Creating memorable characters, moments and messages whilst keeping the spine width under control is no easy feat. Here is a selection of brilliant short books and novellas that are all under 200 pages long but are guaranteed to stay with you for a very long time. 

sula toni morrison


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

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things fall apart

Things Fall Apart 

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


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the vegetarian

The Vegetarian 

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. Han Kang's second novel (which was translated by Deborah Smith) was a deserving winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize.


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One day in the life of Ivan

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Charting a single day in the life of an ordinary prisoner in a 1950s Soviet labour camp, and inspired by Solzheintsyn's own experience as a political prisoner in Stalin's Russia, this novel was described by the Sunday Times as ‘a blow struck for human freedom all over the world'. The Penguin Modern Classic edition was translated into English by Ralph Parker.


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who will run the frog hospital

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

Lorrie Moore's second novel is an exploration of adolescence and then middle age, as the narrator recalls her youth and experiences while growing up in New York.


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Grief is a Thing with Feathers


Grief Is The Thing With Feathers

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. The book was adapted for stage in 2018, with its debut run starring Peaky Blinders' Cillian Murphy as Dad.

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Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

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.

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Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

Written as a prequel and postcolonial response to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, in Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys 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).


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Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wall-Paper

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


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bonjour tristesse

Bonjour Tristesse

Françoise Sagan scandalised 1950s France with her portrayal of teenager terrible Cécile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her sexual freedom.

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