Not long ago, I read a post bemoaning the decline of short books. I am personally ambivalent on the issue. It is certainly true that a terrible long book manages to be more terrible than it would be were it shorter, but there are some really wonderful long books out there. Correspondingly, I am going to do two posts. Today, I will present you with ten slim novels/story collections that are very wonderful. When I get to it, I will provide a list of ten wonderful behemoths. There will be no middle ground.
Go pick one of these up and read it tonight.
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin: 120 pages – A splendid book. The world would be better if everyone read this in high school so that they could, perhaps, learn to challenge societal norms.
- Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: 198 pages – I read this not long ago, and it is absolutely fantastic. I was speechless trying to write about it then, and I find the same thing to be true now. I’ve never seen anyone cover every angle of something the way she covers the Indian-American immigration experience.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy: 230 pages – This book has been written about a lot, and with good reason. It’s among the most compelling books I’ve ever read. It might be the quickest read on this list.
- Summer by Edith Wharton: 228 pages – I love Edith Wharton, and, among what I’ve read, this is my favorite. It’s a novel about extreme situations that I nonetheless find believable and relatable.
- As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem: 224 pages – The book that got me hooked on Jonathan Lethem. It’s so wonderfully weird. One of the more unconventional love stories I’ve read, and it’s always oddly fun to find yourself really identifying with totally unlikable characters.
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway: 128 pages – I read this one night when Cate was pregnant with Simone. She passed out early, but I couldn’t sleep. I take back what I said about the road. I found this impossible to put down until I finished.
- The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel: 228 pages – I don’t think Yann Martel gets nearly enough credit. These four stories are so moving. I love that he is unapologetically sentimental. There is too much irony and smirk in modern culture. It’s refreshing to see something different every now and then. This is that.
- So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell: 144 pages – He has several short novels, but this, I believe, is the shortest. Still, he manages to tell a complicated story while fully developing a moderately large cast of characters. Maxwell was a master of writing. He is not remembered well enough.
- Tambourines to Glory by Langston Hughes: 176 pages – When a poet tells a story, and tells it well, it’s going to be hard to beat. The language in this is so smooth and crisp. Word economy at its best. I don’t think there’s a wasted syllable in this book.
- Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson: 238 pages – This book floored me when I read it. Just thinking about the ending still moves me, and his descriptions are so perfect. I need to read more of his work.