Home > About reading, Personal Posts > Book recommendations needed : novellas and short stories

Book recommendations needed : novellas and short stories

Back in January, I wrote a post about finding time to read thanks to novellas.

I had compiled two lists of novellas for overbooked friends who were willing to read more or find again time and pleasure in reading. Short books are quickly read and can be good companions for a work trip from Lyon to Paris. (2 hours one way with the TGV)

Well, great news! I’ve been asked for more books like this and I need a little help from my bookish friends.

I’m looking for ideas to draft this new list. I’m thankful for Madame Bibi Lophile’s project a Novella a Day in May. She reviews one novella per day during the whole month and I’ve been writing down the list of the books she reviews. Unfortunately, some of them aren’t available in French. There are great finds there, so have a look at her blog if you’re interested in novellas.

This is why I’m asking you to please leave recommendations for books that are less than 200 pages long. Any genre is possible, crime fiction, science fiction, literary fiction and whatnots. Translated books are most welcome, I’d love to have a list with literature from various countries. I’m looking for novellas but also short-stories collections because it’s also a format that fits well with short reading slots.

Thanks in advance for the help and I promise to compile all the recommendations and publish them in a future billet.

  1. May 13, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you for the mention Emma, much appreciated!

    Some reviews of novellas on blogs recently that sounded interesting were White Houses by Amy Bloom which Susan reviewed at A Life in Books; The Sound of My Voice by Ron Butlin which Kim reviewed at Reading Matters; Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst which Kate reviewed at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest; and Janet at From First Page to Last reminded me of the brilliance of The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West.

    I don’t know if any of these are translated into French, but I’d be surprised if the West wasn’t available in translation.

    I’ll be really interested to see the list you compile, I’m looking forward to finding out about many more novellas I should read 🙂


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      You’re welcome.

      Thanks for the recommendations. The Return of the Soldier is excellent indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. May 13, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Lots of Colette is short and you can never go wrong with Colette. Or indeed Simenon!


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Good ideas. I’ll put The Ripening Seed on the list and I’ll check out one Simenon, a roman dur, not a Maigret.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. May 13, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    William Trevor, Two Lives has two lovely novellas in one volume: Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria.


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks! I’ve never read William Trevor, it’s an opportunity for me to try him.


  4. May 13, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    I really liked The Dumb House by John Burnside and Moonstone by Sjón! I didn’t check but I think they are around 200 pages.


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll add them to the list.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. May 13, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    I recently read The Beauties which was a short story collection from Chekhov. Highly recommended


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      thanks. Is it a collection made by the publisher or an existing one (like Dubliners, same collection in all languages)


  6. May 14, 2018 at 1:47 am

    Over a hundred novellas from around the world reviewed here: https://anzlitlovers.com/category/category/novellas-100-200-pp/ …. and if I had to choose just two, I’d recommend The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasam and Pereira Maintains, by Antonio Tabucchi, translated (into English) by Patrick Creagh.


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks a lot for the useful link. I’ll explore this list later, I’m sure it’s a gold mine. That’s the new Melbourne gold rush 🙂


  7. May 14, 2018 at 4:22 am

    So many to choose from but Nella Larsen’s Passing and Marian Engel’s Bear are especially dear to my heart.


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks. I’ve never heard of these books, I’ll check them out.
      I’m beginning to realise that I’m going to discover a lot of new books/new writers.


  8. May 14, 2018 at 9:07 am

    The early novels of Jean Rhys would qualify here – in particular, I would recommend After Leaving Mr Mackenzie and Voyage in the Dark. Also, La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe, which is quite bleak but beautifully written.

    One final recommendation from my books of the year 2017 – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It’s an amazing piece of writing – the narrative voice is so distinctive and bewitching. Probably my favourite novella in recent years.

    If you’re looking for more suggestions, Poppy (PoppyPeacockPens) hosted several posts on novellas as part of a #NovellaNov thing a few years ago. I’m sure you’ll be able to find plenty of suggestions there – I think she asked various bloggers to recommend their faves.


    • May 14, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Jacqui’s comment reminded me of the venture by the novelist Jonathan Gibbs at his Tiny Camels blog a few years ago: he undertook to read all 52 of the novellas in the Melville House ‘Art of the Novella’; here’s the link:


      • May 14, 2018 at 1:01 pm

        Thanks! Another list to explore.


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      I didn’t think of Jean Rhys, great idea. I also remember your review of La femme de Gilles.
      I already have this Shirley Jackson, it was reviewed by Madame Bibi Lophile.

      I’ll have a look at Poppy’s blog.


  9. Morag
    May 14, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Really looking forward to your list. I don’t know how many of these are easily available, but from my bookshelves, I’d suggest: Hotel Savoy and The Emperor’s Tomb by Josef Roth; Pereira Maintains and Indian Nocturne – Antonio Tabucchi; stories by Leonardo Sciascia; stories by Lorrie Moore; The Colour of Milk – Nell Leyshon; The Diving Pool – Yoko Ogawa; Strange Weather in Tokyo – Hiromi Kawakami; The Street of Crocodiles – Bruno Schulz; On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan; Ashes – Sandor Marai; The Kreutzer Sonata – Tolstoy; The Penelopiad- Margaret Atwood; The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark. A novella a day is a great idea!


