Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Short Books

We are told it's very bad form to judge a book by the cover. Shouldn't be done.

(Note to small publishers - especially poetry presses - People judge books by their covers ALL THE TIME. If the cover looks like a last gasp of 1970's design it will kill even the best of books)

But I have uncovered another obstacle to sales success. Being short.

Short novels, novellas as they are sometimes known, suffer from their lack of size. Folk pick them up, glance, look at the price and then put them down again.

Please don't judge a book by how long it is going to take to read. Some of the best books ever are very short and could easily be consumed in a lunchtime.

Feel free to add to my list below:

Silk by Allesandro Baricco

Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov

The Dead by James Joyce

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kippling

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Sallinger

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


  1. AnonymousJuly 31, 2007

    The best example must be The Great Gatsby, which is just over 50,000 words. That's not short short but still compact enough that if it wasn't for the various introductions and typefaces they give it, it'd look pretty small (and I think I read that Hunter S Thompson tried to get Fear and Loathing to be the exact same word count as Gatsby)

    Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse is 112 pages (And so is Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilyich, I see).

    And if Richard Brautigan floats your boat, most of his stuff is really short.

    Rich A

  2. AnonymousJuly 31, 2007

    (and when I say "the best example" I obviously mean nothing of the sort...)


  3. I do like Brautigan - Trout Fishing In America once inspired me to walk through Richmond Park at night while the deer were mating - an experience I won't forget in a hurry!

    The Russians are great at novellas. How about First Love by Turgenev?

  4. Indeed. To that list I would add most of the wonderful books of Banana Yoshimoto, Dan Rhodes's Anthropology and a Hundred Other Stories and, of course, but of course, The Little Prince.

    I always feel a sense of immense joy about reading a book in one sitting, on a summer's day like today preferably.

  5. oh, Bohumil Hrabel's "Closely Observed Trains". Wonderful and tiny book.


  6. AnonymousJuly 31, 2007



  7. ... and Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys, and Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, and The Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair, and anything by Muriel Spark or Graham Greene, and and and...

    I love short books. I love buying them, too, because it feels like I'm being good and buying less (especially in times of a tight budget) even if I pay full price for them. Hmm.

  8. AnonymousJuly 31, 2007

    The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches - Gaetan Soucy
    The Pilgrim Hawk - Glenway Wescott
    Chronicle of a Death Foretold - Marquez
    Bonjour Tristesse - Sagan

  9. Aha!

    Thanks for your comments readers - I think my point is proved.

    Short books are great!

    The aim of this rather (if I say so myself) cunning post was to persuade you all to rush in to buy copies of Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov - a classic love story set in Kyrgystan - just re-issued with a cover price of £7.99 and a page count of 96 (spaced out text a lot as well so could have been 75 pages)

    It really is a great little book, small but perfectly formed.

    And, because we love you, it's £1 off all summer at C & P and just £5 if you are the proud owner of a Wedge card...