If you do a quick Google search of the phrase "the best books under 200 pages," you'll find list after list containing proverbial classics such as Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. While we're certainly not suggesting that you should skip these literary tomes, we're using this list to shine a light on oft-overlooked modern novellas that fit the under-200 page limit.
Spanning a raw memoir penned by a Native American woman traversing her treacherous memories to a dazzling debut from a Pakistani Muslim poet navigating contemporary America, these deceivingly slim novels are as powerful as they are unputdownable. And the best part is that you can read each of our picks, from start to finish, in under two hours.
Consider yourself a busy book lover? The 10 best books under 200 pages were practically made for people who don't have time to read.
We the Animals
Author Justin Torres's novel about the adventures and the hardships of three brothers growing up in upstate New York has captured so many hearts that it's now a major motion picture. However, you can (and should) add this slim 128-page book to your to-read pile before heading to the theater. Vanity Fair succinctly describes the debut as "a gorgeous, howling coming-of-age novel that will devour your heart."
If They Come for Us
Fatimah Asghar, poet and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls, tackles issues of identity, misogyny, and violence from the perspective of a Pakistani Muslim woman navigating contemporary America in her 128-page poetry collection If They Come for Us. Consider Asghar's hauntingly beautiful and insightful debut required reading for 2018.
Before Terese Marie Mailhot's powerful and poetic memoir chronicling her life as a Native American woman growing up in the Pacific Northwest even hit bookshelves this year, Heart Berries was already topping Elle, Bustle, and Goodread's lists of the most-anticipated books of 2018. "What Mailhot has accomplished in this exquisite book is brilliance both raw and refined," raved Roxane Gay, author of the acclaimed memoir Hunger, of this 160-page must-read.
Dept. of Speculation
In Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill offers "an account of matrimony and motherhood that breaks free of the all-too-limiting traditional stories of wives and mothers," according to The Atlantic. Indeed, her meditations on marriage and motherhood will stay with you long after you turn the last page of this 192-page stunner about a family falling apart.
The End We Start From
Megan Hunter's unputdownable 144-page novel about a mother and child making their way through an apocalyptic London begs to be finished in one sitting. Hailed by Vogue as "extraordinary," ELLE as "elegiac," and NPR as "poetic," this is a powerful page-turner you won't want to skip.
Urgent, compelling, eerie, and mysterious, Samanta Schweblin's Fever Dream is as terrifying as it is beautiful. To say much more would spoil the plot, but trust us when we tell you that the 192 pages practically turn themselves in reaching the book's shocking conclusion. "To call Schweblin's novella eerie and hallucinatory is only to gesture at its compact power," The New York Times Review of Books concurs.
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
Described as a "mind-bending miniature historical epic," Icelandic novelist Sjón's Moonstone packs a powerful punch in a deceivingly modest 156 pages. Set in 1918 Reykjavik, the novella follows a gay man navigating a world that's hostile to even the notion of homosexuality. Publisher's Weekly notes that Sjon's slim read "resonates both as an allegory about society and sex, as well as a historical glimpse of a time when pandemic and war pressed upon Iceland from the south."
Rachel Khong confronts difficult relationships head-on in her novel. On the heels of a failed engagement, 30-year-old Ruth quits her job and moves back home into her parent's house where life doesn't get any easier in Goodby, Vitamin. It's "one of those rare books that is both devastating and light-hearted, heartful and joyful," raves Buzzfeed. "Don't miss it."
Centered around an unnamed protagonist, a single woman leading a mostly solitary life in a small, coastal Irish village, Claire-Louise Bennet's dazzling prose rivals the novel's stunning cover. Deemed "sharp, funny, and eccentric" by The New York Times Book Review, this quiet novella is a must-read.
What We Lose
If you've made it this far, odds are you won't mind that this 224-page novel made the cut for our best books under-200 page list. Despite being 24 pages over, we promise Zinzi Clemmons's lauded novel about life, love, and loss is worth the extra 15 minutes to finish. In case you're not convinced, Vogue deemed it "the debut novel of the year."
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