A couple weeks ago, the Huffington Post ran an article titled "These Amazing Classic Books Are So Short You Have No Excuse Not to Read Them." It included the usual suspects, Heart of Darkness, The Great Gatsby, Animal Farm, The Turn of the Screw. There list is definitely worth checking out, but I thought I'd add a few of my own suggestions to the mix. Here are ten great books under 200 pages:
CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD by Gabriel García Márquez (120 pages):
García Márquez is one of the best known Latin American writers of our time. His 1981 novel follows an unnamed narrator's attempt to reconstruct what happened in his small hometown decades earlier. Everyone in the town knew that the Vicario brothers were planning to kill Santiago Nasar, except, seemingly Nasar himself.
THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE by Carson McCullers (71 pages):
Carson McCullers is a writer in the Southern Gothic tradition, like Shirley Jackson and Flannery O'Conner. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (which usually comes with a few other stories), shows a haunting portrait of a small town, and the rise and ruin of Miss Amelia at the hands of the grotesque Cousin Lymon.
SULA by Toni Morrison (192 pages):
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison's 1973 novel Sula focuses on a town and two women, and has one hell of an opening line: "Except for World War II, nothing ever interfered with the celebration of National Suicide Day."
THE CRYING OF LOT 49 by Thomas Pynchon (183 pages):
Probably the only Pynchon book that will take you less than a month to read, but this slim 1966 volume has a lot of depth to it. Oedipa Maas wades through a world populated with equally improbable names and even less probable explanations, as she stumbles through what is either a massive conspiracy, a colossal prank, or her own paranoia.
FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (179 pages):
"It was a pleasure to burn..." A great first line for one of the great dystopian novels in American fiction. Guy Montag is a fireman: one of the chosen few who make sure that no book is left unburned. A treatise on the evil of censorship and illiteracy, the danger of pacification through television, as well as a compelling story make this a fantastic read.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway (127 pages):
Published in 1952, this is the novel that restarted Hemingway's career. It is a prime example of Hemingway's unparalleled style.
THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams (180 pages):
Published in 1979, Hitchhikers Guide is the first in the world's longest trilogy (the series has five books, whereas most trilogies tend to peter out around the third), this is the one of the great examples of absurdist humor and genre parody.
THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder (138 pages):
Wilder's 1927 novel focuses on a disaster. A bridge that has stood for a century collapses, and five people fall to their death. Brother Juniper decides to try to understand the lives of those who died, and determine if it was all a meaningless accident or something more meaningful.
POST OFFICE by Charles Bukowski (149 Pages):
"Maybe I'll write a novel, I thought. And then I did." Love him or hate him (and I've seen plenty of both), Bukowski has had a significant impact on 'dirty realism' and can be pretty damn funny. His 1971 debut novel is semi-autobiographical, the author surrogate Henry Chinaski has to deal with a soul-crushing position working in the post office.
A POLITICAL FABLE by Robert Coover (88 pages):
Originally written and published in 1968 under the more descriptive title, The Cat in the Hat Runs for President, A Political Fable is a bizarre book. Allegorical and surreal, it will answer questions you never knew you wanted to ask like, "How many Republicans can be swallowed whole by a whale" and "Just how far do you have to go to drive the opposition quite literally insane."
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