Not to state the obvious, but classic novels can be intimidating. Just spotting that 600-odd-page copy of Jane Eyre on your bookshelf is enough to make you want to abandon the idea of reading timeless tomes altogether. While we don't want to suggest that you leave Charlotte Brontë's bulky book to collect dust on your shelf, we have curated a list of under-200-page classics that'll make the idea of picking up a quintessential read much more manageable.
Spanning an unputdownable coming-of-age story set in Chicago to a provocative page-turner about infidelity, these short classic novels may have slim spines, but they're anything but trivial. No need to bother with a bookmark—you're going to want to read these short classic books in one sitting.
Here are picks for the best classic books under 200 pages.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros's short novel about a young Latina girl coming of age in Chicago, with its memorable characters and sparse but affecting prose, has earned its place on bookshelves among classics by Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. You may have read The House on Mango Street in school, but it's just as impactful when re-read as an adult.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Set in a dystopian future where literature is on the edge of extinction, Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 is often touted as an American classic. Bonus: After reading the classic novel from cover to cover, watch HBO's adaptation starring Michael B. Jordan. You won't be disappointed.
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
In A Room of One's Own, Woolf imagines that Shakespeare has a sister who is his intellectual equal in every way. Their only difference? She's a woman. Consider this classic novel, which reads more like an insightful essay on sexism, a must-read today.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Although Gabriel García Márquez is best known for his Nobel Prize-winning epic One Hundred Years of Solitude, the celebrated Colombian author's slim yet powerful novella Chronicle of a Death Foretold, about a baffling murder, is well worth a read. In it, everyone knows a murder will occur, but no one does anything to stop it. It's one of those books where the more you learn, the less you know.
Sula by Toni Morrison
This is a brief but beautiful novel about two friends torn apart by an unforgivable betrayal, written by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. The book belongs on every bookshelf alongside modern works of fiction on friendship, like Swing Time by Zadie Smith.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
While an unfaithful wife may not be as shocking a concept as it was in 1899, when Chopin's novel was first published, The Awakening still deserves a spot in your to-read pile for its poignant portrayal of a married woman. In it, a woman escapes a stifling marriage to pursue passionate love.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set during the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby transports readers to a glamorous world of lavish parties that are more insidious than they seem. Follow up your read by watching Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in the 2013 film.
Even if you already own a copy, it's worth picking up this new edition, complete with a foreword by acclaimed novelist Jesmyn Ward.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
In just 128 pages, Orwell's scathingly satirical and fiercely funny novel packs a poignant punch, reimagining the events of the Russian Revolution through the eyes of a community of downtrodden mistreated farm animals seeking equality. Witness the rise and fall of these revolutionary animals in Animal Farm.
Passing by Nella Larsen
Although Nella Larsen's Passing was originally published in 1929, the tragic story about a light-skinned Black woman married to a racist White man unaware of her African American heritage continues to resonate with readers today. In it, the main character Clare Kendry longs for the Black identity she abandoned in favor of passing for White.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger's lesser-known novel Franny and Zooey is actually composed of two interlocking short stories about disenfranchised siblings—Franny, an undergraduate student struggling to find her place, and her brother Zooey, an aspiring actor. It's a tale of the struggle that is entering adulthood.
The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
Technically a short story (not a novel) about a man who wakes up transformed into a beetle-like insect, Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" only requires about 45 minutes of your time to tear through, making it the ultimate answer to not having time to read. The story is about feelings of inadequacy and isolation (both of which one may experience after realizing they've been turned into a scream-inducing insect).
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Time travel to glamorous 1940s New York City with this Truman Capote classic. Holly Golightly is a teenage girl about town looking for a place that feels like home in this world—preferably on the arm of an older man—in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Don't miss the Audrey Hepburn film either, of course, which is based loosely on the novella.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
The Pearl is about a poor diver who hits the mother lode by finding a pearl the size of a seagull's egg. He's ecstatic to be able to provide for his young family in this story based on a Mexican folk tale about love and greed.