short book recs
June 3, 2019 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Looking for fiction recs < 250 pages, with preference for female or POC authors, including translated (to English) works. Any genre is fine, as long as you can wholeheartedly recommend it as a good read. Thanks!
posted by snerson to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure about the actual page count but My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is a short, breezy, hilarious, surreal, and yet toothsome read. Braithwaite is female, Black, and Nigerian-UK; her characters are Black Nigerian women.
posted by MiraK at 10:42 AM on June 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

I quite enjoyed The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

She has a more recent collection of short stories, but I'm more of a novel reader myself. this one clocks in at 185 pages and meets your criteria
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:52 AM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is sweet and fun - the Queen of England takes up reading for pleasure.

Lois McMaster Bujold writes great novellas set in her fantasy and sci fi universes. Borders of Infinity is one of my favorites but appears to be available only in a bundle of three novellas and might not be the best intro to Miles Vorkosigan. Maybe instead read the Penric novellas set in her fantasy world?

Connie Willis writes amazing, funny, often holiday themed fantasy and sci fi novellas. Uncharted Territory is one of my favorites - it’s sci fi, about planetary explorers.
posted by bananacabana at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2019

The Summer Book, Tove Jansson
Bear, Marian Engel
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq (189 pages).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:02 AM on June 3, 2019

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Tuerner House (maybe more than 250 page but a fast read) by Angela Flournoy
posted by hepta at 11:06 AM on June 3, 2019

A few of my favorite short books:

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill - a 194-page novel about art, parenting and marriage told in tiny vignettes
The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis - a 112-page historical fiction from 1941, based on the true French legal case from the 16th century
Clandestine in Chile: The Adventures of Miguel Littín by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - this is non-fiction from GGM about an exiled Chile filmmaker who returns in diguise; 160 pages, written in 1986
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson - 1962, 160 pages
posted by vunder at 11:17 AM on June 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Murderbot! Martha Wells has a series of four scifi novellas about a character called Murderbot; All Systems Red is the first one and I recommend it unreservedly.

Lois McMaster Bujold has a series of novellas about a regular guy named Penric who finds himself sharing his head with a centuries old demon named Desdemona. Her presence gives him sorcerous powers, and he's always getting into scrapes. The series is full of great examinations of gender and societal expectations, especially the last couple of books. Penric's Demon is the first book.

Women Talking, by Miriam Toews, is a short novel about the aftermath of a lot of horrifying sexual violence. The women of an isolated Mennonite community discuss what to do after realizing that they've been systematically drugged and raped. The basis of the story is awful, but the story itself is about this intimate community of women trying to make a huge, frightening decision.

I probably have more!
posted by gideonfrog at 11:28 AM on June 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you like eerie, Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin is haunting. (182 pages, but the pages are approx. half-sized. It’s more of a novella.)
posted by Paper rabies at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: science fiction, Nigerian-American woman author, protagonist is a woman whose race in the sci fi world is based on the Himba people.
Book 1: 96 pages
Book 2: 166 pages
Book 3: 208 pages

But you could even just read Binti and still be completely satisfied with the story and ending. I've read book 2 and loved it, too. Book 3 is in my queue, but if it's anything like the first two, it will be excellent.
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto. Beautiful short stories.
posted by alathia at 11:38 AM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Susan Hill, The Woman in Black
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight
Françoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:46 AM on June 3, 2019

A Separation by Katie Kitamura
Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba
posted by methroach at 11:51 AM on June 3, 2019

Another vote for Fever Dream.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2019

These are all excellent short novels by people of colour:

The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline (184 p.)
Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis (171 p.)
The Embassy of Cambodia, by Zadie Smith (70 p.)
Ru, by Kim Thùy (141 p.)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2019

In the "Vatta's War" and "Vatta's Peace" series of scifi books (by Elizabeth Moon), the protagonist is a very capable woman who captains her own spaceship. They're a lot of fun, and the main character is smart and confident and strong; none of the books are particularly long, though I read the e-books and so don't know the physical page count. (They're absorbing, and move right along.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2019

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Isak Dinesen had several collections of short stories and novellas -- you may be interested in Babette's Feast.
posted by Hypatia at 1:10 PM on June 3, 2019

Autumn by Ali Smith is a bit over 250 pages, but it reads like it's much less.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto! I consider it one of my favorite books.
posted by sucre at 3:14 PM on June 3, 2019

The Discovery of Honey by Terry Griggs is deliciously irreverent.
posted by fish tick at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2019

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
Speak Easy by Catherynne Valente
Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente
A Wrinkle and Time and A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle
This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero (just a few pages over 250, but it's an insanely fast read)
posted by brook horse at 5:57 PM on June 3, 2019

The Professor's House by Willa Cather is just barely over 250 pages.
The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett is an odd book that wouldn't appeal to everyone because essentially nothing happens, but I liked it.
posted by Redstart at 6:17 PM on June 3, 2019

If you see me don’t say hi - Neel Patel (short story collection)
Her body and other parties - Carmen Macahdo (short story collection)
Difficult Women - Roxane Gay (short story collection)
Exit West by Moshin Hamid (novel w some magical realism elements)
The Warmest December by Denise McFadden (novel, a family drama)
And another vote for “My Sister, The Serial Killer”

If you are interested in contemporary young adult books, anything by Jason Reynolds is not to be missed, including his Tack series, which shots with Ghost.

Similarly,”The poet X”by Elizabeth Acevedo is a National Book Awrd winning YA novel. It’s longer than 250 pages, but it is fiction written in verse, so it’s faster to read than traditional prose
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:25 PM on June 3, 2019

Good Morning Comrades by Ondjaki is a charming, funny story about a young boy in Angola during the Communist era. 128 pages.
posted by carolr at 9:59 PM on June 3, 2019

Let me second

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
posted by Night_owl at 3:50 AM on June 4, 2019

Definitely Banana Yoshimoto!
posted by kensington314 at 2:30 PM on June 4, 2019

Another vote for Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. If you're in the UK, you get a choice of three cover colours!

I'll also second the Penric and Vorkosigan novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold, anything by Connie Willis, Passing Strange by Ellen Klages and the Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells.

Still in the SF and fantasy sphere, I'll add:

Knife Children by Lois McMaster Bujold (a novella in the world of the Sharing Knife quartet)
The Apple-Tree Throne by Premee Mohamed
Brother's Ruin by Emma Newman
Snowspelled, Spellswept and Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis

... and Thin Air by Michelle Paver is a very creepy ghost story that just squeaks in under your page limit.

Also, while I haven't read it yet (waiting for the paperback), based on her other books, I'm absolutely certain that Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss will be utterly brilliant.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:02 AM on June 6, 2019

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:33 PM on June 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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