After struggling my way through Catch-22 recently, I needed to follow up with something shorter and easier, inspiring this booklist. It's nice to know that satisfying, enjoyable literature also comes in small packages.
Berg, Elizabeth. Joy School (208p)
12-year-old Katie moves to Missouri with her father and struggles to fit in, until she meets and falls in love with a 23-year-old married man.
Corriveau, Art. Housewrights (192p)
This New England love triangle features a town librarian caught between twin brothers in early 20th century Vermont.
Dai, Sijie. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (197p)
During Mao’s Cultural Revolution two boys, guilty only of being the sons of doctors, are sent to the countryside for re-education in the form of manual labor and Communist propaganda. The boys discover a stash of Western classics in Chinese translation which give their lives new meaning and provide a very different sort of education.
Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (244p)
In 2021, bounty hunter Rick Deckard works in a world almost destroyed by war, and from which most humans have emigrated to Mars. As incentive to emigrate, people receive androids so realistic only specialized tests can detect them. Deckard needs to use these tests to find and kill increasingly sophisticated androids that have returned to Earth where they are banned. Despite being the longest book on this list, it is a quick read.
Dunn, Mark. Ella Minnow Pea (205p)
An epistolary novel about a fictional island, the birthplace of the man who coined the phrase “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Mysteriously, the letters of this phrase on the memorial statue begin to fall off one by one, and the government decides it is a message from beyond to grave that those letters should no longer be used. A few brave souls rush to try and find another, shorter phrase using all letters of the alphabet before their language is entirely lost.
Fitzgerald, Penelope. The Bookshop (123p)
In 1959, a widow decides to use her small inheritance to open a bookshop in a small seaside town that hasn’t had a bookstore in over 100 years. Despite some success, she has few allies and much resistance to her business.
Hansen, Ron. Isn’t it Romantic (198p)
Nathalie Clairvaux is twenty-six, French, and touring America by bus. She wanted some time away from Pierre, her playboy fiancée. But Pierre finds out where’s gone and soon catches up—just in time to get stranded with Nathalie in Seldom, Nebraska, population 395. Soon Nathalie is being wooed by local rancher Dick Tupper. Pierre falls for Iona, a waitress in the local café, who’s really in love with Dick. Then there’s Owen, local gas station owner and amateur wine maker, who needs help from the wine business owned by Pierre’s family to launch his Nebraska vintage….
Irving, John. The 158-Pound Marriage (154p)
Two couples become a foursome in this daring and thought-provoking story. This early and erotic Irving novel is not for the faint of heart, but those who have read The World According to Garp will not want to miss it.
McEwan, Ian. On Chesil Beach (203p)
In McEwan’s latest book, set in the early 60s, two virgins marry and are confronted with the anxiety of their wedding night. Edward fears failure on his part, while Florence is repulsed by the idea of physical contact. Beautifully written, the novel explores desire, repression, lost opportunities, and their effects on a fragile new relationship.
Perrotta, Tom. Election (200p)
Tracy Flick is the quintessential over-achiever at her high school, taking on everything she can, including an affair with her English teacher. When she runs for school President, an idealistic teacher convinces jock Paul Warren to run against her. Paul’s younger sister Tammy also throws her hat into the ring, and the competition gets ugly. This darkly comic political satire was also a great movie.
Savage, Sam. Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife (151p)
The title character is a rat living in a bookshop in Boston's Scollay Square just before it was demolished. He is isolated from his fellow rats by his ability to read and his resulting love of literature. Turning to humans for companionship, he eventually befriends a failed science fiction writer and they live together happily. Though filled with more than most rats get to experience, it was a small life of loneliness, isolation, and an inability to communicate with the only beings who would be able to understand him, if only they spoke the same language.
Sedaris, David. Holidays On Ice (123p)
A Christmas anthology of stories and essays, such darkly humorous pieces as “SantaLand Diaries,” “Dinah, the Christmas Whore,” and “Seasons greetings to our friends and family!!!” are sure to make your holiday season more festive.
Wharton, Edith. Ethan Frome (144p)
Set in the bleak, New England winter, a middle-aged man seeks help to care for his sick wife. Her cousin is hired to fill the position, and Frome finds himself falling in love with her. A tragic story of unrequited love, this short novel is a timeless classic.