Last month, I posted an article on ways to make time for reading. One of my talking points that I thought could be explored further was on classic novels that are relatively short to read. Personally, I like to alternate shorter works with the longer ones and this system has really worked for me. Many readers think of classic works of literature as long and tedious tasks best reserved for boring days in college lit classes.
Not all classics are huge trials like War and Peace and Anna Karenina. The following list comprises classics that are under 200 pages in length. See that! No excuses! For this list, I chose ten works that I have personally read (some which are reviewed on this very site!)
1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (166 pages): Although everyone has heard of it, Mary Shelley’s classic is very different from how the story is portrayed in movies. I was amazed by how many things I learned through reading the actual novel. This is a great study of science gone wrong and illustrates the concept of the “absent parent” as Victor Frankenstein abandons his creation because he cannot cope with what he has done. My copy also has a fascinating biography of Mary Shelley. This is one of the novels that helped pave the way for women to write horror and science fiction.
2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (64 pages): I just finished this one not too long ago and loved it. Once again, this is another familiar story that takes on the subject of the good and evil that resides within us all.
3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (72 pages): Conrad was a master at capturing the psychological complexities of man. This short tale about an ivory trader and his relationship with the enigmatic Kurtz is mesmerizing. I usually read one or two Conrad works a year, and I reread this one a few months back. In fact, check out my review and share your thoughts on this novella.
4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (182 pages): I read this one a few years back and found it quite enjoyable. This was one of her early works (although published last).I really enjoyed the satire in the story regarding the main character’s love of Gothic fiction. Northanger Abbey can be read as a debate on the importance of novels in our lives.
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180 pages): If you never read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald again, at least read this sad little tale about how one man’s obsession leads to his demise. To fully appreciate this little novel, you really should be a fan of the age in which it was written. I love literature about the jazz age, and Fitzgerald really could capture that atmosphere like no other.
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (120 pages): This novel about the friendship between two unlikely people was one of my favorite reads for 2016. Steinbeck is a master at saying all there is to say without saying much at all. If you’re still not convinced, check out my review.
7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (120 pages): The battle between an ageing fisherman and a giant marlin earned Hemingway the coveted Pulitzer as well as called for a reexamination of his entire collection of work. I read this a few years back, and Hemingway is without a doubt the master of beautiful prose.
8. Animal Farm by George Orwell (140 pages): Orwell’s examination of the Russian Revolution is a dark twisted allegory featuring talking farm animals. I read this for the first time a few years ago along with Orwell’s classic 1984.
9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (128 pages): One of my all-time favorites, this little story is beautifully illustrated. After his plane crashes in the desert, the narrator meets the Little Prince and learns about the value of seeing life through the eyes of a child. I’m very excited about watching the film version as it just arrived on Netflix. If you would like to learn more about this book, read my review.
10. Billy Budd, Foretopman by Herman Melville (160 pages): I just finished this classic about unintentional mutiny aboard a ship. Billy Budd is falsely accused and due to his stutter is unable to respond. He strikes out at his accuser, accidentally murdering him (and you thought you had bad luck). Melville’s prose is beautiful. Be sure to look for my review of this story later this week!
This list represents a very small sample of the shorter classics that are out there. I will definitely be reading some more later this year as there are just five months left for me to achieve my reading goal of 50 books for 2016. Later this week, I will have a triple review of three short works by the great Herman Melville!
“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” -Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen