In praise of short books…

Lately, I’ve very much been appreciating the short book. In fact, I have tentatively come to the conclusion that a novel’s perfect length is between 250 and 350 pages.

It’s not that I don’t love big, fat, epic novels. In fact, I count several of them among my favorite reads: Lonesome Dove; The Passage trilogy; Anathem; The Stand and It. Perhaps it’s a side effect of growing older; as my time here gets shorter, my patience for long books wears thin. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve noticed that long books seem to be what’s expected these days, and I always appreciate those who buck the trend.

I’m a believer in the idea that boundaries can help foster creativity. The short form of the novel challenges the writer to be succinct and on point, to be deliberate about every choice, to tell the story in the most direct and pared-down manner possible. And as a reader, it feels very satisfying to complete a story in just a few sittings.

When you read shorter books, then you can read more books–another bonus! Here are a variety of short novels I’ve read over the last few months that I would recommend:

  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang (208 pages)
  • Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (224 pages)
  • Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (240 pages)
  • Confessions by Kinae Minato (240 pages)
  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (256 pages)
  • The Silent Land by Graham Joyce (262 pages)
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman (272 pages)
  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (272 pages)
  • The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (288 pages)
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (288 pages)
  • The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford (289 pages)
  • Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand (300 pages)
  • The Caretaker by A. X. Ahmad (304 pages)
  • The Last One by Alexandra Oliva (304 pages)
  • The River at Night by Erica Ferencik (304 pages)
  • Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory (304 pages)
  • White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (304 pages)

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