great novellas to read right now

Great Novellas to Read Right Now

Do you want to read but are short on time? Novellas are the perfect way to get a full story even when you’re really busy. These books are shorter than 150-200 pages and fit well in your purse or bag so that you can read them anytime and anywhere.

I’ve included a mix of must read classics, indie books, and many different genres so that you are certain to find something that appeals to you. I have not included some of the more redundant books that fall onto every list of novellas I’ve ever seen, such as Heart of Darkness (too dense to read quickly at all), Of Mice and Men (we all know that story by now), or The Metamorphosis (so Kafkaesque!).

This list is presented in alphabetical order and will be added to as I read more short books. Enjoy!

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animal farm george orwell
animal farm george orwell

Animal Farm

author George Orwell

Starting off the list is the biggest exception for including redundant books that we’ve all read before. I’m sorry but George Orwell is mandatory. I’m well overdue for a re-read of Animal Farm because this allegory is timeless. His books show just how far we haven’t come as a society and we can all learn from his lessons.

If by some chance you were never assigned this novella in school it’s about a barnyard coup. The animals rebel against their human oppressors but things do not go smoothly. Just as with any political upheaval, power corrupts and society fails the beings who need it most.

calling mr nelson pugh
calling mr nelson pugh

Calling Mr. Nelson Pugh

author Christopher Opyr

There is no rule that says longer books are better than shorter books. This story builds the main character up and down and back again in few enough pages to finish in one sitting. This man has crippling anxiety and is faced with a life or death situation. Or is it? He has to overcome his irrational fears to determine if he should take action or not in this white knuckle thriller.

If you’ve ever experienced the mild panic that comes with having to make a phone call you’ll relate to this poor Mr. Pugh and his nerve wracking situation.

a clockwork orange book
a clockwork orange

A Clockwork Orange

author Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange may be short in page length but it is dense in content. Written in a language known as Nadsat you’ll have to get used to the unusual slang before you really get into the content. You’d be surprised at how your mind can adapt to these strange words that are not quite English, not quite Russian, something by the Droogs in between.

Although you may be familiar with the movie the book is well worth a read and has, in my opinion, the superior ending. Get a taste of the ol’ ultraviolence with this intense banned (actually with reason, not for younger audiences!) book.

the crying of lot 49
the crying of lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49

author Thomas Pynchon

Another dense entry to the list of novellas is this pseudo-mystery by Thomas Pynchon. Those familiar with Pynchon know that he’s not beginner friendly. His books are dense with esoteric references, satire that’s hard to decipher, wandering prose, and vague exposition that means you have to sort of let the words wash over you and hope to absorb what you can. Attempting to read this book word for word with full seriousness will likely drive you mad.

I first read it probably when I was too young to really appreciate it and I remember the ending being so infuriating I wanted to rip the book in half. Looking back on it now I think I understand far more what he was going for. Give it a shot, you might actually love it.

dai yamori kaiju
dai yamori kaiju

Dai-Yamori-Kaiju: Pick Your Own Adventure

author Jason Pratt

Disclaimer, this novella is written by my husband so I’m biased. However, I read it when we were first dating and didn’t know I loved him yet and was still thoroughly impressed with the book. It’s an adult friendly pick your own adventure novel about a giant Kaiju attacking Japan. What makes it great is how you choose to save yourself and loved ones from a crumbling building.

The beauty of interactive storytelling is that the emotional impact is made much stronger when you’re the one taking the action. If or when you make a mistake you may actually feel guilty. Definitely more so than when you’re simply reading the words with no responsibility.

I am legend alt cover
I am legend alt cover

I am Legend

author Richard Matheson

I’ve mentioned this classic horror novella on a few lists so far. I think it’s because we all think we know this story based on movies and how people talk about it but the book is so much better than I ever expected it to be. It goes far beyond the threat of vampires and deals with the threats of loneliness and self destruction in a post apocalyptic world. I am Legend is heartbreaking and exciting in equal measures, I would strongly consider it a must read.

last junction
last junction

Last Junction

author Connor De Bruler

Connor De Bruler is an author you should really get to know. This short book is a good introduction for when you’re short on time. He has mastered the art of dark and gritty storytelling with just enough magic thrown in to keep the reader from a deep depression. Last Junction could be seen as On the Road if they took a very wrong turn down a very violent alley. The main vagabond demonstrates an anti-romanticism of the drifter lifestyle and will make you grateful to stay home warm and safe.

the lathe of heaven
the lathe of heaven

The Lathe of Heaven

author Ursula K Le Guin

Ursula K Le Guin is known as a mother of fantasy novels. In a predominately male genre dominated by Tolkien and George R. R. Martin she was penning epic hard fantasy novels as early as the 1970s. It’s not my genre so I struggled to get into her Wizard of Earthsea series but The Lathe of Heaven captured my attention and did not let go. It still has a hold of me, thinking about it long after I finished reading.

It’s less fantasy and more science fiction in a world where one man has dreams that alter reality. As humans are known to do, a corrupt one takes advantage of this power and attempts to change the world to his liking. You won’t be satisfied reading this book only once.

the mist
the mist

The Mist

author Stephen King

With how prolific King has been over his career I think I could find a book of his for every list I make. He has a few novellas, many short stories, and other shorter books that are quite enjoyable. I personally like his shorter form fiction more than the epically long hardbacks that can feel a bit bloated for my taste. The Mist is a nice easy read that has all of the King tropes you know and love. There’s a mismatched group of people trapped in a scary situation, they’re struggling to work together, someone is way too religious, a kid knows too much, and a hero is flawed. It’s just a fun horror story through and through.

petrified women novella
petrified women novella

Petrified Women

author Jeremy Ray

Jeremy Ray is another author to get on your reading list. Petrified Women is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read and it will have you wanting much much more from him. If you’re like me you don’t like practical jokes that can actually hurt someone, that’s just not funny! But if you’re the protagonist in this novella you put up with it for love. Sit on the edge of your seat while you watch the complex scares unfold and feel like you’re trapped right there with her, struggling to leave her physical situation and the relationship itself.

sexing the cherry
sexing the cherry

Sexing the Cherry

author Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson has several novellas to choose from, all fantastic. Sexing the Cherry was the first one I read and therefore holds a special place in my heart. She turned me on to feminist literature, lesbian relationships in media, and beautiful prose that walks the tightrope between fiction and poetry.

This book is an epic journey that flows around the characters and not the other way around. Many readers will find themselves disoriented by the nonlinear structure and flowery imagery but if you just let yourself go into the whirlpool you’ll be sucked in by the beauty.

some of your blood
some of your blood

Some of Your Blood

author Theodore Sturgeon

Although this version of the cover boast of the author’s sci fi skills this novella doesn’t really fit into that genre. Told through letters and “confidential” files the story is pieced together to reveal dark secrets, violent urges, and unconventional love. Some of Your Blood is often billed as a horror story but it’s far more than that. It’s a character study that will make you believe that even the most misunderstood humans still don’t deserve to be lonely. You may not know how to feel about the main character, even by the end, but you will feel something and that’s everything.

we have always lived in the castle
we have always lived in the castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

author Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is, as of writing this, the only book on this list I haven’t yet read myself. This will serve as motivation to move it up my reading list because I hear nothing but good things.

It’s about a dark and mysterious family who live isolated from society. Their seclusion is disturbed by an estranged cousin coming to visit. What secrets will be revealed through this outsider? Let’s read it together to find out.

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