While I was browsing my shelves for reading inspiration or an old favourite to return to, I was struck by how many very short books I have collected over the years.
There is certainly a special place in my heart for a novella, their concentrated nature make them an extremely satisfying read. Everything for which we love novels is contained in these slender delights, and there is something so appealing about reading a whole book in a few hours. I know we can have endless quantities of books on our kindles or phones now, but these are so portable and light, and a paper copy is rather chicer than reading on a device, don’t you think?
‘Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them’ – Lemony Snicket
I don’t think we need get into the nitty gritty of the definition of a novella versus a novel, or anything technical, that’s a rabbit hole for another day. All of the titles below are great reads that can easily be enjoyed on a long train journey or a lazy afternoon in your most comfortable armchair. If you mention the number of books you’ve been reading everyone is sure to be impressed- we’ll keep the word count between us, shall we?
Bonjour Tristesse, Francoise Sagan
Published when Sagan was just 19, this is the story of a long hot summer spent on the French Riviera, when the protagonist Cecile’s father decides to re-marry. This is a brilliant evocation of the 1950s and the heat of summer, and is written with incredible maturity.
The Victorian Chaise Longue, by Marghanita Laski
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Foster, Claire Keegan
This beautiful novella will haunt you long after you’ve finished reading. A small child is sent to a foster home in rural Ireland, and gradually begins to blossom with the love and care she receives, until the fragility of her situation becomes apparent. This is breath-taking and heart-breaking writing, I urge you to read it.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Stranger, by Albert Camus
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
Black Narcissus, by Rumer Godden
Written in 1936, this is the story of five Anglican nuns who set up a convent in the building of an old harem in the foothills of the Himalayas. The group struggle with altitude sickness and clashes of culture with the local population, and become entangled with a disreputable Englishman living there. All the while the white peaks of the Himalayas tower above, while tragedy looms…
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
First published in 1892, this is an early feminist classic, written in fury after the author was confined to her bed.
Taking the style of diary entries of an unnamed woman also confined with a nervous disorder following the birth of her baby, the creeping horror and claustrophobia of this small book will stay with you.
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Lord of the flies, by William Golding
The Diary of a Nobody, by George Weedon Grossmith
A quirky satire on Victorian social values, there is so much that is recognisable about Charles Pooter, the self important, pompous ‘nobody’ in question, as he navigates his lower middle class life.
Treat yourself to an edition with illustrations, they are the perfect accompaniment to the text.
Strait is the Gate, by Andre Gide
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
A Whole Life, by Robert Seethaler
This is a small, gentle, life-affirming book about the life of one man lived on one mountainside with stoicism and fortitude.
“Scars are like years he said : one follows the other and it’s all of them together that makes a person who they are”
Take a little time to savour this book!
The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The Little Prince, By Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Train to Pakistan, by Kushwant Singh
This is a raw and transporting novel about the devastation wreaked on a previously harmonious village following the partition of India in 1947.
The Diary of Adam and Eve, by Mark Twain
Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell
Gigi and The Cat, by Colette
The plot of this novella centres around a young Parisian girl being groomed for a life of coutesanship, and her relationship with a man who falls in love with her.
This edition also contains Colette’s story ‘The Cat’, about a triangular relationship between married couple Camille and Alain, and Alain’s cat Saha. I’m sure you’ll go on to devour all of Colette’s other works after reading this.
The Sweet Dove Died, by Barbara Pym
First Love, by Ivan Turgenev
The reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid