Reading lists

The classic novels you can finish in a weekend

Novellas, argues Matt Blake, are the perfect way to discover some of history's greatest writers.


The humble novella, that most slippery of literary inventions. Too long for a magazine and too short for a book, Stephen King once called them ‘an ill-defined and disreputable literary banana republic’ (though that hasn’t stopped him from writing several himself).

Ian McEwan, on the other hand, called the novella the 'perfect form of prose fiction … the beautiful daughter of a rambling, bloated, ill-shaven giant.' No wonder: his debut novel, The Cement Garden, clocked up a meagre 144 pages but helped him establish a formidable literary reputuation. 'If I could write the perfect novella I would die happy,' he said in 2012.

Actually, the form has a long and glorious tradition, and provides the perfect gateway into brilliant but sometimes tricky writers like James Joyce or Albert Camus, or those with intimidatingly large bibliographies, like Toni Morrison or A S Byatt. 

And the best bit is, you can finish them just in time for the Sunday roast. Here's some good places to get started.

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