With the end of 2019 fast approaching, a lot of us are currently scrambling to achieve our reading goals for the year. We might have started the challenge enthusiastically, but, unfortunately, life has a habit of getting in the way or we end up falling a few books short of our goals. At such times, short books become our saviours, as they help us hit our goals in time and without any shortcuts.
To help you out, we’ve curated a list of short books to complete your reading goals. But, this is no ordinary list. It contains books from multiple genres like nonfiction, graphic novels, retellings, poetry and classics. The list also includes books by Indian authors, debut authors, translated works and ones that have been made into movies – all around 200 pages in length!
If reading nonfiction is one of the reading goals you want to achieve, look no further than We Should All Be Feminists. Chimamanda Adichie, in this book-length essay, ruminates on the importance of raising both your sons and daughters as feminists. According to her, it is the only way to ensure a happier future where everyone remains true to themselves. The 64-page book perfectly and succinctly encapsulates why it is not enough for only women to be feminists. Other short nonfiction books include What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami and George Orwell’s Why I Write.
Poetry books are relatively easy to finish, but sometimes you can get lost in the flowery and evocative language. To make your reading challenge easier, read Khaled Hosseini’s 48-page book, Sea Prayer. Inspired by the haunting image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a Turkish beach, Sea Prayer is a beautifully illustrated work of fiction, written as a letter, from a father to his son. In this letter, written the evening before the family is due to leave Syria, the father remembers life in Homs, Syria before the war and contemplates the dangers of crossing the sea. If you want to read other poems, we suggest Aparna Sanyal’s Circus Folks & Village Freaks and Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems.
When you are pressed for time, short stories are the way to go. Quick to read and finish, short story collections are great if you want to read different stories and read more books. Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar’s The Adivasi Will Not Dance is one such collection that portrays the grim reality of the Santhal community in India in just 200 pages. In ‘They Eat Meat!’, a Santhal family in Gujarat is attacked by a mob during the Godhra riots, whereas in ‘Eating With The Enemy’, a woman places her safety in the hands of her husband’s mistress. If you want to continue reading short story collections, Roald Dahl’s Switch Bitch and When I Hid My Caste by Baburao Bagul are two great options.
Books By Women Authors
Women authors are a delight to read, and some masterpieces are so stunning that you simply have to read them. One such short book is Volga’s Sahitya Akademi Award-winning novel The Liberation Of Sita. Only 128-pages long, this is a re-telling of Sita’s story after she is abandoned by Rama. As Sita embarks on a journey of healing and self-realisation, she meets four minor characters from The Ramayana – Surpanakha, Renuka, Urmila and Ahalya. These extraordinary women help Sita learn what it means to be an independent woman – one who is not defined by her husband. Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own and Sula by Toni Morrison are other short books by women authors you ought to read.
Books By Indian Authors
Indian authors are making a name for themselves all over the world and have produced some of amazing works of fiction in recent times. If you want to finish off your year with short books by Indian authors, we ardently recommend Manoranjan Byapari’s 178-page thriller There’s Gunpowder In The Air. Inspired by his time in prison, Byapari takes on the tone of an omnipresent narrator in this novel and describes the tale of five inmates who are planning a jailbreak. A searing investigation into what deprivation and isolation can do to human idealism, There’s Gunpowder In The Air proudly upholds the tenets of the Naxal movement and presents a chilling portrayal of what went on inside the prisons of Bengal during that time. Other short books by Indian authors include Annie Zaidi’s Prelude To A Riot and Nayantara Sehgal’s The Fate Of Butterflies.
Everyone loves classics, and we always like to flaunt the number of classics we read. To combine your love for classics and the need to complete your reading challenge, start with Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. Only 144 pages in length, it is a timeless tale of a pilot who finds himself stranded in the desert where he runs into the little prince, who comes from a distant planet and has a very simple outlook on life. This book is perfect for remembering what it was like to be a child. Other short classics to read include George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.
The LGBTQIA+ community and its literature have been gaining a lot of traction in India ever since homosexuality was decriminalised in 2018. To catch up on LGBTQ novels, read the 162-page short graphic novel Blue Is The Warmest Color. This French graphic novel is the tragic love story of two girls – the rebellious, blue-haired Emma and the docile Clementine. After Clementine’s untimely passing, Emma finds Clementine’s diaries and the story is told through her journal entries. The novel touches upon multiple themes such as coming out, cheating, addiction, and most importantly, love. India is not behind in LGBTQ novels, with Amruta Patil’s Kari and Hoshang Merchant’s The Man Who Would Be Queen.
Books Made Into A Movie/ TV Show
The glee of watching a book being made into a movie or a TV show is unlike any other. The best combination we can think is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, made into a film starring the charming Leonardo DiCaprio. This short novel is a fascinating tale of love in the Jazz Age that flaunts the extravagant and wealthy society of New York in 1920, where an elusive Jay Gatsby hosts lavish parties but never attends them. Another such novel is Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep that inspired the film Blade Runner.
Posthumously Published Novels
It’s tough to complete reading challenge when the criterion states that you need to read a novel that has been published posthumously. Fret not, as Franz Kafka’s The Trial is a stunning 208-page literary masterpiece. The book follows Joseph K., an unassuming bank employee who is arrested for an unmentioned crime, tried by an unknown authority, and finally executed while he still maintains his innocence. Throughout his trial, K. remains a model citizen, and never once thinks he will be convicted or executed, but there are higher powers at play. Sylvia Plath’s poetry collection Ariel is another book you can get into, and was also published after her death.
Graphic novels are a fascinating way to read novels, with their beautiful illustrations and evocative imagery. If you’re interested in exploring a new genre while hitting your reading challenge goals, graphic novels are the way to go. Taki Soma’s Bitch Planet is a great option here. It talks of a world where women who are considered ‘non-compliant’, either because of their actions, their looks or their sexuality, are shipped off to an off-planet prison called the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost. This dystopian graphic novel explores the lives of women in this prison as they try to stay alive while dealing with crooked guards and hidden agendas. Jacques Tardi’s Goddamn This War! and Paracuellos by Carlos Giménez are other graphic novels you can finish in a short amount of time.
Outstanding literary works are produced in a number of languages, but we are unable to read them due to our limited knowledge of different languages. That’s where English translations come into play. Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar is about a family who becomes rich after the uncle starts a successful spice company. They move from a small ant-infested shack to a spacious bungalow on the other side of Bangalore. As they begin to adjust to their new lifestyle, the entire family dynamic changes – everything is ghachar ghochar, or hotchpotch. Other short literary masterpieces to look out for are Mahasweta Devi’s Mother Of 1084 and Umrao Jaan Ada by Mirza Ruswa.
Readers are often skeptical of debut novels, choosing to rely on bestselling authors instead. Fret not, as we bring you short and exceptional debut novels to complete your reading goals. H.G. Wells, the father of science fiction, launched his stellar career with the timeless classic The Time Machine. The unnamed protagonist is an English scientist from the Victorian Era who travels in time and discovers two different races – the Eloi and the morlocks. What follows is the adventure of a lifetime, as his time machine gets lost. Other sparkling debut novels include Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet and Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms.
A book chosen by a reputed jury as the winner of any prestigious award is bound to be good and is often on our list of books to read. And if they take a short amount of time to finish – even better! The 2016 Man Booker International Prize winner The Vegetarian is 160 pages short and is both bizarre and beautiful. When Yeong Hye decides to be a vegetarian, after bizarre nightmares, her family is thoroughly shocked, as vegetarianism is very rare in South Korea. What follows is Hye’s rebellious journey through her husband’s torture, her family’s pressures and being the focus of her brother-in-law’s erotic artworks. Fascinating and disturbing, this book is certainly food for thought. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea, Ursula LeGuin’s The Word For World Is Forest and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline are other short award-winning books.
Retellings of myths are the newest trend, and almost everyone is a fan these days. Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy is the modern retelling of the myth of Iphis of Crete. Two sisters, Anthea and Imogen, live in Inverness and work at a company that produces bottled water. While Anthea falls for a female eco-warrior, Imogen tries to rise above her low self-esteem issues. A story of love and revelations, this book will blow your mind. If retellings are your weakness, do read Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing The Cherry and Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad.