Short and spectacular - 21 great novels under 200 pages long

12 May 2017

As rewarding as an immersive 600+ page epic can be, sometimes it’s the more compact stories that hit the hardest.

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

This is only a very small selection – please let us know which books we’ve missed!

Kent Haruf's Our Souls at Night

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.

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Toni Morrison's Sula

An essential book in the formation of black feminist literacy criticism, tackling themes of womanhood, race, slavery and love.

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Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

A classic from 1958 about the fight between colonialism and traditional societies set in Nigeria in the 1890s. One of the first African novels to receive global critical acclaim.

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Han Kang's The Vegetarian
(translated by Deborah Smith)

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.

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Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince
(Picador Classic edition translated by Ros and Chloe Schwartz)

One of the best-selling books of all time, it 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.

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Penguin Modern Classics edition translated by Ralph Parker)

A single in the life of an ordinary prisoner in a 1950s Soviet labour camp, it was described by the Sunday Times as ‘a blow struck for human freedom all over the world’.

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Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway

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.  

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Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

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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Max Porter's 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.

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Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life
(translated by Charlotte Collins)

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

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F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

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.

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Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953, the 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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Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea

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)

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Don DeLillo's The Body Artist

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.

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Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 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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Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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

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Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse
(Penguin Modern Classics edition translated by Heather Lloyd)

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

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Lena Anderrson's Wilful Disregard
(translated by Sarah Death)

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.

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Monica Sabolo's All This Has Nothing To Do With Me
(translated by Georgina Collins)

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, photographs that show the tragedy and the comedy of her obsession. 

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Takashi Hiraide's The Guest Cat
(translated by Eric Selland)

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

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Ahn Do-hyun’s The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher        
(translated by Deborah Smith)

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.

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Megan Hunter's The End We Start From

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. 

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