12 Short Books for Book Clubs

My book club has decided to choose a short book for our December meeting so I've been having fun searching the net looking for just the right book. There's surprisingly a lot of brilliant classics just under 250 pages. I've picked twelve books here only because twelve images fit in my collage. I've only read three from my list - Bonjour Tristesse (link to my review here), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Turn of the Screw - all good. I'd love to hear your recommendations for short novels from any genre so do leave a comment below.

Here's the list: 

Balzac, Honore de - Eugenia Grandet
Eugenie, a beautiful flower in a garden of miserliness and cunning, falls in love with Charles. But her father will not allow a marriage with the son of a ruined man. (238 pages)

Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Fireman Guy Montag burns books to keep society happy. But then he starts hoarding and reading books himself, until he is turned in. (183 pages)

Fox, Paula - Desperate Characters
The Bentwoods live childless in a renovated Brooklyn brownstone. But after Sophie is bitten on the hand while trying to feed a half-starved neighborhood cat, a series of small and ominous disasters begin to plague their lives. The fault lines of their marriage are revealed — echoing the fractures of society around them, slowly wrenching itself apart. (180 pages)

Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
A group of schoolboys struggle to survive on an island after their plane crashes. After a while, they’re not only hunting wild boar, they’re hunting each other. (182 pages)

James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
A young governess must battle evil ghosts to save the souls of children in her care. (165 pages)

Kawabata, Yasunari - Snow Country
Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer’s masterpiece: a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan. (193 pages)

Maugham, Somerset - Up at the Villa
Mary Panton walls up her desires in a beautiful villa high up in the hills above Florence, as she calmly contemplates her disastrous marriage. But a single act of compassion begins a nightmare of violence that shatters her serenity. (225 pages)

McCullers, Carson - Member of the Wedding
Twelve-year old Frankie’s brother is getting married, and she decides to join the new couple on their honeymoon. (118 pages)

O'Hara, John - Appointment in Samarra
In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction. (237 pages)

Sagan, Francoise - 
Bonjour Tristesse
The story of a jealous, sophisticated 17-year-old girl whose meddling in her father's impending remarriage leads to tragic consequences. (160 pages)

Spark, Muriel - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Miss Brodie has a tremendous influence over her students, but eventually one turns on her and brings about her dismissal; a story of hero-worship and treachery. (187 pages)

Wiesel, Elie - Night
A candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. (148 pages)


  1. Great list! I've actually read seven of these. By far my favorite was Up at the Villa with Somerset Maugham -- it's one of my favorites by him and it's really short. My edition has enormous margins, you can read it in practically one sitting.

    I didn't much like Appointment in Samarra, but that was sort of at the beginning of my classics journey -- I might appreciate it more if I tried again. And I hated, hated, hated The Turn of the Screw, it was the longest 165 pages of my life.

    I don't remember much about the others, except that Night is very sad. I know a lot of people love Muriel Spark but I was underwhelmed. I'd give it another try though. Most of the others are on my to-read list, especially Snow Country, which has been on the TBR shelf for several years. It's one of the most famous novels of Japan, so that might be interesting. I haven't read Member of the Wedding but I really loved The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. If I was in your book group and I wanted to read something new, that would get my vote. I hope this helps! I look forward to reading what you chose, and what everyone thought.

    1. Thank you for such an informative comment. I'll definitely put Up at the Villa in the shortlist for our December meeting. I actually like The Turn of the Screw. It is probably one of the scariest books I've ever read but I can imagine that it's not for everyone. I've never read Carson McCullers so A Member of the Wedding would be an interesting choice as well.

  2. What a good idea - short books encourage you to try types of books you may not otherwise consider reading. I would recommend Gigi by Collette - very short, but a beautifully written romance set in belle epoche Paris.

    1. I'll add Gigi to my list. I've only read one book by Collette and wasn't very impressed.

  3. Not only are they short, but several you suggested would promote fantastic discussion. I particularly think of Bonjour Tristesse with that comment, but I also think it applies to Eugenie Grandet. Now I'm wondering if I've read Snow Country, and if no I better hurry. Love Kawabata!

    1. Yes so far Bonjour Tristesse would be my first choice especially since we've read other books from the point of view of teenagers but written by older authors. At times it was hard to believe that teenagers would actually think and act as they did in those books. It would be refreshing to discuss a novel written by a teenager. Snow Country looks interesting too. I've never read Kawabata.

  4. A few other options for you to consider:
    Wide Sagossa Sea by Jean Rhys ( tells the story of Bertha from Jane Eyre)
    The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien. Her first novel. Was banned in Ireland on publication.
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - powerful novel about exploitation of Africa

    1. Thanks! I'll be adding all this to my list. I read Wide Sagossa Sea a while back but I don't remember much. I'm sure it merits a reread.

  5. I think The Turn of the Screw is one of those long short books. That is, it may be short but it takes a while to read. Another book like that for me at least is Heart of Darkness. So short, but it took me soooo long to read it. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing is short and disturbing and I think has lots of discussion potential.

    1. I've always wanted to read The Fifth Child! I'll add it to my list. Scared to read it though. Sounds very disturbing especially for parents.

  6. Wonderful list! From your list I have read only 'Fahrenheit 451'. I am planning to read Henry James' 'The Turn of the Screw' soon. I will use your post as my inspiration and make some suggestions at my next book club meeting :)

    1. I would love to read The Turn of the Screw again. I also enjoyed the film version, The Innocents starring Deborah Kerr. Do check it out after you read the book.

  7. The Haunting of Hill House or We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West. Family Happiness by Tolstoy. Salinger's Nine Stories.

  8. I've heard Member of the Wedding is very good. I'd be interested to know what your group think of it if you do select it.

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