We Have Always Lived in the Castle
In this macabre novel by the author of “The Lottery,” a fortune-hunting cousin descends on his relatives’ estate and disrupts a family dynamic that, as likely as not, includes murder. Short in length, the spooky tale casts a long shadow. Estimated reading time: 2 hours.
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?
This novel centers on a woman who, as she begins to feel unmoored from her adult life, reminisces about a childhood friendship. Known mainly for her stories, Moore delivers the same mix of dread and humor in this (slightly) longer work as she does in her short fiction. Estimated reading time: 2.5 hours.
Hesse’s inspiring classic tells the story of a Buddha-like figure who navigates a series of spiritual trials in search of enlightenment. Born into a wealthy family, he spends part of his youth as an ascetic and his middle years as a hedonist, arriving finally, later in life, at a state of blissful compromise. The book’s pleasures and lessons, though complex, are best taken in all at once. Estimated reading time: 2.5 hours.
Amis’s slim novel about a doctor with a dark past is told backwards, from death to birth. The resultant effects, many of them comic (the novel’s bathroom scenes are memorable), make for a highly compelling read. Estimated reading time: 2.5 hours.
If you’re the type of reader who can’t put a book down mid-paragraph, you’ll probably have no choice but to read The Loser in one gulp. Consisting of a single continuous paragraph, this 200-or-so-page novel centers on a trio of intellectuals, one of them a genius, and their various emotional and artistic travails. The unusual format gives the book irresistible urgency. Estimated reading time: 3 hours.
A collection of short stories that are brilliant, precise character studies. Moore’s sharp observations of human behavior reveal the uncomfortable truths we would never say out loud. Ordinary tragedies and everyday disappointments are elevated by her careful prose and cut through with a dark sense of humor. Estimated reading time: 3 hours.
Devoted readers know there’s a special pleasure in reading a book from start to finish without interruption. By turns spooky and comic, tragic and inspiring, these classic and contemporary short novels are slim enough to be read in an afternoon, yet powerful enough to stay in one’s mind forever.
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