Books for my book club...
February 16, 2010 9:57 PM   Subscribe

What are some intellectual, easy-to-read books under 200 pages?

I need to pick a book for my book club soon and need some suggestions on great books. We have previously read To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I liked these books, but they were both really above my comfort level. I generally prefer easy-to-read fictions about things I can relate to. What are some great easy-to-read books my book club members will not find too unintellectual? :)
posted by 1awesomeguy to Writing & Language (39 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Cormac McCarthy's The Road and No Country for Old Men are quick reads that, for me, in some ways contain a subset of some of the ideas in his longer works.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:00 PM on February 16, 2010

It's a graphic novel, but I think Persepolis fits the bill here.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:06 PM on February 16, 2010

Oops, I missed that you're looking for something fictional, sorry about that.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:06 PM on February 16, 2010

Best answer: The Giver by Lois Lowry - around 175 pages, absolutely intellectual, extremely accessible, and there is a lot to identify with.
posted by batmonkey at 10:10 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan is light reading with enough literary kick to get a discussion going.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:10 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, To a God Unknown, and Burning Bright all by Steinbeck are all short and accessible. I think the key word you want to search on is "novella".
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:15 PM on February 16, 2010

Does it have to be fiction? "A Brief History of Time" is 224 pages.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:25 PM on February 16, 2010

A Sorrow Beyond Dreams, by Peter Handke is one of the saddest things you can read. A reflection about the suicide of Handke's mother.
Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, by Georges Simenon. A very sad and insightful love story between extremely lonely people in New York in the 1940s.
A non depressing one: The invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares, perhaps the most perfect love story I have ever read.
But I don't know you, so I have no idea where your comfort level is located.
posted by MrMisterio at 10:28 PM on February 16, 2010

Best answer: Time's Arrow by Martin Amis. (165 p.)

It's a bit hard to read in that the story is told completely backwards, but everything else (like the actual plot) is not difficult to understand. It's interesting and kind of fun once you wrap your head around it.

I read it for a literary book club and we had plenty to discuss.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:39 PM on February 16, 2010

Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist
Hermann Hesse - Siddhartha
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Albert Camus - The Stranger
Edwin Abbott - Flatland

I'd say all of these would qualify as "literary" or having intellectual merit, while being short and quick and much more accessible than Virginia Woolf. The Giver is also an excellent suggestion, as is Steinbeck.
posted by chbrooks at 10:41 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

F. Scott Fitzgerald- The Great Gatsby
Laura Esquivel- Like Water for Chocolate
Joseph Conrad- Heart of Darkness
posted by astapasta24 at 10:45 PM on February 16, 2010

84, Charing Cross Road is incredibly short and references a lot of fascinating literature, which will give you other topics to discuss. 112 pages.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:47 PM on February 16, 2010

I found this resource: Good Books With Under 200 Pages for Reading Groups and Others.
posted by amyms at 10:52 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, yeah, can you define "above your comfort level?"
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:53 PM on February 16, 2010

Best answer: Depends a bit on what you mean by easy to read. For example, I didn't find the writing style of these under-200-page books to be dense or abstract enough to be a slog:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger)
Slaughterhouse 5 (Kurt Vonnegut)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
The Stranger (Albert Camus)
Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)
The Crying of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon)
The Third Policeman (Flann O'Brien)

But the stories as such weren't necessarily easy; I've ordered them more or less by how accessible I found them when I read them. (Which has nothing to do with how much I enjoyed them: I haven't even listed Hesse's Steppenwolf or Mann's Death in Venice, though I like them a lot, because I am not sure if you would find the style of those books too off-putting on top of the dense story.) There are a bunch of literary science fiction/fantasy books I can think of that might work, if you're willing to consider those genres.
posted by ubersturm at 10:58 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
posted by Afroblanco at 10:59 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

The Old Man and the Sea
posted by slab_lizard at 11:01 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Grey King by Susan Cooper, an Arthurian fantasy set in modern Wales. Newberry award winner. Wikipedia calls it a children's book but it's definitely full of adult themes. It's a higher reading level than, say, the Harry Potter books. Beautifully poetic language and a quick read.
posted by mindsound at 11:22 PM on February 16, 2010

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome.

Everyone will love you for this choice.
posted by pseudonick at 11:23 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson. I don't actually remember how many pages the book has, but it seemed short.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:09 AM on February 17, 2010

I recommend this all over the place, but Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. 144 pages and beautifully written; he has a deep, keen understanding of depression and isolation.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 12:27 AM on February 17, 2010

Why not pair up Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Camus' L'Etranger (The Outsider) - an interesting comparitive exercise. Both are short books, fairly iconic, and worth discussing both in their own terms and also for their resonance in popular culture.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:49 AM on February 17, 2010

Nthing batmonkey and chbrooks' recommendation of The Giver. I put it in my classroom library for my adult literacy students to read, and the person who chose it (a non-reader by his own admission) was so absorbed by it that he took it home and read it pretty much whenever he had a spare moment. He finished it today and told me he thought we ought to do it as a class for novel study. :-)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:34 AM on February 17, 2010

Jean Cocteau's 'Les Enfants Terribles'.
Also 'Bonjour Tristesse' by Francoise Sagan.

Both around 150pp.

Votes in favour of ' A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich' and 'The Stranger'.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 2:05 AM on February 17, 2010

Of Love and Other Demons (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) 160 pages
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:57 AM on February 17, 2010

Maybe Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell? Fairly simple language but quite emotional and with some deeper themes.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:28 AM on February 17, 2010

Henry James has written quite a few that are short, accessible, and yet incredibly well-written and endlessly discussable:

Washington Square
The Turn of the Screw
The Europeans

Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Silas Marner by George Eliot

These are often put in the "books I should have read/avoided/hated in high school" category, but don't let that put you off! They are all highly entertaining and thought-provoking while still being easy-to-read and all around 200 pages.

Short stories might be another good option.
posted by bluestocking at 3:47 AM on February 17, 2010

I haven't read it, but On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan is short and beloved. Seconding the Great Gatsby.
posted by Kirn at 3:50 AM on February 17, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, also short and great.
posted by Kirn at 3:51 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Master and Margarita is amazing.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:05 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges is a short, anecdotal, and very readable meditation on the role war plays in civilisation. Reasonably profound, definitely worth a read.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:01 AM on February 17, 2010

Best answer: Remains of the Day is, in my opinion, a beautifully written and evocative book that clocks in at about 200 pages.
posted by slide at 6:20 AM on February 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby. Written by a man with locked-in syndrome from the fluttering of an eyelid, it is necessarily not a complex read and is fairly short, but it's an intelligent, philosophical and potentially perspective-altering book. About 144 pages.

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It's a short story really but can be picked up in its own edition very cheaply and is certainly fuel enough for even the most reticent reading group meeting. One of the most powerrful proto-feminist works, on many English Lit university courses and bound to provoke lots of reactions one way or another. A version with a decent introductory essay dissecting it runs to about 64 pages or so.

I'd also recommend the short stories of both Virigina Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, selections of which are available in slender volumes clocking in at under 200 pages.

Happy reading!
posted by tzb at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2010

I don't have any others to suggest, but I heartily second:

Remains of the Day
Washington Square
posted by marsha56 at 8:25 AM on February 17, 2010

Anything by Muriel Spark. I'd go with one of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Abbess of Crewe, or The Drivers Seat. Short, easy to read, well written and always leaving you with something to chew over.
posted by my face your at 8:35 AM on February 17, 2010

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 2:16 PM on February 17, 2010

Notes from the Underground / Dostoevsky
posted by fook at 10:18 AM on February 18, 2010

Kiss of the Spider Woman / Manuel Puig.
posted by amrangaye at 11:52 AM on February 24, 2010

Response by poster: Lot's of great suggestions here! We have even chosen other books on this list for our other meetings (for example: Slaughterhouse Five). I ended up choosing the book The Giver by Lois Lowry suggested by batmonkey. Thanks everyone for the suggestion!
posted by 1awesomeguy at 1:01 PM on May 11, 2010

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