End your reading slump with these short novels and novellas

InterServer Web Hosting and VPS

Ad - Web Hosting from SiteGround - Crafted for easy site management. Click to learn more.

If you’re in the middle of a reading slump or feeling less than inspired by your reading life, I’d like to encourage you to turn to short novels and novellas. […]

The post End your reading slump with these short novels and novellas appeared first on Modern Mrs Darcy.

If you’re in the middle of a reading slump or feeling less than inspired by your reading life, I’d like to encourage you to turn to short novels and novellas. They’re great for short attention spans and whenever you have a limited time to read. Being able to finish something quickly also gives you a quick win, giving you a source of accomplishment and building momentum and satisfaction.

What counts as a short novel? What is considered “short” is subjective. Likewise, there’s no set page count for what qualifies as a novella but typically you’ll see books described that way when they’re 160 pages or less. Novellas are shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. The average page count of a novel is 300ish pages so a short novel is longer than a novella but still shorter than most novels. Some believe the short form actually requires more of authors, not less: they have to tell a full story in a much smaller space. I especially love what I like to call “short novels that pack a big punch”—ones with small page counts but outsized emotional impact for the reader.

Regardless of whether a book is a novella or a short novel, these works are fantastic when it comes to ending a reading slump. Sometimes you just need to finish something—anything!—to get your reading life back on track. That’s not the only reason to gravitate toward the short form but it is a good one. They’ll also build an appreciation for what authors are able to accomplish within these constraints.

Today’s list of short novels and novellas includes an array of genres, from a page-turning classic to contemplative science fiction. I hope one of these will be just what you need to end your reading slump and keep the pages the turning.

14 short novels and novellas that pack a big punch

This post contains affiliate links. More info here.

Loved and Missed
Author: Susie Boyt
This slim British novel packs a big punch and is sure to be on my best-of-the-year list. In this first-person family drama, we meet a grandmother who raises her granddaughter from infancy because her daughter, who’s been struggling with addiction for nearly a decade, is unable to do so. The story is brutal and tender, gorgeously written, and surprisingly funny for a book that required multiple tissues. I appreciated that the prose, while never plodding or needlessly complex, did invite a close reading: I am inclined to be a fast reader, but I consciously slowed down so I didn’t miss anything. While the story is set roughly in the present day—just before the dawn of the iPhone—it has an old-fashioned feel to it; if I didn’t know better I might have guessed it was a Persephone title. Heads up for multiple content warnings, some of which are evident from the plot description but some took me by surprise. 208 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Bookshop
The Hero of This Book
In this novel written as a memoir, Elizabeth McCracken, the author or the character that we feel like is Elizabeth McCracken, shares about her larger-than-life mother, the hero of this book. It’s summer 2019, one year after her mother died, and McCracken has traveled to London where she and her mother traveled to before. She alternates between different stories of her mother’s life, including her experience of disability, and what it’s like without her there. She makes you wish you’d had the chance to know her mother, even as she’s exploring her own grief. 192 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Author: Joan Lindsay
In this short Australian classic, a group of girls from the Appleyard College for Young Ladies venture out for a picnic at Hanging Rock on a beautiful afternoon. Three of the girls set out for a hike, and are never seen again. As I was reading this short novel, it strongly reminded me of something I’d read before, but I couldn’t figure out WHAT. I finally realized it wasn’t a book at all—it was the TV show Lost! (If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.) 189 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Elena Knows
Piñeiro is a bestselling Argentinian crime author but the crime element only scratches the surface of what she accomplishes in this tale. After her daughter Rita is found dead, the police write it off as a suicide but Elena is sure there’s more to it. After all, Elena has advanced Parkinson’s and Rita was her caregiver. Her investigation is hampered by the short blocks of time her medication affords her to be more mobile, offering insights into the ableism, ageism, and classism wielded by society. Buckle up, because that ending is a doozy. Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle. 143 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Passing
Author: Nella Larsen
Written in 1929, set during the Jazz Age in Harlem, this is the story of two childhood friends who reconnect after choosing very different paths. Both women are Black and light-skinned. Clare has chosen to pass for white, and is even married to a white man who knows nothing of her heritage or history. Irene is married to a successful African-American physician. As the women spend more time together, Irene’s life starts looking better and better to Clare … and what unfolds is a battle of wits in a story akin to a psychological thriller. The story feels so fresh and unexpected, I couldn’t believe it was written nearly a hundred years ago. What a page-turner! 141 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
The English Understand Wool
Author: Helen DeWitt
17-year-old Marguerite lives a lavish lifestyle in Marrakech, raised by a French mother and English father who instill in her the importance of having “good taste.” But how far does that lesson go when she learns her whole life has been a lie? You can easily read this inventive, head-spinning novel in one sitting, but if you’re anything like me you’ll be thinking of it long after you turn the last page. A heist story, coming of age thriller, and satirical critique of the publishing industry and media culture, all rolled into one explosive little package. 69 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Bookshop
Ring Shout
The horror genre isn’t my jam but when Beth recommended this in a Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club discussion thread and compared it to Sarah Gailey and Ralph Ellison, it piqued my interest. Described as “dark historical fantasy,” this novella takes place in Prohibition Georgia, where Ku Klux Klan members literally become demons after watching The Birth of a Nation. Bootlegger Maryse Boudreaux and a motley crew of fighters set out to save the world from this hellish nightmare come to life. 185 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Eastbound
Maylis de Kerangal has been one of my favorites ever since I stumbled upon Painting Time (still my favorite of her work). This novella follows two fugitives on the Trans-Siberian Railway: twenty-year-old Aliocha is desperate to get out of Russian military service but all of his attempts have failed; Hélène is a French woman who also wants to flee Siberia. Together they’ll attempt to escape despite language barriers and the ever-present danger of being caught. Translated from the French by Jessica Moore. 140 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
A Psalm for the Wild-Built
Author: Becky Chambers
With her knack for combining quirky characters with surprising science fiction plots, Chambers helps us step outside the “real world” to examine modern society with fresh eyes. In the first installment of the Monk and Robot series, a nonbinary tea monk dedicates their life to comforting humans in times of need, until they meet a robot friend with an important question. Endearing and delightful, this novella isn’t just for sci-fi lovers. In fact, Chambers dedicates it to “anybody who could use a break.” This one’s made the rounds in our WSIRN team. 160 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Libro.fm
Buy from Bookshop
Small Things Like These
Author: Claire Keegan
This Christmastime novella is set in 1985 Ireland (though the details made the story feel older) and is inspired by Ireland’s Magdalene laundries, a topic I knew nothing about. Bill Furlong is a hardworking family man who struggles to provide for his large family, something hard enough in this time and place. But then, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, he makes a series of discoveries that threaten to unravel everything he has believed to be true about his life, his faith, and his community. This was a lovely, tender book, and I read it in one sitting. 128 pages. More info →
The Swimmers
Author: Julie Otsuka
This 2022 release made me an instant Julie Otsuka fan: I laughed, I cried, I dove into her backlist. This slim story begins with the collective narrative of the devoted regular swimmers at a community pool. But one day a crack appears in the bottom of the pool and it’s soon closed to the swimmers. No longer able to gather for their laps, the swimmers are forced to individually deal with the grave disruption to their routine, and no one is affected more than elderly Alice, whose story takes over the narrative. The surprising pivot from snappy social commentary to a devastating portrait of encroaching dementia is effective and moving. Otsuka is a master of the tiny details throughout, be they witty or heartbreaking. 192 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
Recitatif
Author: Toni Morrison
The only short story Toni Morrison ever wrote. She described it as “an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial.” It’s an ingenious little puzzle of a story about two young girls named Twyla and Roberta; one is black and the other white. They meet in a shelter when they are eight years old, wards of the state because one mother “danced all night” and the other mother was sick. They became fast friends during the four months they lived there and their paths intermittently cross during the following decades. Morrison never answers the question she poses, leaving it to the reader to decide which is black and which is white. A book club could wrestle with the story forever. My bound version contains a wonderful introduction by Zadie Smith, but because the essay gives an awful lot away I urge you to read the story first. 83 pages, though the story itself is only 40. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
A Spindle Splintered
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Zinnia Gray’s 21st birthday is set to be her last due to a rare condition where no one survives past the age of 21. Her best friend Charm gifts her with a full sleeping beauty experience, she wakes up in the realm of Sleeping Beauty. A fun, snarky reimagined fairy tale that makes for one delightful escapist read. If you enjoy this, don’t miss the second Fractured Fables book! 119 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop
One Woman Show: A Novel
Coulson worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 25 years, where one of her last jobs was writing the 75-word wall labels for the museum’s new British galleries. She imagined a novel in that form, and this life story of Kitty Whitaker is the result: a sly and stylish novel told solely through museum wall labels about a 20th-century woman who transforms herself over the course of her lifetime. This could easily be read in one sitting, and is an excellent pick for structure nerds or art and design fans. 208 pages, though ample white space means the page count is significantly lower than a typical book of this length. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Buy from Bookshop

Do you have a favorite short novel or novella? Please tell us in comments!

P.S. Give your reading life a quick boost with these 21 short and satisfying novels and 20 short novels you can read in one day.

End your reading slump with these short novels and novellas

The post End your reading slump with these short novels and novellas appeared first on Modern Mrs Darcy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *