If you love reading, but fancy something quite short, novellas are the ideal option.
Novellas are shorter than standard novels but are longer than short stories, making them an amazing alternative.
The good news is that there are loads of novellas out there for you to read, which cover different themes and genres.
It’s recommended that you read the following 100 novellas if you have a passion for literature.
72 Must-Read Novellas
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a classic novella that features a satirical allegory.
Orwell crafts an intricate tale of a collection of farm animals that plan to rebel against their captor, namely the farmer.
This iconic novella is ideal for readers with an interest in political satire.
- Orwell’s novel is a classic must-read.
- Animal Farm is a superb satire that takes inspiration from historical events.
- The use of satire and parody may not be suitable for younger readers.
Of Mice and Men tells the tragic and heartbreaking friendship between Lennie Small and George Milton.
Set during the Great Depression, these migrant workers hope to reach the American Dream. John Steinbeck’s novella is widely taught at schools for good reason.
- This classic novella is filled with meaning and social commentary.
- Of Mice and Men will also be appropriate for younger readers, specifically anyone over the age of 13.
- The narrative is quite dark, which may be off-putting to some readers.
Famous thanks to the film adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a well-liked novella by Truman Capote.
In the book, an unnamed narrator tells the reader of his interactions with an enigmatic neighbor named Holly Golightly.
- Holly Golightly is an iconic character thanks to Capote’s writing.
- Capote writes fleshed-out female characters.
- The book has a sad ending that differs from the famous movie.
Binti is a brilliant novella that combines the science fiction and horror genres.
Nnedi Okorafor’s African futurist narrative follows Binti, who must leave her family to pursue a spot in the intergalactic Oomza University.
- Nnedi Okorafor has a spellbinding writing style.
- The novella has wonderful world-building.
- The narrative is overstuffed with content.
Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis is a crucial novella that has shaped the literature of the twentieth century.
In this seminal story, salesman Gregor Samsa discovers that he has been transformed into an insect.
- The Metamorphosis is an intentionally vague narrative that can be interpreted in numerous ways.
- The horror elements of the novella are well-handled.
- Some readers may find the ambivalence of the narrative rather frustrating.
French writer Albert Camus has created an intriguing psychological thriller in The Stranger.
An ordinary man named Meursault finds himself involved in a murder.
- Camus offers a phenomenal presentation of absurdism.
- Meursault is an engrossing character.
- This book has an academic focus that will not appeal to everyone.
This award-winning novella by Rachel Swirsky is a science fictitious narrative based around the fifteenth of January.
The story explores how the date is significant for a wide spectrum of characters.
- Swirsky has created an interesting concept.
- January Fifteenth features an impressive range of characters.
- The narrative could have been better developed.
In this masterpiece by Joseph Conrad, a sailor named Charles Marlow documents his hunt for an ivory trader.
Heart of Darkness is a great critique of colonialism and analysis of morality.
- This is a must-read if you are fascinated by themes of power and colonization.
- Despite the age of this book, many of its themes are still important.
- The pacing is a little slow.
Perfect for fantasy fans, Magic for Beginners is a novella that collects nine short stories.
Kelly Link’s titular story follows Jeremy Mars, a character in a television program.
- Link holds the mirror up to modern life.
- The book features magnificent magic realism.
- The quality of the stories in this collection will vary.
Robert Neville is the final person alive in a world filled with vampires.
This influential post-apocalyptic novella by Richard Matheson has been adapted into a fan-favorite film starring Will Smith.
- I Am Legend has had an indelible influence on vampire literature.
- Matherson’s novella is the perfect match for post-apocalyptic literature fans.
- The ending is much weaker than the start of the novella.
Next, The Green Leopard Plague is a fantastic science fiction novella from the creative genius of Walter Jon Williams.
It tells the story of a mermaid living in a seemingly idyllic society.
- This is an interesting examination of human society.
