22 Fantastic Short Books to Read in a Weekend

The perfect stories for when you don't have time to read.

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Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to find the time, reading for pleasure just doesn’t make the to-do list, and cracking open a doorstopper of a novel seems like starting a project you'll never finish. 

Our solution? Short books! If you’re looking for a quick, engrossing read that you can finish in a weekend, we’ve got you covered. 

What is considered a short book?

Usually, a book needs at least 50,000 words, or around 200 pages, to be considered a novel. If a story is shorter than that, it's considered a novella or short story. For the purposes of this list of short books, we're including novels that are under 300 pages.

From classics and famous authors to moving illustrated novels and new hits, these 22 short books will have you asking what don’t you have time to read?

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

By Jack London

This instant classic by Jack London has captured the hearts of many since its first publication in 1903. More than just a book about a dog, this is a love letter to the American frontier and the power of nature. The story follows Buck, a St. Bernard/sheepdog mix who is shipped off to the harsh conditions of the Yukon Valley.

Forced to acclimate to a new climate and recover his long-lost primitive instincts, Buck must learn to survive against the odds. But when he forms a unique and special bond with a human, he is faced with a choice: the wilderness set out before him, or the comfort of a home?

A Dog's Heart

A Dog's Heart

By Mikhail Bulgakov

The author of The Master and Margarita brings to life this short, satirical novel about life in Russia which was banned by the state but circulated via underground presses until it was published in the United States in 1968. 

In this translation by Antonina W. Bouis, readers are once again treated to one of Bulgakov’s most celebrated works as he tells the story of Sharik, a dog who has been turned into a human and struggles to live a life that is worthwhile and virtuous, even while all around him the state tries to redefine just what those words mean.



By Penelope Fitzgerald

Italy, 1955. The country is still struggling to recover from WWII, and so are its citizens—in particular, the Ridolfi family in Florence. When young Chiara sets her heart on a brilliant young doctor and son of a Communist who’s unconcerned with both politics and romance, she naïvely calls upon her meddling best friend to play matchmaker.

As two friends take misstep after misstep in the name of love, this short book to read from acclaimed author Penelope Fitzgerald will melt your heart.

My Antonia

My Antonia

By Willa Cather

Widely hailed as the first masterpiece from Pulitzer Prize winner Willa Cather, My Antonia is both “a book for our times” and “an education in what it means to be American” (New York Times). 

It tells the story of two young people growing up in the plains of Nebraska towards the end of the 19th century and, in the process, paints a portrait of the American frontier and the unforgettable people who made our nation—one that has been inspiring readers since it was first published in 1918.

In Our Time

In Our Time

By Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is known for his sharp, spare prose, and in this collection of early short stories from the master, you can see that “fibrous and athletic” (New York Times) grasp of language beginning to take shape. 

Featuring several of Hemingway’s best-known short stories, as well as some new discoveries that you may not have read before, In Our Time is a perfect place to start with one of America’s most celebrated writers, or an ideal place to turn for Hemingway fanatics who just can’t get enough.

A Fair Maiden

A Fair Maiden

By Joyce Carol Oates

When sixteen-year-old Katya takes the children she babysits out for a walk, she never expects to encounter a charming and alluring older man. Marcus Kidder’s life, vastly different from Katya’s own middle-class existence, is as attractive to her as he is. When Mr. Kidder asks Katya to pose for a painting, what started out as innocuous fun takes a dangerous and intentional turn.

As the two become enmeshed in each other’s lives, their relationship twists and sours. By the explosive end, you won’t be able to tell who seduced who.

Play It as It Lays

Play It as It Lays

By Joan Didion

A masterpiece from icon Joan Didion, this short novel follows the life of starlet Maria Wyeth as she navigates her life and 1960s Los Angeles.

Struggling with a marriage in ruins and a daughter deemed “aberrant,” Maria finds her only escape in the open road, the radio blaring, and too much booze and pills to keep track of. But as she numbs herself, she loses herself, and it’ll be hard to put the pieces back together by the end.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

This classic “Great America” novel from Alice Walker sits at just under 300 pages, making it the perfect short book to devour in a weekend.

Celie has grown up in rural Georgia as an outcast among both her family and her town, fiercely devoted to protecting her sister Nettie. When Nettie leaves to become a missionary and Celie is left on her own with an abusive husband, she begins writing letters to God.

Over the course of twenty years, Celie’s letters help her find herself again. She finds strength and empowerment in the women in her life, who guide her towards personal freedom.

Turned into a film and Tony-award winning Broadway musical, The Color Purple is one of the most controversial books ever published —and a must-read masterpiece.

Walk the Blue Fields

Walk the Blue Fields

By Claire Keegan

The celebrated author of Antarctica, which was named a Los Angeles Times book of the year, returns with “seven perfect short stories” (The Guardian) set in an Ireland that is grappling with its history even as the book’s characters struggle toward their own futures. 

The result is a breathtaking and unforgettable series of stories from “that rarest of writers – someone I will always want to read” (Irish Times).

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

By George Orwell

In this brilliant novel from 1984 and Animal Farm author George Orwell, a man struggles with the materialism and shallowness of a middle-class life. He quits his job to become a poet and a philosopher, determined to find more meaning in existence.

But pursuing his interests leaves him constantly short of cash and struggling to find work that will enable both ends to meet and passions to thrive concurrently. The stress begins to take a toll, and he must make a difficult decision about what he wants his life to look like.

Changing Planes

Changing Planes

By Ursula K. Le Guin

From brilliant sci-fi and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin comes this short book of collected and covertly linked stories. If you’re looking for a weekend escape into a book you can't put down, look no further.

Travel across the breadths of Le Guin’s mind in this collection about a woman stuck in an airport boarding mental planes to fantastical, beautiful new worlds and societies. While some places may seem frighteningly familiar, other worlds are beasts of their own.



