Short and spectacular: 21 great novels under 250 pages

From classic to contemporary, discover our favourite short books and novellas, guaranteed to stay with you long after the final page.

21/05/2020
3 minutes to read

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. Each under 250 pages, whilst a little more commute friendly than a 600+ page tome, they're guaranteed to make a lasting impact.

The Girl Who Reads on the Métro

by Christine Féret-Fleury

Book cover for 9781509868339

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 . . .  

Our Souls at Night

by Kent Haruf

Book cover for 9781447299370

The final novel from the acclaimed American author, about an elderly man and woman who come together to tackle their loneliness. A low-key, melancholy yet beautifully tender read about making the most of life.

Available now in paperback and ebook, this novel was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. 

Sula

by Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison's Sula is an essential book in the formation of black feminist literary criticism, tackling themes of womanhood, race, slavery and love.

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

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A classic from 1958 set in 1890s Nigeria, about the fight between colonialism and traditional societies. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is one of the first African novels to receive global critical acclaim.

The Vegetarian

by Han Kang

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Set in South Korea, this is the story of Yeong-hye and her decision to become a vegetarian and the shocking reaction that this ‘rebellion’ triggers in her family. A deserving winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2016.

The Little Prince

by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Book cover for 9781509811304

One of the best-selling books of all time, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's novel tells the story of a pilot stranded in the Sahara and his strange encounter with a young boy from another world. Beautifully poetic with wonderful illustrations.

Available in hardback from the Macmillan Collector's Library, as well as in paperback and ebook formats. 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Covering a single day in the life of an ordinary prisoner in a 1950s Soviet labour camp, this short novel was described by the Sunday Times as ‘a blow struck for human freedom all over the world'.

Mrs Dalloway

by Virginia Woolf

Book cover for 9781509843312

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. 

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

by Lorrie Moore

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An exploration of adolescence and then middle age, as the narrator recalls her youth and experiences while growing up in New York.

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

by Max Porter

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Winner of the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize and one of the most highly acclaimed novels of recent times, Max Porter’s debut novel is an astonishing, and surprisingly humorous, study of a man and his two sons dealing with the loss of their mother

A Whole Life

by Robert Seethaler

Book cover for 9781447283904

Andreas is a simple man of few words, yet he lives an extraordinary life. At under 160 pages, Robert Seethaler's novel is a tender book about finding dignity and beauty in solitude.

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book cover for 9781509826360

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.

Available in hardback from the Macmillan Collector's Library, as well as in ebook format.

The Old Man and the Sea

by Ernest Hemingway

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Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953, this was Hemingway’s last major work of fiction to be published during his lifetime, and tells the story of an aging Cuban fisherman’s battle with a giant marlin.

Wide Sargasso Sea

by Jean Rhys

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Written as a prequel and postcolonial response to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, this explores the story of a Creole heiress, Antoinette, who is forced into an unhappy marriage with an unnamed English gentleman (implied to be Mr Rochester)

The Body Artist

by Don DeLillo

Book cover for 9780330524957

An elliptical meditation on the mysteries of love, life and time, this is a sad yet beautiful novel from America’s true masters of fiction, Don DeLillo. 

Available in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats. 

The Yellow Wall-Paper and Other Stories

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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One of the shortest reads on our list at just over 60 pages, this was first published in 1892 and depicts the effects of under-stimulation on the narrator, which lead her to become obsessed with the colour of her wallpaper. An important early work of American feminist literature.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Book cover for 9781509808311

The first in the classic sci-fi comedy ‘trilogy of five’, introducing us to Arthur Dent and Adams’ unique universe. DON’T PANIC.

Available in paperback, as part of the Pan 70th Anniversary collection, and in ebook and audiobook formats.

Bonjour Tristesse

by Françoise Sagan

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Bonjour Tristesse scandalised 1950s France with its portrayal of precocious teenager Cécile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.

Wilful Disregard

by Lena Andersson

Book cover for 9781447268932

Highly praised by the likes of Lena Dunham and Alice Sebold, this is a compelling read about a poet leaving behind her sensible boyfriend for a renowned artist, a decision which causes her rational world to begin to unravel.

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

All This Has Nothing To Do With Me

by Monica Sabolo

Book cover for 9781447274971

MS interviews the mysterious XX for a job and hires him because she fancies him. As their relationship develops, and then collapses, MS lays bare her feelings in emails, text messages and photographs that show the tragedy and the comedy of her obsession. 

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

The Guest Cat

by Takashi Hiraide

Book cover for 9781447279402

This charming novel about a cat that brings joy into a couple's life was a surprise bestseller around the world.

Available in paperback and ebook formats.

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

by Ahn Do-hyun

Book cover for 9781447269991

Wise, tender and inspiring, this is the story of a salmon whose silver scales mark him out as different - who dares to leap beyond his fate. It's a story about growing up, and about aching and ardent love.


Available in paperback and ebook formats. 

The End We Start From

by Megan Hunter

Book cover for 9781509843985

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.