- The novella will be loved by science fiction fans.
- The narrative is a little too complex.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s timeless novella focuses on a fascinating duality between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
This definitive gothic narrative tells the investigation of Gabriel John Utterson, who attempts to get to the bottom of the complex relationship between Dr. Henry Jekyll and his doppelganger, the criminal Edward Hyde.
- This is an interesting psychological exploration of a dual personality.
- Stevenson effortlessly creates a compelling Gothic atmosphere.
- The writing may feel dated at times.
A Christmas Carol is one of the most famous novellas in the world of literature.
This renowned tale by Charles Dickens centers around Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy old man who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve in an attempt to change his behavior.
- Despite its original publication date of 1843, A Christmas Carol remains relevant today.
- Dickens has an accessible writing style.
- Due to the popularity of this tale, you likely know the full narrative.
This touching tale by May Sarton explores what it means to be old.
The elderly Caroline Spencer documents the struggles and injustices that she faces due to her age.
- Sarton has a beautiful writing style.
- This is a thought-provoking novella that will open the reader’s mind.
- This is a somber read that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Banana Yoshimoto provides a delightful representation of Japanese culture in Hardboiled & Hard Luck.
In these two tales, Yoshimoto writes touching narratives about two young girls.
- These joint novels share similar themes of loss.
- The writing style is wonderfully witty.
- Yoshimoto has a simple style that is not always effective.
German novelist Irmgard Keun has crafted a complex tale that showcases a woman’s life set during Nazi Germany.
Following Sanna Moder, this novella accurately captures the hysteria of this period.
- This is a unique perspective of historical events.
- After Midnights is a magnificent portal of human weakness.
- The writing feels too detached at times.
The Old Man and the Sea is a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction-winning novella by Ernest Hemingway.
This famous novella centers around Santiago, a determined fisherman, who is locked in battle with a marlin.
- This novella is considered a classic.
- This is a compelling tale of resilience.
- Some of Hemmingway’s sentences can be difficult to comprehend.
When a plague of bird deaths occurs in New York, a man and his stepdaughter aim to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Bradford Morrow’s novella is a striking tale of love.
- The relationship between the stepfather and Caitlin is compelling.
- Fall of the Birds is filled with mystery and intrigue.
- The novella’s ending is disappointing.
Primarily marketed as a children’s book, The Little Prince is a popular novella that has captured the imagination of many adults thanks to its musings on loss and loneliness.
Written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, this novel charts the journey of a young prince through space.
- This book is suitable for almost any age.
- The content is surprisingly deep.
- The novella may be too deep for some younger readers.
Edith Wharton has created a vast number of iconic novellas, including the excellent Ethan Frome.
Set in the charming New England countryside, Ethan Frome follows a tragic love triangle.
- Wharton expertly explores the psychology of her characters.
- The language is rich and enjoyable.
- This is an incredibly dreary novella.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a masterpiece written by Leo Tolstoy. In this novella, Ivan Ilyich Golovin is a Russian court judge who must face his imminent death.
- This is a fascinating portrayal of death.
- This is a highly emotional tale.
- The novella will not be suitable for closed-minded individuals.
Covering themes like death, this novella by Gabriel García Márquez is a thought-provoking read that covers the murder of an aristocrat.
As a result, society is put on trial.
- The murder is oozing with mystery.
- This is an excellent examination of death.
- The narrative is a little odd, which may be off-putting to some readers.
Launching a science fiction trilogy, Beggars in Spain is a phenomenal novella by Nancy Kress.
In this novella, Kress introduced a future of genetic modification whereby humans have been adapted to never require sleep.
- Kress does wonderful world-building.
- This novella covers deep themes, such as societal inequalities.
- The storytelling is too dry at times.
The titular protagonist of this novella is Carmen, a rebellious woman who finds herself in a passionate love triangle.
Written by Prosper Mérimée, this is an acclaimed piece of French literature.
