Let’s face it: we say we’re busy, but we’re actually lazy. We say we’re going to read Les Miserables and then we think “What am I, freaking crazy?” and we sit back down and finish the stick of butter we’ve been noshing on.
Luckily, writers know that some people will just never read The Wheel of Time. So they gave us these books. They’re short, but they might change your life—in fewer than 200 pages.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What more can we say about the Great American Novel? Just that it, like Americans, is a quick read.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Allegory, communism, communist bacon—Animal Farm‘s got it all.
The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells. This story by the Father of Science Fiction not only gave us the terms “time machine” and “time traveler,” it gave us Morlock-induced nightmares.
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White. If you didn’t read this book as a kid, you missed out on one of the saddest moments in children’s literature: the death of—never mind, I can’t speak of it without getting choked up.
The Pearl, by John Steinbeck. A Mexican fable masterfully rewritten, The Pearl conveys the lesson that greed will turn your life to garbage.
The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. LeGuin. The fantastic sequel to LeGuin’s classic A Wizard of Earthsea, this book builds a world of high fantasy to tell the intimate story of a captured wizard and a cursed girl.
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Kurt Vonnegut said that all great stories are about how much life sucks, or something like that. Proof that he was correct? The Old Man and the Sea.
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller. OK, this isn’t a book, but I can’t resist including this incredible play, which explores how easily fear and hatred can consume a community.
The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell. Another non-novel. Connell’s uber-famous short story about a man washing up on an island where he is hunted like an animal is also the author’s most chilling.
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. Oh, survival fiction. I have such a love-hate relationship with you, but I have to admit that this work is a masterpiece.
The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare. This book contains all the elements I love about the survival fiction genre, without too many animal trapping scenes.
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. There’s a reason John Steinbeck is the only author on this list twice; the guy does his best storytelling when he goes short.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. Always a classic. Always, always a classic.
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. Written by a sixteen-year-old, this novel explores the socioeconomic status of mid-’60s youth. After reading it, you will forever refer to a fight as “a rumble.”
Night, by Elie Wiesel. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more bleak, searing, or immediate account of the Holocaust.
Utopia, by Thomas More. Disclaimer #1: This is political philosophy. Disclaimer #2: It’s not the last I’m going to throw at you. Sir Thomas More describes in his brilliant 16th century narrative what a truly perfect society looks like to him.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. Yes, many books for children are under 200 pages, but Alice is a masterpiece for all ages.
The Prince, by Niccolo Macchiavelli. Yup. More political philosophy. Love it or hate it, this book is a must-read and it’s barely over 100 pages, so do it.