 pages before, and with this list of novels under 200 pages, there’ll be no shortage of shorter books to read for a long time.

20 Brilliant Novels Under 200 Pages

I tried to involve writers from various countries in novels under 200 pages list so that we can discover new worlds and maybe new favourite women authors. I hope you’ll find many books to your liking. Enjoy!

If you want to read more brief novels check out:

20 Beautiful Novels Under 100 Pages

20 Excellent Novels Under 150 Pages

Fever Dream - Samanta Schweblin

Fever Dream – Samanta Schweblin

A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family. Fever Dream  is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel. A gem among novels under 200 pages.

The Vegetarian - Han Kang

The Vegetarian – Han Kang

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.  One from Korea among novels under 200 pages.

The Vet's Daughter - Barbara Comyns

The Vet’s Daughter – Barbara Comyns

Growing up in Edwardian south London, Alice Rowlands longs for romance and excitement, for a release from a life that is dreary, restrictive and lonely. Her father, a vet, is harsh and domineering; his new girlfriend brash and lascivious. Alice seeks refuge in memories and fantasies, in her rapturous longing for Nicholas, a handsome young sailor, and in the blossoming of what she perceives as her occult powers. A series of strange events unfolds that leads her, dressed in bridal white, to a scene of ecstatic triumph and disaster among the crowds on Clapham Common.  The Vet’s Daughter  is a uniquely vivid, witty and touching story of love and mystery.

Speedboat - Renata Adler

Speedboat – Renata Adler

When members of the National Book Critics Circle were polled to see which book they would most like to see republished, they chose  Speedboat —“by far.” This story of a young female newspaper reporter coming of age in New York City was originally published serially in the New Yorker; it is made out of seemingly unrelated vignettes—tart observations distilled through relentless intellect—which add up to an analysis of our brittle, urban existence. It remains as fresh as when it was first published. An interesting one among novels under 200 pages.

Sleepless Nights - Elizabeth Hardwick

Sleepless Nights – Elizabeth Hardwick

In  Sleepless Nights  a woman looks back on her life—the parade of people, the shifting background of place—and assembles a scrapbook of memories, reflections, portraits, letters, wishes, and dreams. An inspired fusion of fact and invention, this beautifully realized, hard-bitten, lyrical book is not only Elizabeth Hardwick’s finest fiction but one of the outstanding contributions to American literature of the last fifty years. 

The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty

The Optimist’s Daughter – Eudora Welty

The Optimist’s Daughter is the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents. 

Margaret the First - Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First – Danielle Dutton

Margaret Cavendish was the first woman to address the Royal Society and the first Englishwoman to write explicitly for publication. Wildly unconventional, she was championed by her forward-thinking husband and nicknamed ‘Mad Madge’ by her many detractors. Later, Virginia Woolf would write, ‘What a vision of loneliness and riot the thought of Margaret Cavendish brings to mind!’

Unjustly neglected by history, here Margaret is brought intimately and memorably to life, tumbling pell-mell across the pages of this exhilarating novel ― a portrait of a woman whose ambitions were centuries ahead of her time. A unique choice among novels under 200 pages.

Ghost Wall - Sarah Moss

Ghost Wall – Sarah Moss

One from Britain among novels under 200 pages. In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age. For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind. The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice? A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s  Ghost Wall  urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors. A gem among novels under 200 pages.

The Days of Abandonment - Elena Ferrante

The Days of Abandonment – Elena Ferrante

Rarely have the foundations upon which our ideas of motherhood and womanhood rest been so candidly questioned. This compelling novel tells the story of one woman’s headlong descent into what she calls an “absence of sense” after being abandoned by her husband. Olga’s “days of abandonment” become a desperate, dangerous freefall into the darkest places of the soul as she roams the empty streets of a city that she has never learned to love.

When she finds herself trapped inside the four walls of her apartment in the middle of a summer heat wave, Olga is forced to confront her ghosts, the potential loss of her own identity, and the possibility that life may never return to normal again. A popular one among novels under 200 pages.

Red at the Bone - Jacqueline Woodson

Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson

Brooklyn, 2001. It is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress – the very same dress that was sewn for a different wearer, Melody’s mother, for a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s family – from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre to post 9/11 New York –  Red at the Bone  explores sexual desire, identity, class, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, as it looks at the ways in which young people must so often make fateful decisions about their lives before they have even begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be. A good one among novels under 200 pages.

This Is How You Lose the Time War - Amal El-Mohtar

This Is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar

A sci-fi among novels under 200 pages. Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads:  Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

Glaciers - Alexis M Smith

Glaciers – Alexis M Smith

Isabel lives in Portland, Oregon and works in a library, repairing damaged books. She longs to visit the destinations revealed in their pages. Her daydreams are peopled by memories from her Alaskan childhood, the glaciers that are being lost. Meanwhile, she’s just the tiniest bit lonely and lovelorn.

The object of her affection, a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan who also works in the basement of the library, seems equally quiet and so perhaps it’s no surprise that their contact has been limited to only snatched moments. But today is the day that will all change. Isabel is determined to finally open up to him, to find the perfect vintage dress for this evening’s party, and to invite him along. But, of course, life rarely happens as we plan it. Set in America among novels under 200 pages.

Desperate Characters - Paula Fox

Desperate Characters – Paula Fox

Otto and Sophie Bentwood live childless in a renovated Brooklyn brownstone. The complete works of Goethe line their bookshelf, their stainless steel kitchen is newly installed, and their Mercedes is parked outside. After Sophie is bitten on the hand while trying to feed a half-starved neighbourhood cat, a series of small and ominous disasters begin to plague their lives, revealing the faultlines and fractures in a marriage – and a society – wrenching itself apart. An interesting one among novels under 200 pages.

Winter in Sokcho Elisa Shua Dusapin

Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin

A fascinating one among novels under 200 pages. It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape.

The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an ‘authentic’ Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows – the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she’s pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen. One of my faves among novels under 200 pages.

Bonjour Tristesse - Françoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

A French writer among novels under 200 pages. The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cécile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures. But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cécile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences.

Bonjour Tristesse  scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager  terrible  Cécile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom. A modern classic among novels under 200 pages.

Goodbye, Vitamin - Rachel Khong

Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong

A popular one among novels under 200 pages. Ruth is thirty and her life is falling apart: she and her fiancé are moving house, but he’s moving  out  to live with another woman; her career is going nowhere; and then she learns that her father, a history professor beloved by his students, has Alzheimer’s. At Christmas, her mother begs her to stay on and help. For a year.

Goodbye, Vitamin  is the wry, beautifully observed story of a woman at a crossroads, as Ruth and her friends attempt to shore up her father’s career; she and her mother obsess over the ambiguous health benefits – in the absence of a cure – of dried jellyfish supplements and vitamin pills; and they all try to forge a new relationship with the brilliant, childlike, irascible man her father has become. A timeless one among novels under 200 pages.

A Sister's Story - Donatella Di Pietrantonio

A Sister’s Story – Donatella Di Pietrantonio

An Italian writer among novels under 200 pages. It’s the darkest time of night. Adriana, a baby in her arms, hammers on her sister’s door. Who is she running from? What uncomfortable truth will she deliver? Like a whirlwind, Adriana breaks into her sister’s life bringing chaos and cataclysmic revelations. 

Years later, the narrator gets an unexpected, urgent summons back to Pescara. She embarks on a long journey through the night, and through the folds and twists of her memory, from her and her sister’s youth, their loves and losses, their secrets and regrets. Back in Borgo Sud, the town’s fishermen’s quarter, in that impenetrable yet welcoming microcosm, she will discover what really happened, and perhaps make peace with the past. For the ones with siblings among novels under 200 pages.

