I tend to read a lot of big novels, but the other day I got a request for… thinner titles. In our fast-paced world, it might be a good idea to pick up a book that you can read for a week, a weekend, or even overnight. Here, then, is a collection of crisp, quick reads that pack a punch without asking for a time commitment in return.
The Maltese Falcon
By Dashiell Hammett
Many classic noir crime novels are short, which is no surprise for a genre that was honed for publication in pulp magazines. The witty back and forth between Sam Spade and the rest of the cast of living characters here makes this one of my favorites.
Chronicle of an announced death
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
If you find the Colombian master of magic realism’s works too long and convoluted, this one is a breath of fresh air. Its title is absolutely correct. A beautiful bride is returned to her family because she is not a virgin on her wedding night; his brothers swear to kill the groom in retaliation, then do it. How and why events unfold fill the approximately 120 intervening pages.
By John Steinbeck
Steinbeck wrote pointed little stories barely long enough to be published as stand-alone novels and absolute doorstops, with little in between. This one is short enough that when it was made into a movie (1982, starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger), it also incorporated a second novel, Sweet Thursday, to fill in the length. Both are set in a run-down riverside area of Monterey, California, and feature a cast that includes a depressed marine biologist and a group of drifters living in an abandoned lot among the canneries.
Ocean at the end of the road
By Neil Gaiman
Very little speculative fiction comes to a halt because in addition to telling the story, an author must create a whole new world. The brilliance of this book is what allows Gaiman to keep it short, i.e. it never really explains how magic works, just that it does. We don’t have 50 pages of knowledge on how a broken toy protects a character from evil, but we do understand that trusting the talisman to protect them is the only thing that keeps evil from entering our world and destroying it. destroy.
A day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch
By Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Originally published in a Soviet literary magazine, this short novel describing the hardships of a prisoner was the first look at the Stalinist gulag for most readers. It marked the start of a legendary career, during which Solzhenitsyn spent 20 years in exile in Cavendish, Vermont.
Randal Smathers is director of Rutland Free Library, where all of these books are available.