21 Brilliant Novels Under 200 Pages Long

Culture February 21, 2017 By Vincent

Most people feel that they should read more, or at least raise the level of their literature from glossy mags and trashy paperbacks to something a little more substantial. However, in this day and age that can be tricky to accomplish, especially when grand epics and classics can be both very long and a little archaic.

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But fear not, here we have compiled a list of amazing reads that are stunning, subversive, short and spectacular as they all come in at under 200 pages.


1. Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

The final novel to come from the acclaimed American author, it focuses on the themes of isolation and humanity as two elderly people come together in order to banish their own loneliness.

Posthumously published, it is a touching and wonderful story of reaching out to others to find happiness and is an elating and joyous read.


2. Sula by Toni Morrison

Nel and Sula shared each other's secrets and dreams in the poor black mid-West of their childhood, but when Sula runs away and heads out into the world, Nel marries and becomes wary of Sula's strength when she returns.

A vital novel in the formation of black feminist literary criticism, it deals with themes such as womanhood, race, slavery and love.


3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

A tale of Okonkwo, a leader in a fictional Nigerian village, it plays out into a tragic telling of how British colonialism irreversibly affected the cultures of the world and tore apart lives and communities. The quintessential post-colonial novel, it strikes out at the once colonial leaders and, despite presenting an imperfect culture to start with, it shows how it didn't necessarily make things better.

A timely warning on the influences we inflict on the world and a challenge to the keep-what-you kill mentality often found in former colonial powers.


4. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Set in South Korea, where vegetarianism is virtually unheard of, one woman decides she wants to take up a more 'plant-like' existence and so begins by adopting a vegetarian diet.

This tiny, passive act becomes an act of rebellion and spirals into a life-changing affair of unknown consequences of immense proportions.


5. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A classic that comes accompanied with eye-wateringly beautiful illustrations, it tells of a pilot stranded in the Sahara desert where he meets a young prince from another planet.

The fourth most-translated book in the world, it is a tender tale of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss.


6. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Life in a 1950s Soviet labor camp does not sound like fun, but this novel gives an insight into the banalities of a lack of freedom as well as the obvious brutalities and realities of those who lived in a Stalinist Russia.

The author himself wrote from experience after being incarcerated in a gulag for making derogatory remarks about Stalin, but the book was given the blessing of later Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.


7. Mrs. Dalloway by Virgina Woolf

The lives of Clarissa Dalloway, a fashionable, wealthy and accomplished hostess, and Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked survivor of the Great War are entirely separate and yet, as the day progresses they will become entwined and slowly begin to impress on each other despite never meeting.

Bold and experimental, the book was a landmark piece of 20th-century literature and still holds a lot of sway.


8. Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore

A middle-aged narrator recalls her adolescence in New York, and so the narrative becomes an exploration of both time periods through recollection, comparison, and contrast.

The two friends in this persistently find their friendship tested as they emerge from youth towards adulthood.


9. Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

As a man and his two son's deal with the loss of the wife and mother of the family, they journey through the stages of grief together as a crow visits them and becomes a physical embodiment of their despair.

Emotionally raw and honest, it is also packed with unexpected humor and moments of great buoyancy.


10. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

Only 160 pages long, this book certainly is one of brevity, but it still manages to be filled with beauty and wonder as the subject matter is about finding dignity in solitude.

An exquisite novel about a simple life, it demonstrates that solace and truth are virtues worth living for just as much as a life full of exciting interludes.


11. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Many underrate this novel for what it is, having been forced to read it at school, considering it too short or simply misreading it as a love story gone awry and all too often it takes non-Americans to see its true magnificence but does it show “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence"?

Many would argue that it portrays the lives of the rich during The Roaring Twenties, a time of excess and economic wellbeing, but look at the language and how ordinary American speech is elevated to the point of poetry, and you'll see this novel is far more than what it is on the surface. Gatsby himself has climbed to his position from ordinary origins and shows who Americans want to be as much as who they are.


12. The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Considered one of the most important pieces of literature, Hemingway’s work tells the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his personal struggle at sea. 

A unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man's challenge to the elements, he struggles to catch a giant Marlin and pursues his own heroic endeavor to the bitter end.


13. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

A prequel and a postcolonial response to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, it rewrites and fleshes out the story of a Creole heiress, Antoinette, who is forced into an unhappy marriage with an unnamed English gentleman (implied to be Mr. Rochester).

By giving this character her own backstory of what was formally an inconsequential character, Rhys reclaims the history of the throwaway character and thus her heritage to show that it should not be just dismissed.


14. The Body Artist by Don Delillo

Following the grieving process of a young performance artist, The Body Artist is a meditation on the mysteries of love, life and time.

Somber and beautiful it functions as a sort of modern ghost story.


15. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins

A mere 60 pages in length, this book depicts the effects of under-stimulation on the narrator, leading her to become obsessed with the color of her wallpaper.

It actually draws on the author's own experience of depression and insanity and is a vital piece of literature concerning American feminism.


16. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Adams' masterstroke swipes at the petty and ludicrous nature of human bureaucracy expanding it to the scale of an entire universe and applying the same absurdities to intergalactic situations. When Earth is given a demolition order, Arthur Dent discovers his long-time friend can help him flee the planet as he is actually a writer for a guide book on the galaxy.

Flung into the far reaches of outer space he is unwittingly entangled in an adventure to obtain the meaning to life, the universe, and everything when all he really wants is a decent cup of tea. A wry look at what alien life might be like if it is out there, it is actually more telling of Adams' opinion on humanity as he speculates they may be as petty and irreverent as we are.


17. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

When first published in 1950s France, it scandalized the general public with its story of a teenager who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage, and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.

A story of libertines and hedonism, it shows how pleasures in life cannot be entirely unfettered but should not be overbearingly tempered either.


18. Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson

A poet leaves her sensible boyfriend for a world renowned artist in an interesting and compelling look at whether passion and intensity trump safety and sensibility in a relationship.

A tangled dissection of the psychology of love, it is complex and beautiful.


19. All This Has Nothing To Do With Me by Monca Sabolo

As the anonymous protagonist interviews an anonymous person for an interview, they end up hiring them because of their initial attraction to them, but this then develops into an obsession and then a relationship.

The relationship eventually comes to an end, but as emails and text messages are exchanged, the tragedy and comedy in this failed relationship are laid bare as well as the true extent of this obsessive infatuation.


20. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

A couple who seem to have gotten themselves into a rut are flailing in their relationship as they have little to talk to each other about but when a random cat wanders into their apartment they find joy in their unexpected visitor and as it continues to invite itself back, they begin to share stories and conversations with one another again.

A charming novel that took the world by storm it is heartwarming and fun.


21. The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher by Ahn Do-hyun

On the surface, a story of a salmon whose silver scales mark him out as different - who dares to leap beyond his fate - is actually a story about growing up, and about aching and ardent love.

Brilliant and mesmeric it is as beautiful as it is brief.


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