    • May 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks a lot!!!

      Some novellas I know, some I don’t. I’m going to have a lot of fun exploring this list.


  10. May 14, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    I can’t see JL Carr’s A Month in the Country amid your reviews, so have you maybe not read it?
    If not, you definitely should. If I did a top ten books of the blog list it would be on it. It’s spectacular. My review is here: https://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/a-month-in-the-country-by-j-l-carr/
    Have you read Keilson’s Comedy in a Minor Key? My review here: https://pechorinsjournal.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/hans-keilson-comedy-in-a-minor-key/ It’s also very good – Dutch about a couple who hide a refugee from the Nazis who then massively inconveniences them by dying of natural causes.
    I’ve a whole Novellas section at mine, but both those stood out. Maybe also some Denis Johnson? Or that Italian novella The Combover which I reviewed not too long ago?
    Morag’s suggestion of Hotel Savoy by the way I definitely second. Same for Rhys but I am of course a massive Rhys fan.


    • May 20, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      You can’t see A Month in the Country in my billets because it’s not available in French and too difficult for me to read in English. I wanted to read after you reviewed it but alas, no translation is available. (As far as I know)

      I haven’t read Comedy in Minor Key. I’ll check it out.

      I didn’t think about Hotel Savoy and Rhys but they will be on the list. All available in French, thankfully.


  11. May 14, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Oh, that’s an interesting list to compile! I was thinking about what to suggest and at first I thought I don’t know of that many novellas or short stories from “my” region – maybe it’s because it’s a format that’s not often translated. But there are many counterexamples, actually, so here are my suggestions off the top of my head (all available in French): Dezső Kosztolányi’s Kornél Esti stories, Krisztina Tóth’s Code-barre, István Örkény’s Minimythes, Sándor Márai’s L’héritage d’Eszter (on top of Les braises, already mentioned), I.B. Singer (several books, some of which on my blog…), I.L. Peretz’s Contes hassidiques… A lot of Kundera is also quite short. Quite an eclectic list. I wish I could read all the suggestions listed above, they all sound so tempting!


    • May 20, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      I’ll have a look at the list you suggest. I want to make them discover Kosztolányi.

      I think everyone has read Kundera, they were all reader when he was fashionable.


  12. Vishy
    May 15, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    These are some of my favourite short books, Emma. Hope you like them.

    (1) A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
    (2) The Mark of an Angel by Nancy Huston (original in French)
    (3) We who are about to… by Joanna Russ
    (4) The Steppe by Anton Chekhov (original in Russian)
    (5) First Love by Ivan Turgenev (original in Russian)
    (6) The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa (original in Japanese)
    (7) The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (original in Japanese)
    (8) In the Beginning was the Sea by Tomás González (original in Spanish)
    (8) Talking to Ourselves by Andrés Neuman (original in Spanish)
    (9) Stammered Songbook : A Mother’s Book of Hours by Erwin Mortier (original in Dutch)
    (10) Seeing Red by Lina Meruane (original in Spanish)
    (11) Letter from an Unknown Woman by Stefan Zweig (original in German)
    (12) The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide + original in Japanese)
    (13) The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
    (14) Stuck Like Lint by Shefali Tripathi Mehta
    (15) Trap for Cinderella by Sebastien Japrisot (original in French)

    Happy reading!


    • May 20, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks a lot for this list, Vishy. I’ll check them out and will see if they’re available in French (if they’re not French books)

      I haven’t read any of those, except the Zweig. I love that there are lots of different countries represented.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        May 24, 2018 at 8:01 pm

        You are welcome, Emma 🙂 Hope you enjoy reading some of them. Thanks a lot for this post. It has brought in lots of wonderful suggestions and is a treasure trove of recommendations. I will bookmark this post.


        • May 24, 2018 at 8:15 pm

          Thanks Vishy. Stay tuned, I will publish a post with the list of recommendations, as soon as I have time to compile everything.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Vishy
            May 24, 2018 at 8:25 pm

            So wonderful, Emma! Looking forward to that post! Thank you so much!

            Liked by 1 person

  13. May 17, 2018 at 11:48 am

    This is the collection of short stories I would most recommend at the moment- The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico They are set in Colombia and of special interest to anyone who knows that country, but also of interest to everyone -a friend I gave the book to in April said she hadn’t been so absorbed by a book for a long time. See my blog post


    • May 20, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks a lot. I’ll check it out and see if it’s available in French.


  14. May 19, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    How about The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy? I summarised it on my blog a few years ago: http://andrewblackman.net/2009/10/the-death-of-ivan-ilyich-by-leo-tolstoy/. OK, almost a decade ago… 😮

    For more contemporary stuff, you could try some of the novellas by Peirene Press, which specialises in European literary fiction to be consumed in about two hours, ideal for a TGV journey 🙂 They’re all English translations of European books, but most of them were already popular in their original languages so would probably have been translated into French too. And some were originally written in French, like Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda and Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi, both of which I liked.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Good idea to check out Pereine Press’s collection. They make great choices.

      Beside the Sea was on my first list. I’ll have a look at the Kamal Ben Hameda.


  1. June 10, 2018 at 10:16 pm

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