There’s an ongoing argument out there about short books. “They don’t count,” people say, “they’re not real books. They’re just stories or essays bound into a book.” I beg to differ — short books hold value. Authors write themselves into corners in the best way possible and can share stories and memories in fewer pages. There’s skill in that.
Aside from the skill and artistic value, short books can also give you that breather from seemingly endless schoolwork and a busy life, or be a substitute for longer, higher-commitment books. If watching minute-long videos on TikTok has given you the attention span of a goldfish, you might need something shorter to read anyways.
Whatever the reason may be, I’m here to advocate for my novella, short story, and minimal page-count friends out there. Short books are good and they are worth your time. Here are five short books in various formats and genres — all under 200 pages — that you can read in one sitting this fall season.
Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata, 163 pages
When do the lines begin to blur between work and who you are? Keiko, a thirty-six year old woman in Tokyo doesn’t seem to know — she’s been working at her convenience store for eighteen years and can’t seem to let go. I know the feeling of your job becoming who you are, a part of your identity, and being unable to sever the ties that corporate has attached to you. This read made me — and funny enough, all my coworkers who also read this book — question these ties.
People Change, Vivek Shraya, 112 pages
Vivek Shraya knows that people change. Relationships, jobs, and identities can also change — a lot. And as hard as it is accepting change, at the same time, it can open you up. Written as an extended essay, Shraya offers grace and guidance to navigate becoming our future selves, over and over again. Changing yourself and your mind is okay, Shraya says, and that’s exactly what I needed to hear after my breakup. This book gave me the permission I needed to allow myself to change.
Enough Rope, Dorothy Parker, 110 pages
Poetry is hard but Dorothy Parker makes it less so. With humor, wit, and honesty, the poems in Enough Rope bounce around your head, begging to be remembered. Parker is ahead of her time in this collection (which was originally published in 1926), and whether you’re a longtime poetry reader or just someone who’s trying to get into it, you’ll find some joy in this collection. Poetry is a daunting subject for me. I was forced to read a lot of it while pursuing an English degree and was afraid to touch it outside of the classroom, until I read Dorothy Parker. I realized that poetry can be funny, uplifting, and whatever else I want it to be.
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire, 173 pages
You know when a kid crawls under their bed in the middle of the night and just… disappears? No? Well, when it does happen, they fall under the care of Eleanor West. This novella is the first in a series of sorts — the books are standalones in the same universe — that Seanan McGuire puts in immense care to a cast of eclectic characters. Admittedly, I’m not a fantasy reader in any regard, so I did consult another short-book enthusiast friend of mine that I trusted enough to supply me a recommendation for all you fantasy fiends out there. She guarantees that you’ll fall in love with the characters and start being more weary of any kids who may fall under their beds.
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, 96 pages Although Hemingway is most associated with A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Toll, the novella The Old Man and the Sea won him a Pulitzer in Fiction and the Nobel Prize in LIterature; see, what did I say about short books and their value? I read The Old Man and the Sea in one evening, sat next to the fireplace in my parent’s living room, wondering how I would handle wrestling a giant marlin in the middle of the ocean — the perfect way to escape.