How to be well-read in no time: 45 short novels

slaughterhouse 5 cover image

How to be well-read in no time: 45 short novels is a list of books that provides a varied glimpse of the written style of many of the great authors. A concise selection, the titles can be worked through over a very short period, or, alternatively, they can be sandwiched between larger classics in an even more ambitious reading program. For further reading suggestions see our Top 100 Novels of All Time.

1. Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut | Used Price: 80% Off

Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most. More »

The Trial

2. The Trial

By Franz Kafka | Used Price: 70% Off

Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read ... More »

3. Animal Farm

By George Orwell | Used Price: 60% Off

This is a classic tale of humanity awash in totalitarianism. A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. First published during the epoch of Stalinist Russia, ... More »

Animal Farm
Of Mice And Men

4. Of Mice And Men

By John Steinbeck | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

A controversial tale of friendship and tragedy during the Great Depression   They are an unlikely pair: George is "small and quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have ... More »

5. The Waves

By Virginia Woolf

'I, who would wish to feel close over me the protective waves of the ordinary, catch with the tail of my eye some far horizon.' Intensely visionary yet absorbed with the everyday; experimental, daring and challenging, The Waves is regarded by many as Virginia Woolf's greatest achievement. ... More »

The Waves
The Old Man and the Sea

6. The Old Man and the Sea

By Ernest Hemingway | Used Price: 60% Off

The last novel Ernest Hemingway saw published, The Old Man and the Sea has proved itself to be one of the enduring works of American fiction. It is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far ... More »

7. Waiting for the Barbarians

By J. M. Coetzee | Used Price: 70% Off

A modern classic, this early novel by Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee centers on the crisis of conscience and morality of the Magistrate-a loyal servant of the Empire working in a tiny frontier town, doing his best to ignore an inevitable war with the "barbarians." More »

Waiting for the Barbarians
A Christmas Carol

8. A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

This new selection of Dickens's Christmas writings confirms his lasting influence upon our idea of the Christmas spirit: that Christmas is a time for celebration, charity, and memory. In addition to the beloved A Christmas Carol, this volume includes such festive works as ... More »

9. Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe | Under $1.00

Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as ... More »

Things Fall Apart

10. Home

By Toni Morrison | Used Price: 80% Off

A New York Times Notable BookA Washington Post Notable Work of FictionA Best Book of the Year: NPR, AV Club, St. Louis DispatchWhen Frank Money joined the army to escape his too-small world, he left behind his cherished and fragile little sister, Cee. After the war, his shattered ... More »

11. The Stranger

By Albert Camus | Used Price: 70% Off

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)Albert Camus’s spare, laconic masterpiece about a Frenchman who murders an Arab in Algeria is famous for having diagnosed, with a clarity almost scientific, that condition of reckless alienation and spiritual exhaustion that characterized so much of twentieth-century life. Possessing both the force of a ... More »

The Stranger
Notes from the Underground

12. Notes from the Underground

By Fyodor Dostoevsky | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

In 1864, just prior to the years in which he wrote his greatest novels — Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed and The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) penned the darkly fascinating Notes from the Underground. Its nameless hero is a profoundly alienated individual in whose ... More »

13. Invisible Cities

By Italo Calvino | Used Price: 70% Off

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — from Invisible Cities In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol ... More »

Invisible Cities
Heart of Darkness

14. Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

Although Polish by birth, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) is regarded as one of the greatest writers in English, and Heart of Darkness, first published in 1902, is considered by many his "most famous, finest, and most enigmatic story." — Encyclopaedia Britannica. The tale concerns the journey of the narrator ... More »

15. The Day of the Owl

By Leonardo Sciascia | Used Price: 80% Off

A man is shot dead as he runs to catch the bus in the piazza of a small Sicilian town. Captain Bellodi, the detective on the case, is new to his job and determined to prove himself. Bellodi suspects the Mafia, and his suspicions grow when he finds ... More »

The Day of the Owl
The Quiet American

16. The Quiet American

By Graham Greene | Used Price: 80% Off

Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam"I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused," Graham Greene's narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous "Quiet American" of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. ... More »

