what can i read in one sitting?
December 29, 2011 1:34 PM   Subscribe

I am going to read a novella* a week in 2012. Lay em on me.

Like everyone (I guess) I wish I had more time to read. I have always been drawn to big, long difficult novels because I think they make me smarter (or look smarter, maybe? I dunno, I am sure some arrogance is involved) but I get to the end of a year and look back and i've managed to read like four books. At the end of this year I read a couple of novellas (*and I know that novella denotes fiction but reccomendations for short non fiction will be great as well) and I enjoyed getting through a story in a week or so. I am really looking for stuff in the less than two hundred page range. That's about all I have time to read in a given week.

I actually started this aa few weeks back andand I read the following:

The Name of the World by Dennis Johnson
The Crying of Lot 49 by Pynchon
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Short History of the World by Gombrich

I liked them all so that shouls give kind of an idea what I am interested in. Also, I already got a great list of young adult novels and short story collections.
posted by holdkris99 to Media & Arts (75 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust
posted by dortmunder at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2011


The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy.
Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or The Bomb Party, by Graham Greene.
Four Seasons, by Stephen King. (four novellas!)
Rogue Male, by Geoffery Household. (short novel)
The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. (short novel)
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is a wonderful novella. Maybe you already got the Jesus' Son suggestion, too, but that's a truly amazing book of short stories by the same author.
posted by Elizabeth907 at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mary Roach's books are non-fiction but they are quick reads and great. Same with David Sedaris.
posted by something something at 1:41 PM on December 29, 2011


Cat Valente's Silently and Very Fast, available in print or online (in three parts). It's sort of a love-letter to hard SF from fairy tales/fantasy.
posted by rivenwanderer at 1:42 PM on December 29, 2011


Also: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.
posted by something something at 1:42 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Animal Farm by Orwell.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:44 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Marguerite Duras? Not sure her novels were officially "novellas" but I have a 4-novel volume of hers out of the library right now that is 250 pages total. Read the first one in a few hours and it was pretty unusual and interesting.
posted by latkes at 1:44 PM on December 29, 2011


Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley. It was really good, ok?
posted by phunniemee at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal.
posted by (alice) at 1:47 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey! I did this, sort of, this year.

I didn't limit myself to novellas, but here're the ones I read:

The Stand-In, David Helwig
The Lover, Marguerite Duras
Ghosts, Cesar Aira
The Seamstress and the Wind, Cesear Aira
A Sleep and A Forgetting, William Dean Howells
The Tiny Wife, Andrew Kaufman
The Mystery Guest, Gregoire Bouilliere (technically memoir, but short and really good, in a very French sort of way)
Shoplifting From American Appare, Tao Lin

Also, you might want to check out Melville House's Art of the Novella series, there's some real good classics and a few new treasures in there too.
posted by emilycardigan at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Watermelon Sugar / Trout Fishing in America, Richard Brautigan.
posted by Lorin at 1:52 PM on December 29, 2011


The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers.
Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan (short novel really, I suppose)
And definitely The Things They Carried, mentioned above.
[All rather depressing. Read happy things in between!]
posted by Glinn at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2011


Transparent Things by Nabokov.

Crap, this is hard for me. I keep thinking of great books I've read recently, and then they're 300 pages.

Might I suggest short story collections? I like picking up the "Best American Short Stories of [YEAR]," "The Year's Best Science Fiction" and similar collections when I need a shorter read. Such collections are also a great way to discover authors you're not familiar with.
posted by richyoung at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Touchstone, Edith Wharton
posted by nicwolff at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2011


Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
posted by neushoorn at 1:56 PM on December 29, 2011


A number of Wodehouse novels will fit the bill. Also several of Nicholson Baker's novels - I suggest The Mezzanine.
posted by Philemon at 2:00 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


For nonfiction, I've enjoyed the Penguin Short Lives series. Great biographies, short, of great figures of history. Jane Smiley wrote about Charles Dickens. I've read the ones on Dante, Joyce, and Beethoven and they were all great.
posted by Philemon at 2:01 PM on December 29, 2011


Just over at 208 pages (apparently), but Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe.
posted by Abiezer at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2011


I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is an awesome novella.
posted by Elizabeth907 at 2:04 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A couple of Russian ones for you.

I love Ivan Turgenev's First Love (1860). "Oh, submissive emotions, low sounds, gentleness and serenity of a soul deeply moved, the melting radiance of first love -- where are you now, where?" Published the same year as Dickens' "Great Expectations," it reminds me of that book in many ways, and, for me, manages to pack much of the same emotional wallop -- but in far fewer pages.

Yuri Olesha's Envy (1927). Might be a little long for one sitting, but it's a really enjoyable read. Humorous, bitingly satirical, yet somehow managed to get past the Soviet censors.
posted by orthicon halo at 2:08 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chaos, by Edmund White, is a wonderful little novella about melancholia, aging, and sexuality.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:08 PM on December 29, 2011


Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Many of the shorter works by Graham Greene hover around the 200 page mark.
posted by dumdidumdum at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2011


"Carrie" by Stephen King.
posted by Elizabeth907 at 2:17 PM on December 29, 2011


It's more of a few long short stories but Stross' Wireless seems up your alley. Also Le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
posted by The Whelk at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2011


Separation by Dan Franck. One of the most affecting novellas (or novels) I have ever read. It is a VERY sad book and may be triggering if you have been through a divorce, but it is simple, gorgeous and honest and I was bowled over when I first read it.

And there is Denis Johnson's other novella,
Nobody Move, which is his take on a noir and was published serially in Playboy. It can be ripped through in a day for sure.

Herman Hesse writes some novella-sized novels. I've only read Siddhartha and Demian, but they were great.

And I don't think anyone mentioned Cannery Row yet, if you like Steinbeck.
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2011


UND ZIS EES HOW VEE DO ZEE LINKS!!
posted by TheRedArmy at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2011


So Long, See You Tomorrow
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:24 PM on December 29, 2011


Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
Steve Martin's two short novels, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company
posted by drlith at 2:31 PM on December 29, 2011


A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, published in Different Seasons
posted by Jahaza at 2:32 PM on December 29, 2011


Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote
posted by Cocodrillo at 2:37 PM on December 29, 2011


The Stranger by Albert Camus.
posted by Jahaza at 2:43 PM on December 29, 2011


Oh, and Einstein's Dreams , which clocks in at under 200 pages
posted by The Whelk at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
posted by Bokmakierie at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2011


The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by HP Lovecraft.
posted by SPrintF at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2011


I was just about to suggest Einstein's Dreams. It really flies by.

Also, Time's Arrow by Martin Amis, 176 fast pages.

Brokeback Mountain is 64 pages.

Stephen King's Bachman Books is 4 different (unconnected) 'novels' in 704 pages so an average of 176 pages each).
posted by K.P. at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2011


"The Malady of Death" is another good Marguerite Duras shawty. In fact, I'm going to reread it for New Year's.

Shopgirl, Mark Leyner, some Camus...all in the 100-200pp range.
posted by rhizome at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2011


New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. Three novellas in one publication.
posted by litnerd at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2011


Hermann Hesse's Demien is only 98 pages. Steppenwolf is far better, but 224 pages. Siddhartha is about 112 pages, although it's my least-favorite of his best-known books. If you like his writing, he has a number of other fiction books in the novella-range of pages.
posted by K.P. at 3:09 PM on December 29, 2011


Steppenwolf in 188 pages.
posted by K.P. at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2011


Litnerd made me remember Paul Auster, Timbuktu
posted by Cocodrillo at 3:18 PM on December 29, 2011


