Favorite Short Novels

I’m working on a new course called Intro. to Fiction, and I’m hoping to include a short novel among the list of readings.  The problem is, how could I ever choose just one novel?

In the poll, I’ve listed some of my favorite short novels (in no particular order).  I might also add Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Toni Morrison’s Beloved to that list.

Knowing that many of you are very prolific readers,  I was hoping I could get your ideas on good short novels, those that are around 100 pages long.  What are your favorites?  If you have suggestions for other short novels that I should consider, I’d love to hear them!

Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm  Comments (9)  
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  1. I was just prowling through my bookshelf and realized the Beloved is a pretty long novel. That ones doesn’t quite count!

  2. Oh dear, I won’t be much help; I’ve only read one of those – Ethan Frome. My DH taught The Great Gatsby in high school; it’s a favorite of his.

    I really enjoyed Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene.

    Also A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds (might be too long, I can’t remember and no longer own it); I sobbed through the last chapter!

    AL: Love Graham Greene, and his novels are a good length to consider. I’ll have to look up A Gracious Plenty. I’m loving all the book recommendations I’m getting, just for myself through this!

  3. Hi Amy,

    I voted for The Great Gatsby on your poll.

    Some other suggestions are (I’m afraid it’s hard to find a 100 page novel), for more recent publications:

    Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees (224 pages)
    Eugene Drucker’s The Savior (204 pages)

    And for a not-so-recent, but a highly entertaining and symbolic read:

    G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday (224 pages)

    I’ve written about them in my blog if you’re interested.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts!

    AL: It is a challenge to find short novels. I think that’s why the same ones keep popping up in high school/college survey courses. One reason why I was pestering you guys for other ideas. The Man Who Was Thursday is an incredible book. I need to read that again soon. Thanks for the ideas.

  4. I was wondering about that. That was quite a heavy book,both topically and physically.

    Talking about short novels, or novellas, what say you about Nanowrimo? I think the challenge of writing an unedited 50,000 word novel in one month is an interesting way to learn to appreciate a well constructed novel. The challenge of making characters come to life, and then getting them in and out of scenes to move the plot along makes one more aware of successsful authors talents.

    Drabble writing is another exercise that pings the brains into appreciating the well crafted line.

    By the by…again, on short fiction: Have you ever beeen on the “Book-a-minute” website?

    Oh the joys of being about to read “Pride and Prejudice” over and over again in one minute! What a time saver! The children’s stories are hilarious too, not to be missed.

    And yes, quail eggs taste exactly like chicken eggs, only a tad more tender and sweet. I suspect that the sweet part is purely psychological though.

    The book a minute is an old favorite of mine. I pass it on to my students as fun reading. Honestly, I have considered Nanowrimo, but I can’t imagine spending that much time in a month. I’d really have to carve out a lot for that purpose. Maybe if I had some support people doing it along with me, that would help too.

  5. I highly recommend Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West. It is a bit weird but very captivating.

    My second choice would be The Awakening, which you mentioned.

    My third choice would be Maggie by Stephen Crane.

    My fourth choice, which maybe should be higher, is Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.

    My fifth choice is The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

    AL: Miss lonely hearts has come up a couple times recently, so I might just have to check that one out. Haven’t read Maggie either. I’m interested that a guy chose the Awakening. I thought that I wouldn’t use that one because maybe the guys in the class wouldn’t like it very much. The Turn of the Screw might appeal to the students who seem to love Stephen King books.

  6. The Awakening is a novella that I have read several times because I find the psychology of it so fascinating. I guess it isn’t a “guy” book, but I’m not a typical guy.

    AL: I wish more guys would appreciate books like that! Its a deeply feminist book, one of the first modern takes on the topic. If you like that book, I’d also suggest Chopin’s short stories, especially “The Story of an Hour.”

  7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo is 160 pages. An excellent story.

    AL: I read that book last year with one of my book groups. We all agreed it was a thought provoking and riveting read, understandable as to why it’s such a best seller. I personally struggled to reconcile some of the underlying themes with my faith (seemed like a mishmash of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and New Age spirituality). On the surface, it has several echoes of the bible in it, with certain words from the bible sprinkled around throughout the text, so it seems like it should be a Christian book, which is a bit deceptive, I think. Still, an engaging read, and certainly fitting the page requirements. I like that this is very contemporary, which would be a treat for my students. Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. I was just trying to order a copy of A Farewell to Arms online, since I have no clue where my old one went. And I noticed that it’s 300 pages long. Either my old one had really tiny font, or I just forgot how long it was. Guess that one won’t work! But I’m glad that a couple people recommended the Old Man and the Sea as another Hemingway alternative (much shorter).

  9. I like Yasmina Khadra’s THE SWALLOWS OF KABUL, but I think that’s almost 200 pages (does that qualify as a “short novel”?)

    If you want novellas, Lan Samantha Chang’s collection, HUNGER, has a great one.

    And in DRINKING COFFEE ELSEWHERE, ZZ Packer has a story that’s more like a novella, it’s 60 pages.

    Steven Millhauser’s THE KING IN THE TREE is a collection of three novellas (I really like Steven Millhauser– he wrote the story on which “The Illusionist,” with Ed Norton, was based)

    There’s also Italo Calvino’s writings . . .

    AL: Thanks for the suggestions. These aren’t ones that I’ve read before, so I’ll have to check them out!

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