Months and months and months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Jen about how short Mitch Albom’s novels are. “I don’t know how he manages to put so much emotion into so little a space,” she said, and I agreed, awed—and maybe just a smidgen jealous.The day after that conversation, I had an interesting discussion about Ray Bradbury with a coworker, what with it being the anniversary of his death at the time. I noted how my favorite book of his (okay, the only one I’d read so far) was Fahrenheit 451. When I looked up the book later, I was shocked to discover that it, too, was well under the 200-page mark.
So, I got to thinking—just how many other classics/bestsellers have also managed to keep their masterpieces so short, yet imbued each page, each line, each word with so much life?The list I developed—albeit far from complete—was kind of surprising when I took a step back to review.Note: the page numbers listed below are based on copies of books that I have, in normal print.
Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury)
Book Length: 179 pages
Imagine a future where firemen create fires instead of dousing them; where literature is outlawed and shunned for full-scale entertainment systems; and where the superficial is celebrated and the knowledgable is literally chased out of society. That, pretty much, is Fahrenheit 451. It’s a truly cerebral literary piece that, when I reread it as an adult, had me wonder just how Mr. Bradbury managed to get me so worked up over the stupidity that could possibly occur in the world, and the hope he left in its ruined entrails. Good stuff.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Book Length: 128 pages
First of all, the title itself is brilliant. (Okay, brief fangirling over.) Seriously, what title better sums up just what its story is about? (Okay, now it’s really over.) We enter the book knowing full well that a man has been murdered. For the rest of the book, we listen to accounts throughout town as nearly everyone claims they could have stopped the murder—but they didn’t. Was it through malice? Not really—and that’s where the brilliancy of the story lies. No one could have done it better.
Five People You Meet In Heaven (By Mitch Albom)
Book Length: 192 pages
This man has literally made a career of writing novels approximately 200 pages and still maintaining the integrity and reality of the human spirit. In this story, a despondent, aging man gives his life to save a little girl and, in doing so, embarks upon a journey where several personal “landmarks” lead him through the choices he made and how he indeed made a difference. It’s not many books that make me tear up and treat each page turn like a commercial break.
Night (by Elie Wiesel)
Book Length: 109 pages
I’ve only read this book once, and that was over 15 years ago in high school. That was all I needed. In this true account of Mr. Wiesel’s horrid confinement in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, every event stayed with me and to this day makes me cringe. From the image of a prisoner so hungry, he risks crawling towards an unguarded pot of stew while bombs fall around him; to the hanging of a man so small, he is forced into a squirming, desperate, prolonged death; it all remains fresh in my mind. It’s a haunting, amazing work that I highly encourage everyone to read at least once.
The Time Machine (by H.G. Wells)
Book Length: 125 pages
Consider the franchise behind this book. Consider the movies, the action figures, the spinoffs, the TV shows, the third-party sequels, the scientific concepts, the everything that resulted from this book—and look at that book length again. Remove this book from the equation of the world, and you remove an entire universe of imagination. Though a simple enough plot—a man recounts at a present-day dinner party about how he traveled through time to spy into the evolution of the human race—it continues to spark conversations as the decades pass. Score two for scifi.
The End of Eternity (by Isaac Asimov)
Book Length: 191 pages
What the hey—score three for scifi.Isaac Asimov may not be as universally well-known as H.G. Wells in terms of a household name, but he is no less influential. If you watched Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Bicentennial Man, or I, Robot, you are viewing the art of Mr. Asimov, one of Mr. Well’s direct predecessors as a second-generation Father of Science Fiction. (Okay, the fangirl is back all the way.)
In The End of Eternity, a “Time Keeper” from the future discovers that his existence and the existence of the world in which he lives may just be what has destroyed the potential of what could have truly occurred in the past. He even has time to fall in love during this plight. A wallop of work in under 200 pages, and a wonderful way to end this list.
For One More Day (By Mitch Albom)
Book Length: 208 pages
A man gets one more chance to see his departed mother while reevaluating the importance of their relationship. Very poignant, very heart-ripping. I might have cried again.
The Great Gatsby (By F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Book Length: 208 pages
A “modern-day” tragedy detailing that, just because you have everything you wanted in life, it doesn’t mean you’re happy. Also a tragedy detailing that, just because you get money, it doesn’t mean you can get everything you want. “Great” Gatsby, indeed.
Heart of Darkness (By Joseph Conrad)
Book Length: 96 pages
Warning: Ending Spoiler!
I know, I know. Why didn’t I include this book up in the “under 200 pages” list? Well, it’s quite simple: I hate this book. I’ve read it two and a half times, and it still doesn’t make any more sense than it did in high school. It’s a book about going out into a jungle to find an important man who moans “The horror. The horror!” as he dies, only pages after you find him. I got that—but unfortunately, that’s all I got.
To those who love this book, I applaud you and encourage you to place it at the top of your list. Unfortunately, while this didn’t even peak at 100 sheets, it may as well have surpassed 400, for all the work it took me to make it through.
I’m sorry…I’m a bad classics lover.
Are there any books under 200 that you have loved and didn’t see on the list? If so, please feel free to share below!