- Carmen is a charismatic main character.
- This beautiful story is fast-paced.
- Originally written in French, the translation is not always accurate.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells is a classic science-fiction novella that has massively influenced the genre.
Set in Victorian England, a scientist creates a time machine that opens up a whole world of possibilities.
- This is one of the greatest science fiction works of all time.
- It explores fantastic themes like evolution.
- This novella feels old-fashioned.
Bartleby the Scrivener is a novella penned by the iconic Herman Melville. In this story, an elderly lawyer hires Bartleby to work in the office.
However, Bartelby gradually reduces the amount of work that he is willing to do.
- Melville expertly writes the thoughts of the narrator.
- Bartleby is an intoxicatingly mysterious character.
- The narrative might be too strange for some.
Dorris Lessing’s The Fifth Child covers the events that occur after a happy couple, David and Harriet, have a fifth child.
In this tragic story, this fifth child brings misery to the entire family.
- This novella cleverly subverts the suburban ideal.
- Lessing intentionally makes the reader feel uncomfortable.
- Some elements of the plot are far-fetched.
Adapted into an iconic animated film, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a creepy novella that follows a young girl who discovers a world that is remarkably similar to her own.
However, Coraline soon uncovers a spooky twist to this world.
- This novella is ideal for horror fans.
- Younger readers will adore Coraline.
- Older readers may not appreciate this novella.
Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas follows this titular character, a physician who suffers from depression.
The lonely Doctor Glas soon begins to plan a murder after falling for a married woman.
- Doctor Glas is bursting with suspense.
- Söderberg provides a deep psychological examination.
- When it was first released, this novella was controversial due to its dark themes.
Every Eye by Isobel English tells the story of a woman named Hattie, who has never felt like she belonged. In Ibiza, light is finally shed on Hattie’s past.
- English has a gorgeous writing style.
- This is a wonderful character study focused on Hattie.
- Some readers have found this narrative to be a little bland.
Written by Daniel José Older, this novella acts as a sequel to Shadowshaper.
Izzy and Tee are a divided couple that is brought together by a ghost as they work to solve a mystery.
- As part of the Shadowshaper series, there are other books for you to check out if you enjoy Ghost Girl in the Corner.
- This entry will help readers to better understand Izzy and Tee.
- It is best to read the previous entry in the series before starting this novella.
If you are interested in political satire, it’s recommended that you check out Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov.
This scathing satirical novella lampoons Bolshevism. The plot follows a surgeon who transplants human body parts into a dog.
- Heart of a Dog is outrageously entertaining.
- Bulgakov offers exceptional political commentary.
- The quality of translations will differ.
If you are interested in feminist literature, The Yellow Wallpaper will be an essential addition to your reading list.
This story is focused on female mental health by covering issues such as postnatal depression.
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman showcases mental health issues.
- This is a thought-provoking read.
- This novella is extremely short.
Bestselling writer Stephen King returns for The Mist, a psychological horror novella.
Suddenly, a small town becomes covered in a mist that empowers otherworldly creatures. Residents are forced to fight for survival.
- This is a marvelous monster story.
- The Mist is an intense narrative with a scary atmosphere.
- Some of the male characters will seem sexist to modern readers.
Next, Zastrozzi is an atmospheric Gothic novella written by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Zastrozzi is a nefarious character that provides the perspective for this narrative, which documents his desire for revenge.
- Many readers consider this to be a masterpiece of the gothic genre.
- This is a fascinating tale of obsession and revenge.
- The writing style is a little pretentious.
Critically-acclaimed author Toshikazu Kawaguchi has created a bestselling tale of love and life in Before the Coffee Gets Cold.
In this novella, a small cafe in the heart of Tokyo offers customers the ability to travel into the past.
- Kawaguchi has a quirky style that perfectly fits the narrative.
- The stories in this novella are loaded with emotional depth.
- The pacing is a little slow, particularly at the beginning.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is a unique prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre from the perspective of Bertha Mason, also known as Antoinette Cosway.
The novella follows the life of Antoinette, who is sold into marriage with the aloof Mr. Rochester.
- Rhys offers a feminist perspective on an overlooked character in classic literature.
- Antoniette is a three-dimensional character with a believable backstory.
- Wide Sargasso Sea works best as a companion piece to the novel Jane Eyre.
Comedy legend Steve Martin writes a mature and eloquent novella in the form of Shopgirl.
In this beautifully bleak tale, a shopgirl named Mirabelle embarks on a romantic relationship with a businessman.
- Martin has a wonderfully witty writing style.
- The characters are incredibly deep.
- The message of this novella is not clear.
Author Banana Yoshimoto is a major name in the genre of Japanese literature, which is partially thanks to her incredible novella entitled Kitchen.
Against the backdrop of tragedy, a young woman discovers her love for cooking.
- This is a beautiful depiction of loss and grief.
- Kitchen is a moving tale.
- At times, the writing is rather flat.
This collection of novellas by Anita Desai is critically acclaimed.
The Artist of Disappearance is a novella of the same name that focuses on Ravi, an artist with an intimate connection with nature.
- Desai perfectly captures human nature.
- The writing style is beautifully descriptive.
- Not all readers will understand the spiritual elements of the novella.
Tayeb Salih’s novella is a counternarrative to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
Exploring the consequences of British colonialism, this narrative is concerned with the changes that the narrator observes in Sudan.
- Salih brilliantly compares different cultures.
- The writing style is smooth and eloquent.
- This novella works best if you are familiar with Heart of Darkness.
If you are interested in pieces of literature that explore gender, you will adore Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
Nikolai Leskov’s novella analyzes the role of women in European societies of the 19th century.
- The exploration of gender roles is extraordinary.
- Leskov is a master storyteller.
- First published in 1865, this novella is far from modern.
Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt is a sublime novella that follows the consequences of evacuation during the Second World War.
Forced to evacuate to the countryside, a young girl becomes engrossed by Norse mythology.
- Byatt is linguistically skilled, as demonstrated by this novella.
- This is a unique perspective of Norse mythology.
- The book has an academic vibe that may be too intense for some readers.
This award-winning novella has made great strides in the fantasy-horror genre.
Set in 1924, Charles Thomas Tester is a hustler trying to survive in New York. Unfortunately, he soon discovers another realm of magic.
- This story subverts many tropes of the genre.
- The theme of racism is expertly handled.
- The story would have worked better as a full-sized novel.
Written by Stefan Zweig, Chess Story centers around a passenger liner.
During this journey, the passengers test a champion of chess, who is revealed to be an unlikable person.
- This is a fascinating character study.
- You won’t need an intimate knowledge of chess to understand this game.
- Chess Story is overwhelmingly bleak.
Exploring themes like marriage and poverty, this novella by Elizabeth Strout centers around the complex relationship between Lucy Barton and her mother.
- Strout scrutinizes the deep relationships in this novella.
- Complex themes are written in beautiful ways.
- Lucy is a frustrating character at times.
In this intriguing novella, Thomas Pynchon creates a sensational satire of modern America.
When her former lover dies, Oedipa Maas finds herself at the center of a web of conspiracies.
- This is an excellent example of postmodern literature.
- The Crying of Lot 49 is a compelling study of paranoia.
- The ambiguity of the novella may be frustrating.
This charming collection of vignettes by Sandra Cisneros is a tale of identity and self-discovery.
Focusing on Esperanza Cordero, the novella highlights the stories of the people that live in a Chicano neighborhood.
- These stories are vibrant and filled with personality.
- Cisneros crafts memorable characters that are inspired by Latino heritage.
- While many of the vignettes are emotionally impacting, others are less meaningful.
The Sense of an Ending is a bestselling and award-winning book from the mind of Julian Barnes.
The middle-aged Julian Barnes is haunted by his friends, as two childhood friends re-emerge.
- This novella won the Booker Prize.
- Barnes offers a complex depiction of human emotions.
- The postmodern writing style can be a bit jarring.
Ge Fei provides a surreal and striking representation of contemporary China in The Invisibility Cloak.
The protagonist of this funny tale is a man who is considered a loser in the cutthroat society of modern Beijing.
- This is an interesting critique of modern China.
- Fei offers a refreshing perspective for his narrator.
- There are too many loose plot threads.
No One Writes to the Colonel is a gritty novella by Gabriel García Márquez. It follows a retired colonel and his wife as they struggle financially.
- This is considered one of the best Márquez narratives.
- Readers will develop a comprehensive understanding of the colonel.
- Not much happens in the plot, which may frustrate certain readers.
This award-winning novella by Penelope Fitzgerald explores the emotional states of people in a houseboat community.
It explores the difficulty that these characters face since their lives are half spent on the land and half on the water.
- Offshore explores the close relationships between its characters brilliantly.
- Fitzgerald displays a deep understanding of her characters.
- The ending is a little abrupt.
Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution is an incredible detective story that references key writers in the genre.
The novella centers around a retired detective who is on a quest to find a missing parrot.
- This novella is phenomenal for mystery fans.
- There is an adorable vibe to this novella.
- For some people, the ending may be unsatisfying.
Focusing on the themes of race and gender, Quicksand is a gripping novella from the mind of Nella Larsen.
The story’s protagonist is Helga Crane, a biracial woman who struggles to belong thanks to her identity.
- This novella captures the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance.
- Larsen’s writing showcases interesting themes and perspectives.
- Helga can be a difficult character to like at times.
This novella is a sensational science fiction-horror narrative from the creative mind of H. P. Lovecraft.
During an expedition, Dr. William Dyer finds a group of ancient creatures that are part vegetable and part animal.
- Lovecraft is a phenomenal storyteller.
- The narrative is eerily addictive.
- The pacing is often stilted.
The Turn of the Screw is a novella that has revolutionized the gothic and horror genres.
At a secluded estate, a governess begins to fear that the area is haunted.
- This gothic story tackles compelling themes like gender and class.
- Author Henry James creates a spooky atmosphere.
- Some readers may find the novella difficult to understand.
If you have a passion for Russian history, then you will adore Alexander Pushkin’s novella.
The Captain’s Daughter is a thrilling narrative about the romantic life of Pyotr Grinyov.
- This historical novella is a perfect match for history enthusiasts.
- Pushkin’s writing flows naturally.
- The villains are a little over the top.
Stewart O’Nan’s novella offers a brilliant balance between humor and emotional depth.
The novel is focused on the final shift of a manager named Manny DeLeon, who is working for a Red Lobster restaurant that is imminently closing.
- This is a page-turning novella.
- This novella is a methodical story of a man trying to do the right thing.
- Some people may find the mundane plot a little bland.
Swiss author Jeremias Gotthelf has created a sublime allegorical novella in the form of The Black Spider.
This novella has a strong Christian influence and focuses on the conflict between good and evil.
- The Black Spider has a creepy atmosphere that works wonderfully.
- The story is incredibly metaphorical and allegorical.
- The narrative may be too dark and horrifying for some people.
Bunner Sisters is yet another iconic novella written by Edith Wharton.
Two sisters, named Evelina and Anna, have to adjust to the ever-changing world of New York.
- This is a heartbreaking novella centered around two sisters.
- Burner Sister is loaded with narrative depth.
- The scope is incredibly microscopic.
Bonjour Tristesse has become a classic novella.
Written by French author Françoise Sagan, this novella follows a young girl named Cecile who meddles in her father’s love life. This meddling has unforeseen consequences.
- This charming novella is set in the French summer.