I took a quick peek at my shelves to see if I could recommend a few short books that I liked. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) I'm already presuming you've read Heart of Darkness, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, or Waiting for the Barbarians, and books of similar reknown 2) All these books are roughly in the 150-200 page range, 3) These books don't have much in common other than the short length, and that I thought they were interesting enough to keep and to recommend:

1) Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje (156p.)
2) An Imaginary Life, David Malouf (154p.)
3) The Jokers, Albert Cossery (145p.)*
4) On Bullfighting, A.L. Kennedy (156p.) note: non-fiction/essay
5) Fat City, Leonard Gardner (183p.)
6) The Ten Thousand Things, Maria Dermout (203p.)*
7) American Salvage, Bonnie Jo Campell (170p.) note: short stories

*The page lengths listed on Amazon for these books are wrong. I know because I'm holding the books in my hand right now. Weird that they're both NYRB books.
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:19 PM on December 29, 2011


The Fan Man for your satirical, totally earnest, far out and depth full take on mid century counterculture, and at just 208 pages.
posted by The Whelk at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2011


In the United States of Africa, by Abdourahman A. Waberi.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:40 PM on December 29, 2011


Joseph Conrad has two books of short stories, many of which are almost novellas: "'Twixt Land and Sea" and "Typhoon and Other Stories." Several of his novels are very short. (Most are long.) I would recommend "Typhoon," "Freya of the Seven Isles," "Falk," "Youth" "The Secret Sharer" (usually published with "Heart of Darkness") and "The Shadow-Line." Those last two are somewhat supernatural.

Also, Michael Chabon wrote the excellent (208pp) "Gentlemen of the Road," which was initially published serially, but was later condensed into a book. It's set on the Silk Road among Empires I've literally never heard of, before or sense, but which apparently existed in fact.

If you have the ambition to take on bigger works over more time, may I recommend DailyLit, which emails you, at a frequency you choose and can tolerate, segments (of tunable size) of public-domain works. It makes more manageable works such as "Bleak House" by Dickens, which is nominally a book one could use to club a seal pup.

Finally, if SF is your thing at all, there are Novella categories in both the Hugo Awards (awarded by fans) and the Nebula Awards (awarded by SF Writers). Hit those links for (Wikipedia) lists of the winners and nominees for those awards. It's not uncommon for a single work to win both awards.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:42 PM on December 29, 2011


Whoops, sorry, hit "return" too quickly. Also, Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm.

If we're going over 200 pages, let me recommend Percival Everett. Most of his books clock in at under 225 pages.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:42 PM on December 29, 2011


Ordinary Love & Good Will by Jane Smiley
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon (especially if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, but even if you're not)
Daisy Miller is a classic
definitely all of Tolstoy's short fiction!
posted by chaiminda at 3:59 PM on December 29, 2011


Slowness and Identity by Milan Kundera.
posted by K.P. at 4:23 PM on December 29, 2011


Another vote for Heart of Darkness. Continuing the theme of men on boats, I'd also suggest Melville's Billy Budd.

A couple other possibilities: E. L. Doctorow's most recent novel, Homer and Langley, is just a shade over 200 pages but I found it to be a very quick read. And I'm currently reading Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, which isn't really a novel but more a short collection of notes toward a never-written novel about what it was like to die of neurosyphilis in the 19th-century. (No, not particularly cheerful, but strangely fascinating nonetheless.)

If you like hardboiled crime/noir fiction, Jim Thompson's novellas will fit the bill nicely.
posted by scody at 5:37 PM on December 29, 2011


Here is another thread asking for good books under 150 pages.

In it I recommend A Month in the Country by JL Carr, which will be the best short novel you read this year.
posted by OmieWise at 6:53 PM on December 29, 2011


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We picked it up in advance of the movie, then loved the book so much that we skipped the movie completely. Such an achingly beautiful story.