Mr Darwin's Gardener - Kristina Carlson

Mr Darwin’s Gardener – Kristina Carlson

A postmodern Victorian novel about faith, knowledge and our inner needs. The late 1870s, the Kentish village of Downe. The villagers gather in church one rainy Sunday. Only Thomas Davies stays away. The eccentric loner, father of two and a grief-stricken widower, works as a gardener for the notorious naturalist, Charles Darwin. He shuns religion. But now Thomas needs answers. What should he believe in? And why should he continue to live? An interesting one among novels under 200 pages.

Infinite Country - Patricia Engel

Infinite Country – Patricia Engel

A popular one among novels under 200 pages. At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.

They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further. Set in America among novels under 200 pages.

Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

One of my faves among novels under 200 pages. Wide Sargasso Sea , a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With  Wide Sargasso Sea , her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s  Jane Eyre .

This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind. A timeless modern classic among novels under 200 pages.

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As rewarding as tackling an immersive epic can be, sometimes short novels that can be finished in a weekend linger with us the longest. 

So, we've curated our edit of the best short books and novellas. Each is under 250 pages, and while much easier to finish in our busy lives than a 600+ page tome, these short novels are still guaranteed to make a lasting impact.

If you're looking for even more inspiration for you TBR pile, discover our edit of the best literary fiction.  

The best short novels

Stella maris, by cormac mccarthy.

Book cover for Stella Maris

Stella Maris is the story of a mathematician, twenty years old, admitted to the hospital with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag and one request: she does not want to talk about her brother. Heralded by the Guardian as ‘one of the greatest American novels of this or any other time’, Stella Maris is the must-read companion novel to The Passenger , which also published in 2022 after a long wait for McCarthy fans. Though they can be read separately, together, the two novels tell one grand story of siblings Bobby and Alicia Western. While The Passenger is a little longer, Stella Maris comes in at just 192 pages, making it the perfect short read to curl up with over the festive break.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

By toshikazu kawaguchi.

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time. But this opportunity is not without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . . Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful novel stole the hearts of readers the world over. Through it, we meet four visitors to the café and explore the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? 

Five Tuesdays in Winter

By lily king.

Book cover for Five Tuesdays in Winter

With Writers & Lovers , Lily King became one of our most acclaimed writers of contemporary fiction. And now, with Five Tuesdays in Winter , she gathers ten of her best short stories. These intimate literary stories tell of a bookseller who is filled with unspoken love for his employee, an abandoned teenage boy nurtured by a pair of housesitting students and a girl whose loss of innocence brings confident power. Romantic, hopeful, raw and occasionally surreal, these stories riff beautifully on the topic of love and romance.

by Raven Leilani

Book cover for Luster

Raven Leilani is a funny and original new voice in literary fiction. Her razor-sharp yet surprisingly tender debut is an essential novel about what it means to be young now. Edie is messing up her life, and no one seems to care. Then she meets Eric, who is white, middle-aged and comes with a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. And as if life wasn’t hard enough, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s family. 

The Most Precious of Cargoes

By jean-claude grumberg.

Book cover for The Most Precious of Cargoes

On a train crossing the forest, a Jewish father holds his twin children. His wife no longer has enough milk to feed them. In hopes of saving both their lives, he wraps his daughter in a shawl and gently throws her from the train.

Elsewhere in the enormous forest lives a young woman, who prays each night for a baby until one day, she finds a small bundle. . . 

Set against the horrors of the Holocaust and told with a fairytale-like lyricism,  The Most Precious of Cargoes , is a deeply moving fable about family and redemption that is simply not to be missed.

All the Lovers in the Night

By mieko kawakami.

Book cover for All the Lovers in the Night

Freelancer proofreader Fuyuko is shy and solitary. About to turn thirty-five, she is haunted by her past encounters, and is unable to even imagine a successful relationship. But she has one friend, Hijiri, and she loves the light. On Christmas Eve, the night of her birthday, Fuyuko leaves her home to count the lights, and an encounter with physics teacher Mr. Mitsutsuka opens up another dimension. Poetic, pulsing and unexpected, this is the third novel by internationally bestselling writer Mieko Kawakami.