- Sagan has an incredibly introspective style.
- This is a short and simple novella that may not appeal to all readers.
The Stepford Wives is a bestselling and influential novella with a satirical twist.
Crafted by Ira Levin, the novella follows Joanna, who moves to Stepford with her family.
Yet, she soon discovers that the seemingly idyllic town has a sinister secret.
- The book has interesting themes, including gender roles and the reaction to feminism.
- The Stepford Wives has incredible horror vibes.
- The plot is a little too short.
Nella Larsen provides an introspective exploration of identity and race.
The book follows two black friends, Irene and Clare. Clare has a deadly secret, in that she has been passing as a white woman.
- The book focuses on the complex theme of racial identity.
- The dynamic between Clare and Irene is extraordinary.
- Larsen’s writing style may not be suitable for all readers.
Marghanita Laski’s novella is a disturbing body-swap narrative in which a young woman finds herself transported into the body of a woman who lived 90 years ago.
- Laski fully captures the horror of this narrative.
- This novella dispels the common romanticization of the Victorian era.
- Having been published in 1953, the novella is old-fashioned at times.
This experimental novella by Richard Bach tells the journey of a seagull that is learning to fly. Accompanied by graphics, this is a gripping read.
- This is an emotional novella.
- It will take the reader on a spiritual journey.
- Elements of the journey are a little cliched.
Daisy Miller by Henry James is a beloved novella.
It centers around a courtship between Frederick Winterbourn and the titular Daisy, who often breaks social conventions.
- This is a great depiction of the social differences between America and Europe.
- Daisy is a charming protagonist.
- The narrative is somewhat dated.
The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns is a brutally realistic novella.
Alice retreats into a dream world thanks to the cruel treatment of her father, a vet. There, Alice discovers incredible abilities.
- Comyns is an original writer.
- Alice is a vivid heroine.
- The novella is incredibly graphic.
Shirley Jackson creates a palpable gothic atmosphere in this mystery novella.
Told from the perspective of an unusual girl named Merricat, this novella explores the mystery surrounding her family.
- The story is filled with intrigue.
- Merricat is an interesting character that will captivate readers.
- The climax is underwhelming.
Notes from the Underground is a classic novella from Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky.
In this story, an unnamed narrator has withdrawn from society and moved underground, where he has written a critique of society.
- This is a resonating and thought-provoking novella.
- The narrator is a fascinating yet intentionally contradictory character.
- The quality of the translation varies.
University professor Lindsey Drager has constructed a story of loss and grief.
In the Lost Daughter Collective, a group of fathers bonded together to cope with their missing daughters.
- This is a fascinating deep dive into the relationship between fathers and daughters.
- Plenty of emotions are on display here.
- This book is super sad, and may not be appreciated by certain readers.
This striking debut novella by Zin E. Rocklyn is an intoxicating dark fantasy. The survivors of a flooded kingdom are forced to band together aboard an ark.
- Rocklyn makes the reader feel as though they are on the ark.
- There is a fantastic folklore element to the novella.
- Readers may feel as though they have been thrown into the story mid-way through.
Last but not least, Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach is a breathtaking novella that explores themes of romance and reality.
During a coastal honeymoon, a married couple must face the reality of marriage.
- McEwan creates a potent atmosphere.
- The relationship between Florence and Edward is analyzed in significant detail.
- This novella will not be a good match if you want to read a happy story.
These novellas will make a great addition to your reading list.
These stories tend to be concise, meaning that you can read quickly through these interesting narratives.
Covering an impressive assortment of narratives, every reader can find a novella that they will adore.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are Novellas Better Than Novels?
Many people prefer novellas to novels as they are more concise.
Yet, novellas are longer than traditional short stories, allowing them to expand the narrative and write more dimensional characters.
What Are The Most Famous Novellas?
Arguably, the most famous examples of novellas include A Christmas Carol, Animal Farm, and The Metamorphosis.