35 Brilliant Short Books Anyone Can Find The Time To Read


If you lead a busy life, settling down to read a book may seem unfeasible. If you’re disappointed by this, yet keen to indulge in classic literature, you can find solace in the less demanding world of novellas.

This narrative form usually consists of around 80 to 150 pages. Despite their diminutive nature, novellas have amassed many classics. They demand far less time if you have a hectic lifestyle, enabling you to discover many brilliant new authors. The following are 35 such books anyone can find the time to read.

1. The Call of the Wild – Jack London

The Call of the Wild

London’s tale of primitive reawakening. Buck, a domesticated dog, grows increasingly wild after he is stolen from his owner. An exhilarating read.

2. Three Tales – Gustave Flaubert

Three Tales

Flaubert’s sublime work consists of A Simple Heart, Saint Julian the Hospitalier, and Hérodia. They deal with themes of love and loneliness.

3. Different Seasons – Stephen King

Different Seasons

Four inspiring novellas from King make up Different Seasons. Two were adapted into the films Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me.

4. The Outsider – Albert Camus

The Outsider

Also known as The Stranger, Camus’s classic portrays the life of Meursault. His refusal to behave according to society’s norms causes trouble, for which he is unrepentant.

5. The Wall – Jean-Paul Sartre

The Wall

The Wall is a gritty account of three POWs awaiting execution. The intense thoughts and feelings they struggle with make this a disturbing classic.

6. Candide – Voltaire

Candide Voltaire

Young Candide refutes his tutor’s claims about the world, leading to an astute satire mocking politics, science, religion, and philosophy.


7. Animal Farm – George Orwell

Animal Farm

Orwell’s legendary polemical allegory places the Soviet Union into a farm. It’s a gripping read, and is a regular staple in literary education.

8. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway’s classic sees an old man take to the sea in search of a great catch. A stirring tale about adversity and the struggles of life.

9. The Snows of Kilimanjaro – Ernest Hemingway

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Ten of Hemingway’s emotive short stories form this memorable book. It’s classic Hemingway and belongs on everyone’s book shelf.

10. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Themes of humanity and reality run throughout as protagonist Rick Deckard hunts down humanlike replicants. The film Blade Runner is loosely based on Dick’s novella.

11. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye

Notorious for unfortunate reasons, Salinger’s tale of angst-ridden Holden Caulfield has captured the attention of many teenagers.

12. The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark

Scottish writer Spark’s “metaphysical shocker.” After 16 years in a tedious job, Lise heads off on a hedonistic, self-destructive holiday.

13. Anthem – Ayn Rand


Rand’s striking, dystopian novel about a future world where individuality has been eliminated.

14. Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse

Sagan became famous overnight with Bonjour Tristesse. It follows carefree, 17-year-old Cécile as she holidays with her father, but her uneven emotional state leads to tragedy.

15. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Lord of the Flies

Golding’s enduring classic about school boys stranded on a desert island. Their attempts to govern themselves soon lead to anarchy.


16. The Awakening – Kate Chopin

The Awakening

Published in 1899, Chopin’s short novel was ahead of its time in dealing with the topics of marital problems, adultery, and the role of women in society.

17. Why I Am So Wise – Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

Why I am So Wise is an insightful excerpt from Ecce Homo (Nietzsche’s last book). It’s a fascinating example of his genius.

18. The Ballad of the Sad Café – Carson McCullers

The Ballad of the Sad Café

McCullers’s weirdly wonderful story of small-town life. It portrays a bizarre human triangle involving rampaging macho desire and female resolve.

19. Post Office – Charles Bukowski

Post Office

A hilarious account of Bukowski’s time at a post office. His wild antics may not be for everyone, but it’s a fine example of Beat Generation writing.

20. Tristessa – Jack Kerouac


Kerouac fell in love with the novella’s eponymous Mexican girl in the ’50s, and his musings on her drug addiction are very moving.

21. Satori In Paris – Jack Kerouac

Satori in Paris

Interested in Buddhism, Kerouac headed to Paris to research his family history (satori is the experience of kenshō – “seeing one’s true nature”). Distracted, what followed was high, drunken comedy.

22. After the Quake – Haruki Murakami

After the Quake

Six stories from the famed Murakami. After the Quake considers the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995, and how it transformed a nation.

23. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Goethe’s tragic masterpiece examines a young man balancing his artistic nature with the demands of the critical world.

24. Notes From the Underground – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Notes From Underground

One of only four novellas from the Russian great, Notes From the Underground

is based around the musings of a disorderly, alienated individual.

25. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Solzhenitsyn’s brutal account of a man in a Soviet labor camp shocked the world upon its release. Gritty, revelatory reading.

26. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men

Steinbeck’s classic is the moving tale of two amiable men struggling for work in the Great Depression.

27. Goodbye Tsugumi – Banana Yoshimoto

Goodbye Tsugumi

A reflective novel on strained childhood friendships in Japan. Yoshimoto uses the pen name Banana as she finds it “purposefully androgynous.”

28. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

Ethan Frome

Wharton’s novella deals with a dreary domestic situation in New England. The arrival of lively Mattie shakes up the order, with conflicting results.

29. Mrs. Caliban – Rachel Ingalls

Mrs. Caliban

A surreal love story by one of literature’s forgotten female writers. Here, a Californian housewife indulges in an affair with a small green monster.

30. The Visitor – Maeve Brennan

The Visitor

A poignant tale focusing on Anastasia King, who returns to her grandmother’s house but finds herself estranged from her family.

31. Death in Venice – Thomas Mann

Death in Venice

Traveling writer Gustav von Aschenbach heads to Venice in search of spiritual fulfillment. He is led astray by primitive desires.

32. The Dead – James Joyce

The Dead

Irish novelist Joyce details a New Year’s Eve gathering in Dublin. An emotionally charged, brilliant account of family life unfolds.

33. King Cophetua – Julien Gracq

King Cophetua

Set in the French countryside of 1917 as World War I rages, Gracq’s beautiful tale displays all the anxieties of the time.

34. The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon

The Crying of Lot 49

Pynchon’s innovative story of Oedipa Maas. She becomes snared in a global conspiracy, learning life lessons along the way.

35. The Invention of Morel – Adolfo Bioy Casares

The Invention of Morel

This suspenseful tale takes in seemingly impossible romances on an enigmatic island. It’s an inspiring consideration of exploration.

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Featured photo credit: The Catcher In The Rye via

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