‘ Compact and supple, it’s a strikingly intelligent feat. ’ The New York Times Book Review on All the Lovers in the NIght

Of Women and Salt

By gabriela garcia.

Book cover for Of Women and Salt

A New York Times bestseller, Of Women and Salt tells the story of five generations of fierce Latina women, linked by blood and circumstance. From nineteenth-century cigar factories to present-day detention centres, this novel is a haunting meditation on the choices of mothers and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their truth despite those who wish to silence them. 

The Cat Who Saved Books

By sosuke natsukawa.

Book cover for The Cat Who Saved Books

Translated from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai , this international bestseller is a heart-warming story about finding courage, caring for others, and the tremendous power of books (even short ones). After the death of his grandfather, Rintaro is devastated. It seems he will have to close Natsuki Books, the tiny second-hand bookshop his grandfather owned which has long been Rintaro's safe haven.

Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to join him on a mission. Together, they embark on three magical adventures to save books from people who have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them . . .


By sarah moss.

Book cover for Summerwater

This devastating novel from the acclaimed author of Ghost Wall is set over twenty-four hours as the guests of a faded Scottish cabin park wait out the rain on the longest day of the year. With little else to do, twelve people sit cooped up with their families, watching the other residents. Slowly, one family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, begin to draw attention and tensions begin to rise as tragedy looms.  Summerwater  is a searing exploration of our capacity for both kinship and cruelty and a literary must-read in these divided times.

by Thora Hjörleifsdóttir Translated by Meg Matich

Book cover for Magma

Twenty-year-old Lilja is in love. He is older and beautiful, a Derrida-quoting intellectual. He is also a serial cheater, gaslighter and narcissist. Lilja will do anything to hold on to him. And so she accepts his deceptions and endures his sexual desires. She rationalizes his toxic behaviour and permits him to cross all her boundaries. In her desperation to be the perfect lover, she finds herself unable to break free from the toxic cycle. And then an unexpected ultimatum: an all-consuming love, or the promise of a life reclaimed.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales From the Cafe

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales  From the Cafe

This short book is another beautiful, simple tale about the time-travelling customers of the Cafe Funiculi Funicula and the sequel to the bestselling Before the Coffee Gets Cold . Customers include a man who travels to see the girl he couldn’t marry, a son who had to miss his mother’s funeral and a man who travels back to see his friend who died twenty-two years ago. This beautiful, simple tale tells the story of people who must face up to their past, in order to move on with their lives.

The Silence

By don delillo.

Book cover for The Silence

This novella from one of America’s greatest literary fiction writers, Don DeLillo , is an illuminating and essential guide to our navigation of a bewildering world. Set on Super Bowl Sunday 2022, this compelling novel about what happens when an unpredictable crisis strikes is a profoundly moving examination of what makes us human. A retired physics professor and her husband are hosting a dinner party. One of her former students has already arrived, but another couple has been delayed by a dramatic flight from Paris. As they wait for kick-off, something happens that severs the digital connections in all our lives.

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

By christine féret-fleury.

Book cover for The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

Juliette takes the métro to the job she hates each morning, her only escape the books she reads on her journey. But one day she gets off a few stops early, and meetds Soliman – the owner of the most enchanting bookshop Juliette has ever seen. And this encounter will change her life forever, because Soliman also believes in the power of books, and he has the perfect job for Juliette . . .  

The End We Start From

By megan hunter.

Book cover for The End We Start From

In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z's small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds. 

The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories

By charlotte perkins gilman.

