Short Reads – 46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day (Adult)

Great reads under 200 pages. Mostly.

1. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Granta / BuzzFeed

Dept. of Speculation, a series of short dispatches from the front line of a marriage, is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking, and often both in the same sentence.

Good grief Dept. of Speculation is good. Beautifully, heartbreakingly, profoundly good.

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Penguin / BuzzFeed

Orwell’s classic allegory is as sharp and biting as when it was first published nearly 70 years ago, and just as relevant. Well worth a reread.

3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Penguin / BuzzFeed

A gripping tale of murder most foul on the estate of the Blackwood family, Shirley Jackson’s final novel is the kind of book you’ll want everyone to read just so you can talk about it.

Still thinking about We Have Always Lived in the Castle – what a clever book. Want to discuss it with someone!

4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Penguin / BuzzFeed

A book about cultural identity as much as politics, The Reluctant Fundamentalistfollows a Princeton-educated Pakistani as his life in America collapses post 9/11.

5. Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Virago / BuzzFeed

In Nora Ephron’s hilarious novel, based on the breakdown of her second marriage, group therapy and infidelity share the page with recipes for pot roast.

6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Tor / BuzzFeed

If Monty Python had done science fiction it might have been like this. At once supremely silly, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and as British as dead-parrot jokes.

7. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

Vintage / BuzzFeed

A woman in a loveless marriage recounts a childhood friendship in this beautifully crafted tale of innocence and growing up.

There’s a tenderness to Who Will Run the Frog Hospital that is equal parts remorse and remembrance (poignant?). Overall a great novel.

8. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Penguin / BuzzFeed

Achebe’s classic novel follows Okonkwo, a man who finds himself at odds with society and history amid the changing cultural landscape in Nigeria. 209 pages.

9. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Melville House / BuzzFeed

The story of a woman trapped in her marriage was condemned when first published in 1899, ending Chopin’s career, but is now rightly recognised as a classic.

Reading and loving Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. “Even as a child she had lived her own small life all within herself.”

10. Shopgirl by Steve Martin

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

Hyperion / BuzzFeed

An exploration of loneliness, softened by Martin’s witty observations and dry humour,Shopgirl follows the titular character as she navigates life in Los Angeles.

11. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Harper Collins / BuzzFeed

Classic Christie, classic Marple. When the body of a young woman is discovered in the library at Gossington Hall, the hunt is on to find out whodunnit.

12. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Ballentine / BuzzFeed

In a future America, books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found. One of Bradbury’s best.

13. The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Houghton Mifflin / BuzzFeed

Explores similar themes to Fahrenheit 451, but written for young adults. Don’t let the recent film adaptation put you off.

14. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Knopf / BuzzFeed

An examination of life and the narratives we construct for ourselves that won the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

‘The sense of an ending’ by Julian Barnes is the best book I have ever, ever read. Read it in a few hours, could not put it down

15. Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula by Toni Morrison

Knopf / BuzzFeed

Sula follows the contrasting lives of two girls growing up in a poor, black Ohio neighbourhood, and the different paths they choose.

16. The Dig by Cynan Jones

The Dig by Cynan Jones

Granta / BuzzFeed

A sparse, dark, brutal novella about a Welsh farmer struggling to make a living from his sheep, and an unnamed man digging up badgers to bait.

So I read The Dig by Cynan Jones yesterday. An intense poem of a novel. Quite wonderful writing. Do check it out if you can.

17. How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak

How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak

Two Dollar Radio / BuzzFeed

An absurd, delightful novel about a Polish immigrant in Los Angeles who schemes to reinvent herself in order to gain access to the Twin Palms nightclub.

18. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Vintage / BuzzFeed

Two friends plot the downfall of a politician in this Booker-winning novella.

19. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Penguin / BuzzFeed

Although frequently challenged for its depiction of gang violence and youth drinking,The Outsiders is in fact a classic morality tale wrapped up in ’60s street gang culture.

20. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Simon & Schuster / BuzzFeed

This story of an ageing, down-on-his luck fisherman fighting to reel in the catch of a lifetime won Papa a Pulitzer. Some love it, some don’t. A must-read either way.

21. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Farrar Straus Giroux / BuzzFeed

This multi-award-winning young-adult novel deals with the trauma caused by rape, and the difficulty victims often have in reporting and talking about sexual assault.

I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson when I was 14. It changed my life and made me see beyond the safety of my world. #yasaves

22. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Nick Carraway encounters reclusive billionaire Jay Gatsby at a party. Jazz ensues. You may already know the story, but like one of Gatsby’s lavish soirées, Fitzgerald’s sparkling prose warrants revisiting.

23. Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates

Rape: A Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates

Carroll & Graf / BuzzFeed

The aftermath of a gang rape on a young mother is explored in a searing indictment of rape culture and the lack of justice, care, and understanding for victims.

Finished “Rape, a love story” by Joyce Carol Oates. A punch to the gut. When you get your breath back, you realize, you needed that punch.

24. The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet American by Graham Greene


A seasoned English journalist in Vietnam watches as a young American turns good intentions into bad policy and bloodshed in this powerful anti-war allegory.

25. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

Vintage / BuzzFeed

A fantastical, lyrical love story set during the Napoleonic Wars.

finished ‘the passion.’ made a noise. stared helplessly into space. turned back to the first page and am now reading it again.#winterson

26. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Scribner / BuzzFeed

The classic fable of a seagull who wants more. Unwilling to conform to the norms of his flock, Jonathan goes in search of a higher purpose to life.

27. Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Cape Poetry / BuzzFeed

A novel in verse, Autobiography of Red gives voice to a minor character in Greek mythology, updating his story to the present day. There are those who love it and those who haven’t read it. Be the former.

My mind is completely blown after reading Anne Carson’s AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF RED for the 1st time. Her sentences are tattooed on my brain.

28. The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

Vintage / BuzzFeed

A stream-of-consciousness journey into the mind of a man on his lunch break.

Rereading The Mezzanine for the 3rd time — it explains so much about our times. Anyone know how to contact Nicholson Baker?

29. At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel

At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel

Harper Perennial / BuzzFeed

A collection of 16 utterly compelling, gorgeously crafted short stories.

30. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux / BuzzFeed

A horror novel following the 12th expedition into the uncharted Area X. Any guesses what happened to the previous 11 expeditions? Nope, weirder than that.

Also really enjoyed Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, imagine Iain M Banks scripted Lost as a Tarkovsky homage.

31. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux / BuzzFeed

Babbitt’s beloved fable about immortality will outlive us all.

32. Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

Being There by Jerzy Kosinski

Grove Atlantic / BuzzFeed

A brilliant satire about a gardener turned political pundit.

33. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Puffin / BuzzFeed

The story of Sam, a boy who runs away from home to live in the Catskill mountains, where he befriends a peregrine falcon he names Frightful.

34. The Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole

The Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole

Grove Atlantic / BuzzFeed

Written when Toole was just 16, but not published until after his death. Well worth a read for fans of his A Confederacy of Dunces.

35. Speedboat by Renata Adler

Speedboat by Renata Adler

Harper Perennial / BuzzFeed

An experimental novel that defies literary convention and category, this mix of fiction, critique, memoir, confession, and essay demands to be experienced.

Am recommending to EVERYONE my read of the summer – Speedboat by Renata Adler. Best novel I’ve read in such a long time.

36. Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garciá Márquez

Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garciá Márquez

Penguin / BuzzFeed

An ageing journalist requests a virgin prostitute for his 90th birthday, but instead of sex, he finds love for the first time.

37. If You’re Not Yet Like Me by Edan Lepucki

If You're Not Yet Like Me by Edan Lepucki

Novella / BuzzFeed

A darkly comic novella in which the narrator tells her unborn daughter the story of how she came to be. A romantic comedy with the emphasis on comedy, not romance.

Finished with If You’re Not Yet Like Me, by Edan Lepucki: Well, okay. This is as perfect a short story/novella as …

38. The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Harper Perennial / BuzzFeed

A woman assigned to deal with the estate of an old flame finds herself in the middle of a secret war between two mail distributors in Pynchon’s satirical novel.

39. The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

Pantheon / BuzzFeed

In 1930s Saigon, a young French girl enters into a passionate affair with the son of a wealthy Chinese family that threatens to tear their families apart.

40. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Penguin / BuzzFeed

The narrator befriends a young New York society girl, Holly Golightly, who relays tales of her dates with wealthy men, and finds himself entranced by her.

41. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Penguin / BuzzFeed

Ethan Frome struggles to tend to his farm and his wife – then her beautiful cousin comes to stay.

42. Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis

Time's Arrow by Martin Amis

Vintage / BuzzFeed

In a reverse narrative, the protagonist moves backwards from death towards the story’s beginning and his role in one of the most horrific events in recent history.

the concept and the audacity of Martin Amis to pull off Time’s Arrow. Stunning!

43. Lucinella by Lore Segal

Lucinella by Lore Segal

Melville House / BuzzFeed

A witty and searing indictment of the ’70s New York literary scene, in which a poet observes her peers at a writer’s colony upstate.

Excited doesn’t begin to cover it. Lucinella’s the weirdest, most wonderful book I’ve read in years

44. Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel

Penguin / BuzzFeed

A harrowing account of the author’s time in Nazi concentration camps.

45. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

Penguin / BuzzFeed

An essay in narrative form, arguing against the treatment of women both as fictional characters and as writers of fiction in a male-dominated literary world.

46. Ablutions by Patrick deWitt

Ablutions by Patrick deWitt

Granta / BuzzFeed

An alcoholic bartender in Los Angeles observes the lonely, broken, and grotesque characters who populate his bar, among whom he may be the most broken.

This list isn’t exhaustive. If there’s a short novel we’ve missed, please add it in the comments below so others might enjoy it. Oh, and just because you can read these in a day doesn’t mean you have to. Happy reading!


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