Books

6 Striking Books Less Than 200 Pages

Although conquering a literary mountain like Infinite Jest or The Goldfinch can be a great feeling, sometimes a 900-page behemoth of a book feels like an insane challenge that you're just not up to taking on (not to mention that if you're carrying around a physical copy instead of an ebook, your shoulders are probably already tensing up.) Even worse, the guilt that’s associated with not finishing this season’s giant book is an awful force to be reckoned with. Imagine: getting seventy pages in, deciding it’s not for you, and then having a solid four pounds of unread novel on your nightstand. Ouch.

Shorter novels and novellas relieve you of that stress — with absolutely no sacrificing on literary merit or satisfaction. While we’re sure we don’t have to tell you that size doesn’t matter, it’s especially important to remember that length isn't always the indicator of a story's impact or breadth. We were just pleasantly reminded of that fact after we finished Rebecca Walker's recently released Adé (New Harvest), which shows exactly how powerful and satisfying shorter novels and novellas can be. Read on for a few books that prove big literary things can come in small packages. Your shoulders will thank you!

'Adé' by Rebecca Walker

Weighing in at a slim 128 pages, Walker’s novel tells the story of American woman Farida’s intense courtship and love affair with Adé, a Swahili Muslim man, as his country falls apart around them. The contrast of the novel’s taut pace and dreamy prose reflects the conflict between Farida’s expectations of marriage to Adé and the reality of love in a war zone. When she succumbs to a rare form of malaria, their relationship is rocked, and it is Farida who must reconcile their vast cultural differences.

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'Not a Star' by Nick Hornby

When a woman finds out that her presumably unremarkable son is not only an adult film star, but also an, ahem, very talented one, she must come to terms with their changed relationship (and the ripples this causes between her and the rest of her family). This novella shows off what Hornby does best — heartwarming, very human interactions, and ultra-vivid hyper-realism — while also managing to be outright hilarious. If you didn’t think there could be a tender story about porn stars and their families, prepare to be surprised.

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'Train Dreams' by Denis Johnson

It seems strange that Johnson would try to cram an American expansionist epic into a 128 page novella, but the lean, evocative prose and dark, unrelenting violence of vividly recreates the harshness of the frontier. The protagonist, Robert Grainier, is a loner who has recently lost his family, and it is through him that readers see the massive upheaval constantly occurring in the American northwest in 1920. Train Dreams makes for a rich reading experience that never feels abbreviated or condensed.

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'The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip' by George Saunders

Although there’s probably nothing George Saunders can’t do, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip is a marvel of all-ages, cleverly-cloaked social commentary. Leave it to Saunders to write an uproariously funny children’s novel about a seaside, goat-farming town and its plague of crustaceous, goat-sucking “gappers” that’s also an uproariously funny adult fable against social Darwinism and die-hard libertarianism. If that’s not enough, the illustrations (by the same artist as The Stinky Cheese Man ) make this novella a serious treat.

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'Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories' by Truman Capote

No disrespect to Audrey Hepburn intended, but if you’ve only ever seen the movie, you’re seriously missing out. Capote’s most famous protagonist, Holly Golightly, escapes her theatrical fate as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl through a combination of better writing and less-than-savory activities (drug smuggling! married at 15! prostitution!). Bonus points: the short story doesn’t feature an outrageously antiquated and racist performance by Mickey Rooney!

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'Death in Spring' by Merce Rodoreda

Rodoreda’s short story feels a lot like if M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village mets The Saw series, and the resulting novella was injected with a huge dose of beautiful, lyrical writing. Yes, people are locked in trees and have cement poured in the mouths in a tiny village as observed by a young boy, and yes, it’s distrubing and uncomfortable, but it’s all so gorgeously written that you just can’t stop turning pages.

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