17. The Death of Ivan Ilyich

By Leo Tolstoy | Used Price: 60% Off

Tolstoy’s most famous novella is an intense and moving examination of death and the possibilities of redemption, here in a powerful translation by the award-winning Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.Ivan Ilyich is a middle-aged man who has spent his life focused on his career as a bureaucrat and ... More »

The Death of Ivan Ilyich
The Time Machine

18. The Time Machine

By H. G. Wells | Used Price: 70% Off

Wells's genre-defining novel of time travelWhen a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year a.d. 802,701, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment, and peace. Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realizes that ... More »

19. Darkness at Noon

By Arthur Koestler | Used Price: 80% Off

Originally published in 1941, Arthur Koestler's modern masterpiece, Darkness At Noon, is a powerful and haunting portrait of a Communist revolutionary caught in the vicious fray of the Moscow show trials of the late 1930s. During Stalin's purges, Nicholas Rubashov, an aging revolutionary, is imprisoned and ... More »

Darkness at Noon
The Great Gatsby

20. The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald | Used Price: 80% Off

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers.The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel ... More »

21. As I Lay Dying

By William Faulkner

Long been recognized not only as one of William Faulkner’s greatest works, but also as the most accessible of his major novels. This Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1985 corrected text and is accompanied by detailed explanatory annotations. “Backgrounds and Contexts” is divided into ... More »

As I Lay Dying
Ethan Frome

22. Ethan Frome

By Edith Wharton | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

Set against the frozen waste of a harsh New England winter, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome is a tale of despair, forbidden emotions, and sexual tensions, published with an introduction and notes by Elizabeth Ammons in Penguin Classics. Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to ... More »

23. The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Oscar Wilde | Under $1.00

Since its first publication in 1890, Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, has remained the subject of critical controversy. Acclaimed by some as an instructive moral tale, it has been denounced by others for its implicit immorality. After having his ... More »

The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Red Badge of Courage

24. The Red Badge of Courage

By Stephen Crane | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

Enriched Classics offer readers accessible editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and commentary. Each book includes educational tools alongside the text, enabling students and readers alike to gain a deeper and more developed understanding of the writer and their work.The Red Badge of Courage ... More »

25. The Catcher in the Rye

By J. D. Salinger | Under $1.00

Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories--particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme With Love and Squalor--will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children. The hero-narrator of The Catcher in ... More »

The Catcher in the Rye
Fathers and Sons

26. Fathers and Sons

By Ivan Turgenev | Used Price: 70% Off

When a young graduate returns home he is accompanied, much to his father and uncle's discomfort, by a strange friend "who doesn't acknowledge any authorities, who doesn't accept a single principle on faith." Turgenev's masterpiece of generational conflict shocked Russian society when ... More »

27. Siddhartha

By Herman Hesse | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

This classic novel of self-discovery has inspired generations of seekers. With parallels to the enlightenment of the Buddha, Hesse's Siddhartha is the story of a young Brahmin's quest for the ultimate reality. His quest takes him from the extremes of indulgent sensuality to the rigors of ascetism and ... More »

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

28. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

By Robert Louis Stevenson | 60% Off

Robert Louis Stevenson's short novel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, first published in 1886, became an instant classic, a Gothic horror originating in a feverish nightmare whose hallucinatory setting in the back streets of London gripped a nation mesmerized by crime and violence. Its revelatory ending ... More »

29. The Turn of the Screw

By Henry James | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition brings together one of literature's most famous ghost stories and one of Henry James's most unusual novellas. In The Turn of the Screw, a governess is haunted by ghosts from her young charges past; Virginia Woolf said of this masterpiece of psychological ... More »

The Turn of the Screw
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

30. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

Since childhood, Kusama has been afflicted with a condition that makes her see spots, which means she sees the world in a surreal, almost hallucinogenic way that sits very well with the Wonderland of Alice. She is fascinated by childhood and the way adults have the ability, at ... More »

31. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

By Mark Twain | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

Referring to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, H. L. Mencken noted that his discovery of this classic American novel was "the most stupendous event of my whole life"; Ernest Hemingway declared that "all modern American literature stems from this one book," while T. S. Eliot called Huck "one of ... More »

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Northanger Abbey

32. Northanger Abbey

By Jane Austen | Used Price: 60% Off

Northanger Abbey depicts the misadventures of Catherine Morland, young, ingenuous, and mettlesome, and an indefatigable reader of gothic novels. Their romantic excess and dark overstatement feed her imagination, as tyrannical fathers and diabolical villains work their evil on forlorn heroines in isolated ... More »

33. The Sorrows of Young Werther

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe | Under $1.00

Celebrated as a leading figure of the German literary movement known as Sturm und Drang ("storm and stress"), Goethe made his reputation with this short novel, originally published in 1774. Its tale of a sensitive young man's self-destructive passion for a lover who ultimately rejects him was based ... More »

The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

34. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

By Muriel Spark | Used Price: 80% Off

At the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls, in Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher extraordinaire Miss Jean Brodie is unmistakably, and outspokenly, in her prime. She is passionate in the application of her unorthodox teaching methods, in her attraction to the married art master, Teddy Lloyd, in her affair with ... More »

35. Candide

By Voltaire | Used Price: 70% Off

Candide is the most famous of Voltaire's "philosophical tales," in which he combined witty improbabilities with the sanest of good sense. First published in 1759, it was an instant bestseller and has come to be regarded as one of the key texts of the Enlightenment. ... More »

Lord of the Flies

36. Lord of the Flies

By William Golding | Used Price: 80% Off

The classic novel by William Golding With a new Introduction by Stephen King "To me Lord of the Flies has always represented what novels are for, what makes them indispensable." -Stephen King ... More »

37. Silas Marner

By George Eliot | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

Falsely accused, cut off from his past, Silas the weaver is reduced to a spider-like existence, endlessly weaving his web and hoarding his gold. Meanwhile, Godfrey Cass, son of the squire, contracts a secret marriage. While the village celebrates Christmas and New Year, two apparently inexplicable events occur. ... More »

Silas Marner
The Immoralist

38. The Immoralist

By Andre Gide | Used Price: 90% Off

'To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one's freedom' - Andre Gide. Michel had been a blindfold scholar until, newly married, he contracted tuberculosis. His will to recover brings self-discovery and the growing desire to rebel against ... More »

39. Therese Raquin

By Emile Zola | Used Price: 80% Off

In a dingy apartment on the Passage du Pont-Neuf in Paris, Thérèse Raquin is trapped in a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin, Camille. The numbing tedium of her life is suddenly shattered when she embarks on a turbulent affair with her husband’s earthy friend Laurent, but their ... More »

Therese Raquin

40. Cain

By Jose Saramago | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

“Suitably disturbing—and a pleasure to read.” — The ScotsmanIn this, his last novel, José Saramago daringly reimagines the characters and narratives of the Old Testament, recalling his provocative The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. His tale runs from the Garden of Eden, when God realizes he has forgotten ... More »

41. Jamilia

By Chinghiz Aitmatov | Under $1.00

“The most beautiful love story in the world.”—Louis AragonThe Second World War is raging, and Jamilia’s husband is off fighting at the front. Accompanied by Daniyar, a sullen newcomer who was wounded on the battlefield, Jamilia spends her days hauling sacks of grain from the threshing floor to ... More »

All Quiet on the Western Front

42. All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque | Price: $0.01

Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous ... More »

43. Death in Venice

By Thomas Mann | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

Thomas Mann is widely acknowledged as the greatest German novelist of this century. His 1912 novella Death in Venice is the most frequently read example of Mann's early work. Clayton Koelb's masterful translation improves upon its predecessors in two ways: it renders Mann into American (not British) English, ... More »

Death in Venice
The Call of the Wild

44. The Call of the Wild

By Jack London | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

The Call of the Wild is a novella by American author Jack London published in 1903. The story takes place in the extreme conditions of the Yukon during the 19th-century Klondike Gold ... More »

45. Wide Sargasso Sea

By Jean Rhys | Rock-bottom Price: $0.01

"A considerable tour de force by any standard."—?New York Times Book ReviewJean Rhys's reputation was made upon the publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into the light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Set ... More »

Wide Sargasso Sea

Author: David Thomson


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