The 20 Best Books Under 200 Pages

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.

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. The psychological masterpiece that inspired Apocalypse Now—and King Kong.

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.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. By turns creepy and heartwarming, Charles Dickens’ masterpiece is probably the best Christmas-themed story ever—besides Bad Santa.

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.

  • Emily Ardoin

    What about The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?

  • Aubrey Pedersen Sorenson

    Ugh, I can’t get through ‘Wizard of Earthsea’. The protagonist is just too unlikeable for me. As for my favorite short novels…’Witches’ by Ronald Dahl is always a great one. I’m not sure of the page length on all the others.

    • Rachel

      I had to read “The Wizard of Earthsea” for a grad school class. The same week we read “The Hobbit” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” so my memories of the book are a bit jumbled up but I remember it being a struggle to get through.

    • Heather Ashe Malone

      It’s Roald. There is no “n.” Just Roald Dahl.

  • Bruce Armstrong

    Larry McMurtry’s “The Last Picture Show”

  • Heather Ashe Malone

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    • Rachel

      that’s less than 200 pages?

      • Heather Ashe Malone

        I looked it up. It’s 304. (Just the first book). Guess it just seemed really short when I read it.

        • Rachel

          Yes it did, but I just purchased an electronic copy (of the whole series) for my Nook and I thought it was more than 200. Very excellent book though. I was going to ask why “Frankenstein” wasn’t included, but I took out my copy and it turned out to be 208 pages.

          • Heather Ashe Malone

            It’s surprising how short so many classic novels are.

  • Debbie Estrem

    And #21 should be Have You Ever Seen A Firefly?

  • Peter Masters

    Anthem by Ayn Rand!

    • Anthony Mason

      Agreed!!!

    • Lynne McNerney

      Anthem should definitely be on this list.

  • Jim Rhodes

    I think Louis L’Amour’s “Hondo” qualifies. Although it’s been overshadowed by the John Wayne film, it’s tightly written and very affecting. And if you think it’s too full of Western cliches, check out when it was written — it may actually represent the origin of a lot of the traditional Western themes that we’ve seen over the last 60 years.

  • Amber Reith Hutcherson

    “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

  • Mickey

    I’m surprised that “The Stranger” by Albert Camus is not on this list.

  • Kelly

    Clockwork by Philip Pullman!

  • Brooke Deaner

    Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

  • Robert Hunt

    I’d add “The Magic Christian”, “The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum”, “The Left handed Woman” and a long out-of-print novel called “Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker”…

  • James Peters

    The Stranger by Albert Camus.