Several people mentioned Conrad. At 400+ pages, The Secret Agent might be a bit on the long side, but it's probably my favorite longer-form story of his. It shows up in The Portable Conrad along with most of his well-known short-stories and a collection of letters and articles (including a great essay on the Titanic disaster).
posted by jquinby at 6:53 PM on December 29, 2011


On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
posted by HandfulOfDust at 7:11 PM on December 29, 2011


Seconding Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Nonfiction by a famous fiction author: Prisons We Choose To Live Inside by Doris Lessing.

Back cover summary: "One of the world's most extraordinary writers addresses directly the prime questions before us all: how to think for ourselves, how to understand what we know, how to pick a path in the world deluged with opinions and information, how to look at our society and ourselves with fresh eyes."
posted by book 'em dano at 7:14 PM on December 29, 2011


Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather is a collection of three novellas. Her short stories are also good.
posted by expialidocious at 7:17 PM on December 29, 2011


Voltaire's Candide & Zadig, certainly.
posted by batmonkey at 7:22 PM on December 29, 2011


Uh-Oh City, by Jonathan Carroll.
At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft.
H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, by Michel Houellebecq. (nonfiction)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:06 PM on December 29, 2011


The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount, by Italo Calvino
posted by violinflu at 8:10 PM on December 29, 2011


I do proofreading work for Melville House. As emilycardigan mentioned above, their Art of the Novella series is great--both the classic set and the contemporary ones. I think there are about 50 of them now. My favorite is Alejandro Zanbra's Bonsai.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:13 PM on December 29, 2011


Also, I just finished Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays this evening and it blew me away. It is longer than a novella (~200 pages) but told in extremely short chapters.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:15 PM on December 29, 2011


Classics:
Kafka - The Metamorphosis
Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea

And I second Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Chronicle of a Death Foretold. A murder mystery, of sorts!
posted by illenion at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2011


Steinbeck - The Pearl
posted by sprocket87 at 9:09 PM on December 29, 2011


Is this long enough? Understand by Ted Chiang.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:20 PM on December 29, 2011


Great thread. Recent article: "20 Brilliant Novellas You Should Read."
posted by Shane at 11:49 PM on December 29, 2011


The Aspern Papers by Henry James.
posted by jayder at 1:38 AM on December 30, 2011


Fahrenheit 451. Short, classic, and relatively easy to blow through in an afternoon.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:22 AM on December 30, 2011


Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (technically short stories).
posted by ejaned8 at 8:54 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Argleton by Suw Charman-Anderson.
posted by sillygwailo at 9:20 AM on December 30, 2011


Jim Harrison, who writes about Michigan's. Upper Peninsula, is a master of the novella form. The novellas included in The Woman Lit By Fireflies and The Summer He Didn't Die (especially the title story) are engaging and engrossing.

If no one has mentioned D. H. Lawrence, let me add two of his classics: The Fox and The Captain's Doll.
posted by tully_monster at 1:54 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned The Turn of the Screw yet?

Also, several of Philip Roth's more recent books have been very short. I quite liked Nemesis - my copy is 280 pages but they are very small pages with print on the large side.
posted by naoko at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2011


Thanks for all of the suggestions. When I get time this weekend I will compile them all in to one list and post it at the bottom.

By the way, the Whelk's second comment is genius.
posted by holdkris99 at 8:01 PM on December 30, 2011


Rameau's Nephew by Diderot

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

The Dead by James Joyce
posted by costanza at 10:37 PM on December 30, 2011


Here is the aggregated list of specific titles mentioned

Nathaniel West - Day of the Locust
The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy.
Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
Doctor Fischer of Geneva, or The Bomb Party, by Graham Greene.
Four Seasons, by Stephen King. (four novellas!)
Rogue Male, by Geoffery Household. (short novel)
The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. (short novel)
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
Cat Valente's Silently and Very Fast
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.
Animal Farm by Orwell
Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal.
The Stand-In, David Helwig
The Lover, Marguerite Duras
Ghosts, Cesar Aira
The Seamstress and the Wind, Cesear Aira
A Sleep and A Forgetting, William Dean Howells
The Tiny Wife, Andrew Kaufman
The Mystery Guest, Gregoire Bouilliere (technically memoir, but short and really good, in a very French sort of way)
Shoplifting From American Appare, Tao Lin
In Watermelon Sugar / Trout Fishing in America, Richard Brautigan.
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers.
Music of the Swamp by Lewis Nordan
Transparent Things by Nabokov.
The Touchstone, Edith Wharton
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Mezzanine. Nicholson Baker
Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Ivan Turgenev's First Love
Yuri Olesha's Envy
Chaos, by Edmund White
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
"Carrie" by Stephen King.
Le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Stross' Wireless
Separation Dan Franck
Denis Johnson Nobody Move
Herman Hesse Siddhartha and Demian Steppenwolf
Steinbeck Cannery Row
So Long See you Tomorrow William Maxwell
Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
Oh What a Paradise It Seems by John Cheever
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
Steve Martin's two short novels, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, published in Different Seasons
Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote
The Stranger by Albert Camus.
Einstein’s Dreams Alan Lightman
Seize the Day by Saul Bellow
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by HP Lovecraft.
Time's Arrow by Martin Amis
Brokeback Mountain"
The Malady of Death" is another good Marguerite Duras
New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
Paul Auster, Timbuktu
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Waiting for the Barbarians
Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje (156p.)
An Imaginary Life, David Malouf (154p.)
The Jokers, Albert Cossery (145p.)*
On Bullfighting, A.L. Kennedy (156p.) note: non-fiction/essay
Fat City, Leonard Gardner (183p.)
American Salvage, Bonnie Jo Campell (170p.) note: short stories
The Fan Man
In the United States of Africa, by Abdourahman A. Waberi.
Michael Chabon Gentlemen of the Road
Conrad Twixt Land and Sea" and "Typhoon and Other Stories." Several of his novels are very short. (Most are long.) I would recommend "Typhoon," "Freya of the Seven Isles," "Falk," "Youth" "The Secret Sharer" (usually published with "Heart of Darkness") and "The Shadow-Line
Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm.
Ordinary Love & Good Will by Jane Smiley
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
Daisy Miller Henry James
Slowness and Identity by Milan Kundera.
Melville's Billy Budd.
E. L. Doctorow's most recent novel, Homer and Langley
Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain
A Month in the Country by JL Carr
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Prisons We Choose To Live Inside by Doris Lessing.
Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather
Voltaire's Candide & Zadig
Uh-Oh City, by Jonathan Carroll.
At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft.
H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life, by Michel Houellebecq.
The Nonexistent Knight and The Cloven Viscount, by Italo Calvino
Alejandro Zanbra's Bonsai
Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays
Kafka - The Metamorphosis
Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea
Steinbeck The pearl
Understand by Ted Chiang.
The Aspern Papers by Henry James.
Fahrenheit 451
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Jim Harrison The Woman Lit By Fireflies and The Summer He Didn't Die
D. H. Lawrence, let me add two of his classics: The Fox and The Captain's Doll.
James The turn of the Screw
Rameau's Nephew by Diderot
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
The Dead James Joyce
posted by holdkris99 at 9:40 PM on January 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Burning Chrome, William Gibson. Early short stories by the guy who coined the word cyberspace, and whose visions of the near future are outstandingly interesting.
posted by talldean at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2012


I've just been reading Tove Jansson's adult novels published by NYRB Classics. They have all been great, and they are short and sweet. They include: The Summer Book, The True Deceiver, and Fair Play. When I say they're great, I mean exceptional.
posted by OmieWise at 4:21 AM on January 21, 2012


Is online... and unfinished... okay?
She Hates My Futon.
posted by knile at 5:55 AM on March 7, 2012


« Older So I kind of made up my mind a...   |  Simple way to do remote backup... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.