Short Books for Book Clubs

I'm currently in the process of tweaking my book club's old rules and guidelines because we are now up from eight members to twelve! Twelve is definitely the max if we still want to have interesting discussions. We have been busily emailing and discussing ways that will allow our conversations to flow freely and yet give everyone a chance to have their say. We can all be quite passionate about our opinions and start talking on top of each other. If you have suggestions for facilitating discussions within a book club, please leave a comment below.

I also think it's important that each person gets a chance to host at least once a year. Therefore we've now decided to meet once a month (date to be chosen by the host) instead of every six weeks. We've even set a page limit of 500 pages. Inevitably there will be months where we'll only have 2 or 3 weeks to read a book, so I thought I'd compile a list of short books or novellas that would generate a lot of discussion. I need your suggestions. Please recommend books of 250 pages or less and short stories. I'll compile all your recommendations and write them up in a future post.

The short novels or stories that I can think of right now are:

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy (short story)
A Perfect Day for Banana Fish by J.D. Salinger (short story)
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Silk by Alessandro Baricco
South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong


  1. How about Graham Greene's 'The End of the Affair'? Or Chinua Achebe's 'Things fall apart', Virginia Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway', Somerset Maugham's 'The painted veil' Antal Szerb's 'Journey by moonlight'?

    For a more modern European note how about the books Pereine Press have been publishing recently? None are particularly long and they've been getting good reactions everywhere. (I have to admit I haven't read one yet but I hope to soon rectify that).

  2. We discussed Night by Elie Wiesel and it was a great discussion.

  3. Hi,

    I have a few suggestions:
    Up At The Villa by Wm. S. Maugham (120 pages)
    Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (178 pages)
    The Music of Chance by Paul Auster (217 pages)
    The Great Gatsby by F. S. Fitzerald (180 pages)
    Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (175 pages)

    and for something different:
    True Grit by Charles Portis (235 pages)

  4. My first thought was Ethan Frome so I'm happy to see it your list -- one of my favorites! Here are some other great short books:

    O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (she has several other short works which I haven't read yet)
    Cannery Row by Steinbeck
    The Awakening by Kate Chopin
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (so wonderful!)
    Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
    The Stranger by Albert Camus
    Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
    The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
    Therese Raquin by Emile Zola
    Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
    The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
    Persuasion by Jane Austen
    84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff

    Wow, that list got pretty long! I've read all of these and loved most of them. Happy reading!

  5. Mrs. B,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your comment on my "Never Let Me Go" book/movie review.

    I'm particularly interested in books and their adaptations into movies. I've a feeling that those titles are bound to generate discussions or spark debates in book clubs. I've compiled two lists of current and upcoming literary works that are in development towards a film production. Some are already released. You may find titles that you could use for your book club selection. You can find the lists here and here.

    Hope those help. :)

  6. Looking back over the books I've read over the past two years, there were a bunch of shorter ones:

    Embers by Sándor Márai
    The House of Paper by Carlos María Domínguez
    Arriving in Avignon: A Record by Daniël Robberechts
    The Clash of Images by Abdelfattah Kilito
    A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
    Self-Portrait Abroad by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
    Don Juan: His Own Version by Peter Handke
    Ruby and the Stone Age Diet by Martin Millar

    I liked some of these more than others - I really really loved The House of Paper and Don Juan: His Own Version.

  7. Thank you all for your recommendations. There are some familiar titles on your lists but also a number that I've never heard of. I'll definitely look them up and I'll compile a list and post it soon.

  8. Howdy. Saw your request on Twitter. How about:

    Dr. Fischer of Geneva; or, The Bomb Party (Graham Greene)

    The Secret Agent (Joseph Conrad)

    Three to See the King (Magnus Mills)

    The Blue Flower (Penelope Fitzgerald)

    Written on the Body (Jeanette Winterson)

    These are some of my favorite novels, each a work of genius.


  9. Ooooh, a big second to The Blue Flower. A couple more (probably obscurish) short novels I would marry if I could:

    Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns

    The Log of the SS the Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford

    Iceland by Jim Krusoe

    Envy by Yuri Olesha.

  10. Hi there! Follow the link from Twitter. I have a blog myself and every Friday write up a list of novels with a common theme. One week I did this very topic.

    Here are some of my favourite itty bitty novels.

    Any Russell Hoban (Bat Tattoo or Her Name Was Lola are my favourites)

    Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

    Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

    Disquiet by Julia Leigh

    So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

    Ask the Dust by John Fante

    Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

    Mistress' Daughter by A M Homes

    The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches by Gaeton Soucy

    Love your blog!

  11. How about The Awakening by Kate Chopin. It's really beautiful and there's a lot to discuss in it. Also, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson - my absolute favourite book for both quality of writing and characters.

  12. I haven't seen anyone mention We The Animals by Justin Torres. It's a new release, and I think there is great potential for discussion!

  13. The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys.


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