9 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day
Long novels are, of course, great, but they require a bigger time commitment. Sometimes, you need something short and tasty. But just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice on quality or connection. These are some of my favorite short novel recommendations. Whether you’re a sci-fi-junky, have a taste for the dark side, or are looking for a captivating love story, I think you’ll find something to titillate your literary taste buds.
The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
If you like crass characters mixed with some spookiness, then you might just fall in love with Flynn’s homage to ghost stories. After meeting Susan Burke at Spiritual Palms where our narrator “reads” palm fortunes(i.e., commits minor fraud against gullible patrons), we follow our narrator as she visits Burke at her eerie Victorian mansion, which she shares with her offbeat and creepy stepson, Miles.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Another spookfest for you and Jackson’s final (and best) work. The Blackwoods, a once grand dynasty, now consists of the three isolated family members—Constance, Merricat, and Uncle Julian—the only survivors of arsenic poisoning in their estate six years ago. When an unexpected visitor shows up on their doorstep amid rising tensions between the family and the townspeople, will history repeat itself? Get a read in before the movie adaptation hit screens later this year.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
First condemned when Chopin published it in 1899 and essentially toppling her career, it is now considered a literary masterpiece and landmark work of early feminism. Follow Edna Pontellier as she grows increasingly frustrated with turn-of-the-century societal norms in the American South, especially as they concern marriage, motherhood, and femininity.
Shopgirl by Steve Martin
A modern day tale of love and romance set in Los Angeles and centered around Mirabelle, a struggling artist drowning in student loan debt and working a dead end job in the glove department at Neiman Marcus. She is faced with the possibility of two suitors. First, the age-appropriate Jeremy, whose career and bank account is a bigger joke than her own, but who is also delightfully uncomplicated. And then, Ray, a wealthy older man she meets at work. If you only know Martin from his slap-stick comedies like The Jerk, you might be surprised by the amount of tenderness and care in his prose.
Tristessa by Jack Kerouac
Set in Mexico City, our narrator finds himself associating with some unpleasant and unsavory characters due to his infatuation with a young prostitute and junky named Tristessa. Like any Kerouac work, there’s farce-like adventures, meditations on Buddhism, and veiled references to some very important Beatnik figures.
The Lover by Marguerite Duras
Set in 1929, this titillating favorite is actually an autobiographical novel centered around a young and poor French girl’s relationship with an older and wealthy Chinese man. Set in French colonial Vietnam, the nameless 15-year-old meets a 27-year-old magnate and heir and is faced with the reality of having to make her own way in the world.
Lucinella by Lore Segal
A hit when it was first released in 1976, Segal’s work is now considered more of a cult classic. The titular Lucinella is a poet in New York City in the 1970’s. Witty and a tad scathing, the novella chronicles her adventures among the glittering literati—from a Yaddo-like writers colony to sleepy cocktail parties.
Ray by Barry Hannah
Dr. Ray is a man of many hats: womanizer, small-town drunk, poet, husband, and Vietnam vet. He represents a particular type of American confusion, aiming to find purpose and make sense of one’s like and rectify bad decisions that haunt us.
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Lose yourself in this plotless, stream of consciousness novel that unfolds in one man’s mind during his lunch break escalator ride. Who would’ve thought watching a bee could be so captivating or existentially insightful? Also, footnotes on footnotes!
What do you think? See any of your favorites?