Long books are great, don’t get me wrong. You get more time with your characters, a more in-depth setting, and overall, more time to fall in love with the story. But that doesn’t mean you should discount shorter books; themes carried out within fewer pages are oftentimes the most powerful. Whether you’re looking for a deep read, or just a shorter book to binge-read in one sitting, these five books under 200 pages are for you.
1. The Great Gatsby (200 pages)
Naturally, The Great Gatsby tops this list. Tragic and beautifully well-written, this is one of those books that will haunt you days after you put it down. Narrated by Nick Carroway, an aspiring writer of the next great American novel, the book follows Jay Gatsby as he throws extravagant parties while pining after Nick’s cousin, Daisy.
Scott Fitzgerald is a genius, if only because he wrote this book. Whether you’re as intrigued by the Roaring 20’s as I am, or just want a book that will pull on the heartstrings and leave you pondering life, go pick this one up!
2. Candide (129 pages)
Voltaire was not only a writer in the 1700s, but an Age of Enlightenment leader. Though he’s written numerous plays, histories, and I believe even a poem or two, this novel is my favorite (and in my opinion, his most powerful) work.
The book follows Candide, a man who believes the best in the world. But the more he journeys around the world, the more he realizes how others suffering, showing that maybe things that happen are not always for the best.
Humorous bordering on bizarre at times, Candide struck a chord with me when I read it in high school. The themes of the book are still relevant today, at a time when we like to complain about how poor our lives are when others have it much worse. If you’re looking for your next short read, I highly recommend this one.
3. Tuck Everlasting (148 pages)
This classic is a beloved children’s book but can be read and loved by any age. The book follows young Winnie as she discovers the Tuck family’s secret—they are blessed (or perhaps doomed) to live forever. Set in real-life, but with a hint of fantasy, Tuck Everlasting begs the question: is living forever all that it’s really cut out to be?
Eternal-life-giving springs might not exist in real life (as far as I know, anyway), but the themes of the book surrounding mortality are relevant to anyone. It’s human to fear death. But Tuck Everlasting suggests that, instead of being scared to die, we should fear an unlived life.
4. Of Mice and Men (103 pages)
Of Mice and Men is a literary classic you’ve probably read for English class. If you haven’t, I highly recommend picking it up, especially if you’re looking to expose yourself to John Steinbeck’s work—without sifting through 400 plus pages of Grapes of Wraith.
The book is a story of friendship, outsiders, and shared dreams. George and Lennie hope to one day own land of their own, but find work at a ranch in California for the time being. It’s here Lennie gets caught up in the cruelty and misunderstandings of the other workers. Anyone who’s experienced profound friendship in their life will appreciate George and Lennie’s bond, even as the ending tears out your heart.
5. The Princess Saves Herself in This One (156 pages)
This 2016 poetry debut by Amanda Lovelace is the first in her Women are Some Kind of Magic. The poems are divided into four sections: the princess, the damsel, and the queen—focusing on the author’s own experiences and healing process—and you—a note to the reader. This feminist collection empowers women to overcome hardship and be their own knight-in-shining-armor, as well as touching on themes of love, loss, grief, and healing.