By Domenico Starnone

Named one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews, the Sunday Times, and The New York Times, this “scalding and incisive” short novel (Library Journal) has been called “the leanest, most understated and emotionally powerful novel” (New York Times) by one of Italy’s most celebrated writers. 

Winner of the Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literary award, Domenico Starnone is an acclaimed stylist and a beloved storyteller who brings his considerable talents to bear in this tale of a fractured marriage gradually coming undone that won the Bridge Prize for Best Novel.

Mr. Palomar

Mr. Palomar

By Italo Calvino

In this novel about the search for truth and meaning in life, an eccentric man muses on the most mundane and the most existential of thoughts. Meditating on his worldly observations, each chapter is intricately structured to bring you into its folds, only to push you back out again. 

From one of the greatest Italian writers of the twentieth century, this brief novel is jam-packed with subjective and perceptive philosophy. You’ll find a companion in these pages.

short books to read in a weekend a monster calls patrick ness

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness

This Carnegie-award winning illustrated children’s novel packs a serious punch. Finished and fleshed out by Patrick Ness after the author who conceived the novel, Siobhan Dowd, passed away from cancer, the short book follows thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley and his relationship with the monster in his dreams.

Struggling to cope with his mother’s illness, schoolyard bullying, and his own fears, the monster vows to tell Conor three stories before their time together must inevitably end. Fast-paced, heartfelt, and gripping, the emotional climax of this novel promises a puddle of tears.

The Passion

The Passion

By Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson won the Whitbread Award for her legendary debut novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. In a distinguished literary career spanning several decades, she contributed many other books to the canon, and was the recipient of numerous other accolades, including a BAFTA Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and many others. 

Among her many celebrated works is this “arresting, elegant novel” (Publishers Weekly) set in 19th century Venice as Napoleon’s cook and a web-footed Venetian woman cross paths against a carnivalesque backdrop and find that their destinies are interwoven in a “historical novel quite different from any other” (Vanity Fair).

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

By Carson McCullers

Adapted for the stage by Edward Albee and made into a film with Vanessa Redgrave and Keith Carradine, Carson McCullers’ beloved novella “The Ballad of the Sad Café” is an ideal introduction to her work that also makes for perfect short reading. 

This volume, which collects several of “McCullers’s finest stories” into a “panorama of remarkable talent” (New York Times), is great those who are new to McCullers or who can’t get enough of her unique style of Southern storytelling.

Little Birds

Little Birds

By Anais Nin

Hailed as “one of contemporary literature’s most important writers” (Newsweek), Anaïs Nin was known as one of the best writers of women’s erotica, breaking new ground in the area with both her personal diaries and her short stories. 

Thirteen of her best erotic short stories are collected in Little Birds, her second book of erotic literature following her acclaimed Delta of Venus. These tales follow lovers of all stripes, from a French painter to a guitar player, from beach towns of Normandy to the streets of New Orleans, Nin takes us on a voyage of discovery to explore the many facets of human desire and romance from one of the most acclaimed voices in erotic fiction.

short books to read in a weekend my year of rest and relaxation ottessa moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

By Ottessa Moshfegh

At just under 300 pages, this short book follows a young woman who, for all intents and purposes, is incredibly privileged. Young, wealthy, and educated in New York City, she couldn’t appear happier. But in the wake of her parents' deaths there is an ache and an emptiness inside her, and to deal with it, she decides to hibernate herself for a year under a haze of drugs.

From a brilliant, young, new voice in literary fiction, this novel peers over the edge at New York City on the brink of 9/11. Equal parts scathing and tender, it is a beautiful novel about learning to live again.

short books to read in a weekend call me by your name andre aciman

Call Me by Your Name

By André Aciman

It’s hard to believe this hallmark LGBT novel is so short. With dense, lyrical prose filling the white space on every page, this moving novel was turned into a hit award-winning film starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.

Somewhere in Northern Italy in the mid-80s, Elio meets a handsome grad student spending a few months of summer with his family. On the cusp of self-discovery and faced with urgent questions about his own identity, the two fall into a timid then passionate love affair which changes both their lives irrevocably.

The Colour of Milk

The Colour of Milk

By Nell Leyshon

The San Francisco Chronicle raves that The Colour of Milk is a “slender, beautiful novel with as much heart as a book twice its size.” In this “literary jewel crafted by an accomplished writer” (Booklist) that is “at once lyric and brutal” (Library Journal), author Mell Leyshon introduces readers to three sisters who have lived their entire lives on the farm, held under the oppression of their abusive father. 

As each one strives toward her own dreams, it is only Mary who dares to stand up to their father, but doing so threatens to drive her away from the family and into a new world that may be even more perilous in this unforgettable slim novel.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go

By Kazuo Ishiguro

From Book Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro comes this tender, gripping mystery about the true meaning of humanity.

The world outside the gates of Halisham is unknown to all its students. The English boarding school is far from the influences of the nearest city, and its students are trained to be far more concerned with their studies than with their lives. When Kathy and her friends decide to venture outside its walls, they discover that the world they have been cut off from is not what it seemed—and neither is their school.

Being There

Being There

By Jerzy Kosinski

One of the most acclaimed novels by bestselling and National Book Award-winning author Jerzy Kosinski, Being There was adapted into the 1979 satirical film of the same name starring Peter Sellers. 

It tells the story of “Chauncey Gardiner,” a man who is mistaken for a well-to-do businessman fallen on hard times and finds himself becoming a celebrity and an advisor to the president, even though he has no real knowledge of the world beyond the garden he used to tend. Originally published in 1970, this “tantalizing knuckleball of a book delivered with perfectly timed satirical hops and metaphysical flutters” remains as timely today as ever.

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