Book cover for The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories

Confined to her attic bedroom and isolated from her newborn baby, the nameless narrator of  The Yellow Wallpaper  keeps a secret diary in which she records the sprawling and shifting patterns of the room’s lurid yellow wallpaper as she slowly sinks into madness. This chilling story is based on the author’s own experience of depression. In  Herland , a trio of men set out to discover an all-female community rumoured to be hidden deep in the jungle. What they find surprises them all; they’re captured by women who, for two thousand years, have lived in a peaceful and prosperous utopia without men.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s progressive views on feminism and mental health are powerfully showcased in her two most famous stories. With both stories combined totalling just 240 pages, this MCL edition is a perfect short read.

Our Souls at Night

By kent haruf.

Book cover for Our Souls at Night

Adapted into a major film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, Our Souls at Night is the final novel from the acclaimed American author, Kent Haruf. Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbours for years. Now they both live alone, their houses empty of family, their quiet nights solitary. Then one evening Addie pays Louis a visit, and their lives change forever. This short, romantic novel is a story about growing old with grace and bravery.

‘ I loved Our Souls at Night ’ David Nicholls, author of One Day.

The Little Prince

By antoine de saint-exupéry.

Book cover for The Little Prince

First published in 1943,  The Little Prince  by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been translated into more than 250 languages, becoming one of the best-selling books of all time. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's short novel tells the story of a pilot stranded in the Sahara and his strange encounter with a young boy from another world, whose curiosity takes them on their journey together. Soon the pilot is able to piece together an understanding of the tiny planet from which the prince has come and of his incredible travels across the universe.

The Great Gatsby

By f. scott fitzgerald.

Book cover for The Great Gatsby

A book that surely needs little introduction, this is one of Fitzgerald’s greatest works, capturing the flamboyance, the carelessness and the cruelty of the wealthy during America's Jazz Age. Jay Gatsby lives mysteriously in a Long Island mansion, and while people clamour for invitations to his lavish parties, no one seems to know him or how he became so rich. But Jay Gatsby cares for one person alone - Daisy Buchanan, the woman he has waited for all his life. Little does he know that his infatuation will lead to tragedy and end in murder.

by Toni Morrison

Book cover for Sula

First published in 1973, Toni Morrison's Sula is an essential book in the formation of black feminist literary criticism, tackling themes of womanhood, race, slavery and love. Having grown up together in a poor but close-knit community, Nel and Sula are inseparable, until adulthood takes them on different paths. Nel stays in town to raise a family, but Sula escapes to the progressive ideals of the big city. When Sula returns ten years later, the two friends must confront their differences and an awful secret they shared as children. 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By douglas adams.

Book cover for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy began life as a Radio 4 show in 1978 and has since spawned adaptations across almost every format, making it a staple on every respectable list of the best sci-fi books. Following the galactic adventures of Arthur Dent after his house's untimely demolition to make way for a new hyperspace express route, this new edition of 'the Guide' features exclusive bonus archive material and a new introduction from Russell T. Davies.

Discover all the books in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series here.

Our Wives Under The Sea

Book cover for Our Wives Under The Sea

Leah is back from a perilous and troubling deep-sea mission, and Miri is delighted to have her wife home. To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normality, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Leah has carried the trauma of events that took place on the ocean floor into the couple's domestic life, and Miri soon realizes that the life that they once knew, might be gone. The debut novel from the author of acclaimed short story collection salt slow , Our Wives Under The Sea is a rich meditation on love, loss and the mysteries of the ocean.

Very Cold People

By sarah manguso.

Book cover for Very Cold People

No one is watching Ruth, but she watches everyone and everything. Growing up on the outskirts of a wealthy but threadbare town, on the outer edge of popularity, she doesn’t necessarily understand what she is seeing, but she records the unfurling of her awkward youth, under even more awkward parenting. As they mock, ignore, undermine and discount their daughter, Ruth’s parents present now as damaged, inadequate, even monstrous. All the while the Future comes towards them, steadily, and for some of them, fatally. And the fog of the Past and the abuses committed under it gathers, swirls, settles, and intermittently clears. A short but dazzling book that will immobilize and transfix you.

Concerning My Daughter

By kim hye-jin.

Book cover for Concerning My Daughter

In this prize-winning, internationally bestselling short novel, a mother lets her thirty-something daughter – Green – move into her apartment, with dreams that she will find a good job and a good husband to start a family with. But when Green arrives with her girlfriend Lane, her mother finds it hard to be civil. Yet Green's mother has her own moral battle to fight when the care home where she works insists that she lower her standard of care for an elderly dementia patient who chose not to lead a conventional life, and she finds herself asking the question: why should not having chosen a traditional life mean that your life is worth nothing at all? Translated from Korean by Jamie Chang, this is a universal tale about ageing, prejudice and love.

Acts of Infidelity

Book cover for Acts of Infidelity

Actor Olof Sten makes no secret of being married, but when meets Ester Nilsson, she falls madly in love with him. As they start to meet regularly and begin to conduct a strange dance of courtship, Olof insists he doesn't plan to leave his wife, but he doesn't object to this new situation either . . . it’s far too much fun. Ester, on the other hand, is convinced that things might change . . . To read  Acts of Infidelity  is to dive inside the mind of a brilliant, infuriating friend. Cutting, often cruel, and written with razor-sharp humour, Acts of Infidelity is painful, maddening, but most of all perfectly, precisely true.

Mrs Dalloway

By virginia woolf.

Book cover for Mrs Dalloway

Bold and experimental, Virginia Woolf's story of one day in the lives of Clarissa Dalloway, a fashionable, wealthy and accomplished hostess; and Septimus Warren Smith, a shellshocked survivor of the Great War, is a landmark in twentieth-century fiction. 

Short non-fiction books

A (very) short history of life on earth, by henry gee.

Book cover for A (Very) Short History of Life On Earth

This lyrical and moving account takes us back to the early history of the earth, a wildly inhospitable place with swirling seas, constant volcanic eruptions and an unstable atmosphere. The triumph of life as it emerges, survives and evolves in this hostile setting is Henry Gee's riveting subject: he traces the story of life on earth from its turbulent beginnings to the emergence of early hominids and the miracle of the first creatures to fly. You'll never look at our planet in the same way again.

Scary Smart

By mo gawdat.

Book cover for Scary Smart

In Scary Smart,  The former chief business officer of Google outlines how artificial intelligence is predicted to be a billion times more intelligent than humans by 2049. Free from distractions and working at incredible speeds, AI can look into the future and make informed predictions, looking around corners both real and virtual. 

But AI also gets so much wrong. Mo Gawdat, drawing on his unparalleled expertise in the field, outlines how and why we must alter the terrifying trajectory of AI development and teach ourselves and our machines to live better. 

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

By lisa feldman barrett.

Book cover for Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

In seven short essays about that big grey blob between your ears, neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett explores the origins and structure of the brain, as well as shelving popular myths about the alleged battle between thoughts and emotions, or between nature and nurture. Sure to intrigue casual readers and scientific veterans alike, the book is full of surprises, humour and revelations about human nature.

Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

By mary seacole.

Book cover for Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

Mary Seacole was a fiercely independent self-funded entrepreneur from Jamaica. A trained nurse, she was desperate to offer help during the Crimean War, but was denied work by officials and by Florence Nightingale. Mary knew what she wanted to achieve and wouldn’t let anything stand in her way, so she set up her famous hotel for British soldiers, offering respite from the front line. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands is her gutsy autobiography.

The Happiest Man on Earth

By eddie jaku.

Book cover for The Happiest Man on Earth

This heartbreaking yet hopeful memoir shows us how happiness can be found even in the darkest of times. In November 1938, Eddie Jaku was beaten, arrested and taken to a German concentration camp. He endured unimaginable horrors for the next seven years and lost family, friends and his country.  But he survived. And because he survived, he vowed to smile every day. He went on to believe himself to be the ‘happiest man on earth’. This is his story. 

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