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The best short books: all of these are under 100 pages

Fantastic books that are quick to read but will stay with you forever.

The best short books: all of these are under 100 pages
07 April 2022

There’s always something better to do than read a book.

Hold on, let us rephrase that: there always seems to be something better to do than read a book. Those morning e-mails you just have to reply to before you get into the office; that new Netflix series that everyone’s talking about in the pub; and the totally adorable viral video of a sausage dog pretending to have had nothing to do with eating a pillow (but he so did it!) all like to get in the way of losing yourself in an epic page-turner. We get it – modern life is demanding.

That’s why we’ve found 15 the best short books - fantastic stories and novellas that you can gorge on in their entirety in just one afternoon, meaning even the most time-poor amongst us can add a couple of ticks to that must-read list. So put down your work phone, hit pause on Netflix, tweet about that viral video tomorrow, and get stuck in now.

*Additional reporting Marc Chacksfield.

The best short books

Author: Sun Tzu

Pages: 64

"Been reading that book you told me about. You know, The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I mean here's this guy, a Chinese general, wrote this thing 2400 years ago, and most of it still applies today! Balk the enemy's power. Force him to reveal himself. You know most of the guys that I know, they read Prince Machiavelli, and I had Carmela go and get the Cliff Notes once and he's okay. But this book is much better about strategy." – Tony Soprano, on finding mobster strategy inspiration in this book, in The Sopranos.

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Author: George Orwell

Pages: 56

Yes, we know you read it at school. We all read it at school. But pick it up again now that you’re a little older, a little wiser, and a little more pissed off at the world’s political failings, and it’ll seem like a whole new and important read to you.

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The best short books

3. The Call Of The Wild

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Author: Jack London

Pages: 72

A hero to Hemingway and Kerouac, London led a crime-filled youth before knuckling down to write more than 50 books before his drug- and drink-assisted death aged just 40. This, his adventurous tale of a sled dog that’s stolen away from domestic life and hurled into a world of cruelty, is as much about canines as it is about the conflicts in humanity.

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The best short books

4. The Old Man And The Sea

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Author: Ernest Hemingway

Pages: 99

It’s about an old man. And the sea. And the difficulties in admitting that we cannot control the uncontrollable.

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The best short books

5. The Metamorphosis

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Author: Franz Kafka

Pages: 52

Felt a bit ropey when you woke up, did you? A touch hungover, perhaps? You know who definitely doesn’t care about your AM woes? Gregor Samsa, the protagonist in this, who “woke up one morning from unsettling dreams” to find he’d become a cockroach. Yep, a cockroach. Now take your aspirin, open up what’s often argued to be the finest short story ever written, and quit yo’ self-pitying.

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The best short books

6. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde

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Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Pages: 64

Perhaps the most classic tale of good versus evil, and a look into internal battles every man must deal with in life. The idea for this world-famous “shilling shocker” came to Stevenson in a dream, from which he woke in a blind fury and instantly began to write that morning.

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The best short books

7. Heart Of Darkness

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Author: Joseph Conrad

Pages: 80

A book perhaps best summed up by its most famous line, “The horror! The horror!” You’ve seen Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocolypse Now, right? Yep, all that madness was inspired by this. That should give you a good idea about how totally messed up and dark this work of literary art gets.

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Author: James Joyce

Pages: 70

TS Eliot believed this, the final story from Joyce’s Dubliners collection that centres around an epiphany about life and death, to be one of the greatest short stories ever written. Yeah, take his word for it. He knew a thing or two about books, he did.

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The best short books

9. The Velveteen Rabbit

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Author: Margery Williams

Pages: 48

One of the most beautiful children's books ever made, The Velveteen Rabbit is all about a toy who is new to a nursery who wants to understand what being real means. And now we have tears all over our keyboard.

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The best short books

10. Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story Of Wall Street

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Author: Herman Melville

Pages: 58

Melville’s tale of the big white whale is a good ten times the length of this read, and even at a snail’s pace you’ll get through this peculiar and compelling story of one man’s isolation in just an afternoon.

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The best short books

11. Notes From The Underground

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Author: Fydor Dostoyevsky

Pages: 96

Cracking into Dostoyevsky seems like a daunting prospect. Hell, it is a daunting prospect – his finest work, Crime and Punishment, is very heavy going. This relatively bite-sized book questions our obsession with destruction and chaos, and is a good place to start before committing to the big boy stuff.

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The best short books

12. The Turn Of The Screw

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Author: Henry James

Pages: 78

You’d need serious cojones to read this masterful gothic ghost chiller with the lights off. Serious cojones.

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The best short books

13. The Yellow Wallpaper

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Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Pages: 16

A wonderful book that showcases abuse and the mental turbulence it can cause someone. Having had enough, a woman locks herself in her room to get away from her abusive husband and begins to obsess about the yellow wallpaper. This is a book that has myriad interpretations and is one you will want to reread endlessly.

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The best short books

14. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

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Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

Pages: 32

If ever the was a book that holds a mirror up to the current society we live in, it is this one. Over the course of 32 pages, Le Guin showcases a utopia and the price that is paid to have a city of such splendour. This story has all the power of a boxer's fist to the gut

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The best short books

15. Death In Venice

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Author: Thomas Mann

Pages: 58

Proof that the Devil really does make work for idle thumbs. An aging author’s escape from writer’s block leads him to Venice, and a world of fateful obsession, uncontrollable infatuation, painful lust, forbidden sex and doom.

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