Explore the best short classic books and novels under 250 pages that you can read in one day!

classic books

Easy and short classics are always popular topics with readers of The Literary Lifestyle and members of my book club (The Rory Gilmore Book Club), in which we read from the list of books mentioned on Gilmore Girls, many of which are famous short books we want to cross off our checklists!

To marry these two popular topics, I have created this epic list of the best short classical stories, novellas, novels, and books under 250 pages. In doing so, I did my best to categorize them by page count (as each edition can have different page numbers), and I made some editorial decisions. While I did decide to include plays, since they fit both purposes of this article well, I did not include poetry or books exclusively for very young children, most of which are very short.

The result is one really ultimate list of over 100+ classical short stories, novellas, novels, and books under 250 pages. To make it easier to consume, I have first summarized the best short classic books beloved readers. Then, I list all of the the best classic books, categorized by page number: books under 100 pages, under 175 pages and, finally under 200 pages.

25 Best Short Classic Books

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of the best short classics because it centers on a boy on an adventurous journey on the Mississippi River in 1840 with a slave seeking freedom.

While it’s not a hard story to follow, it does also instill mature themes for which the classics are also known, like racism.


Animal Farm by George Orwell

75th Anniversary Edition

Animal Farm is the allegorical tale in which “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

A farm filled with overworked animals decides to create equality and find justice. But, what follows in this revolution against tyranny is totalitarianism just as terrible.

This classic short novel will give you chills and leave you with a lot to think about and talk about.


The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening is a turn of the 20th Century feminist classic short novel.

On the Southern Louisiana coast, Edna Pontellier struggles with her roles as mother and wife and how they intersect with art, passion, and individuality. I imagine it would have been shocking at the time, and the ending will leave you completely stunned.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a great short novella to read because it’s one of my favorite books of all time! Capote is an American treasure, carefully crafting into strings of thoughtful dialogue and prose the character of Holly Golightly, a New York socialite and a “drifter” in 1960s New York.

This one is for fans of character-driven novels, and I can pretty much assure you that you will not regret reading it.

I recommend the fantastic audiobook of this title — one of my favorite ways to read a classic book.


Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

I first read Brokeback Mountain after watching (and loving) the movie, and the book was just as spectacular.

Wyoming is the most beautiful backdrop to the secret love story of Ennis and Jack, two sheepherders who begin a relationship one Summer while working with each other in the wilderness.

The men are married to women yet continue to meet each Summer for decades as they navigate their sexuality and social norms, with heartbreaking consequences in this very famous short classic book.


Candide by Voltaire

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Candide is a widely translated French satire short book to read, originally published in 1759 by a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment.

A young man named Candide is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with optimism and the belief in “what’s meant to be” by his mentor. When he’s kicked out of the castle (literally), Candide slowly and painfully comes of age and becomes disillusioned by the hardships he witnesses and experiences.

Several adventure and romance cliches are parodied in a very bitter tone, yet this compulsively readable, famous short book also explores historical events.

Naturally, Candide also contends with the struggle of good versus evil in this once “banned” book, which ironically has also been named one of the most influential books ever written.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Many readers may already know some version of the most classic of all Christmas stories, A Christmas Carol, but have you actually read the original book?! It’s surprisingly short and easy to digest, with simple messaging about kindness and Christmas spirit, yet it’s also written in exquisitely beautiful prose that is sure to delight classic readers.

Your familiarity with the plot will go far in helping you further explore one of the most timeless of these short classics.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I recall A Clockwork Orange being the most shocking book I read (and movie I watched) in high school.

Ultimately, it’s about the human struggle between good and evil, set in a futuristic England. Alex and his “Droogs” spend their nights engaging in mischievous acts, which ultimately lead to violence and his jailing. When he submits to behavior modification in order to earn back his freedom, he is conditioned to dismiss violence, which has an incredibly ironic result.


Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman is the one play that I recall from high school being both easy to read and meaningful in conveying complex themes. It dives into the mind of an aging salesman who has spent most of his life at work, as he contemplates the past and attempts to reconcile it with the present.


Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

I recall Ethan Frome being one of the required reads for high school that I truly felt was one of the best short clasic books to read.

As Ethan works on an unproductive farm in the New England countryside, he also deals with his hypochondriac wife. So, it should come as no surprise that, when her cousin becomes their hired help, he becomes obsessed with her.

It’s an intense narrative that moves the trio toward their tragic fates, which will immerse you in the deepest emotions of these characters.


Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Franny and Zooey is one of the best short classic novels that’s composed of two siblings’ stories: Franny’s, then Zooey’s. Franny is a college student encountering an uncomfortable date with her boyfriend in which they just can’t seem to communicate clearly with each other. Zooey is her brother, grappling with sibling and parental issues in a quirky New York apartment.

If you liked Catcher in the Rye, you will like this one — especially Zooey’s story.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you have not yet read The Great Gatsby, what are you waiting for?! This is one of the most classic short novels about an outsider in Jazz Era Long Island, peering into the social life of a wealthy man.

It’s an easy read filled with symbolism and social commentary on social class in America.

Related Posts: The Great Gatsby Love Quotes | The Great Gatsby American Dream Quotes | The Great Gatsby Quotes About Jay | The Great Gatsby Quotes About Daisy


The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Hound of the Baskervilles is another one of the best short classic books for high school students. It’s about the mysterious sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville, who may be the victim of a ghostly hound that haunts his family. Further, his heir may be the object of murder.

When the heir arrives, several odd things happen, and Sherlock Holmes observes a bearded man following him around the city. So, Watson heads to Baskerville Hall to do some digging.

Upon his arrival in Baskerville Hall, more strange things happen as the case unfolds for fans of detective stories and classic mysteries.


The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is one of the best short classic books that Jenna Bush Hager has called a favorite.

It’s told in short and sweet, poetic vignettes about the life of a young Latina girl in Chicago named Esperanza and the people in her life. Her tales are sometimes joyous and sometimes heartbreaking, but always compulsively readable.

You’ll adore this young lady and her unique perspective on life.


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince is one of Megan Markle’s favorite books, and it is a beloved short fiction book to read that is recommended by so many others worldwide as well.

It’s a lyrical fable that explores the meaning of life amidst sweet illustrations and can be read in about an hour. It’s one of those books that everyone should read at least once.


Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I have such a clear memory of easily reading Lord of the Flies as a young adult, a book that follows a group of schoolboys stranded on an island. At first a cause for the boys’ celebration, their uncontrolled independence eventually becomes the very source of danger.

Often referenced in pop culture, it’s one you will want to cross off your list of short classic books to read.


The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis is a quirky classic short story about a salesman who wakes up to find he has been transformed into a bug. He must learn to adapt to his new condition and deal with his family’s reactions to him at the same time.

It’s super quick and interesting, with themes you’ll want to research after reading it.


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is another one of the best short classic novels for high school students. It’s a simple yet enduring tale about an old Cuban fisherman, who has been down on his luck, and his epic battle with a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream.

In his customary brief prose, Hemingway shows the meaning of courage and personal triumph. 


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men was a book on my high school reading list that I and my classmates really enjoyed. It’s a story of friendship between an unlikely pair of California laborers: George, a smaller man, and Lennie, a large man with the mind of a child. Together, they dream of owning land and a shack of their own, but these dreams are challenged when a flirtatious woman enters the picture.

You won’t be able to put this one down!


A Room With a View by E.M. Forester

A Room with a View is a classic romance novel on The Office’s Finer Things Club book list.

Young Lucy visits Florence, Italy, with her proper aunt and meets a young man and his father, who make an impression on her.

When she returns to England and becomes engaged, they re-enter her life and she must decide between convention and passion.


A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own is a unique text in which it is imagined that Shakespeare had an equally talented sister— with a strikingly different legacy. She never writes a word, despite her inherent genius.

The theme is a simple one with feminist leanings—that women need their own income and a room of their own in order to be free to create.

It was different than I expected — an extended essay exploring the history of women in writing and in literature. It was really thoughtful and interesting, and definitely a must-read if you are looking for feminist works. 


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Regardless of your age, The Secret Garden remains a simple and classic novel about an orphaned young girl who explores a garden on her uncle’s property and learns to blossom in spite of her circumstances.


Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula is my favorite Toni Morrison novel I’ve read to date, and it’s also an Oprah’s book Club pick. Ultimately, it’s a story about death and friendship, told as poetically dark as all of Morrison’s work.

Nel and Sula are friends who share a tragic childhood secret that reverberates into their very different adulthoods, with consequences.

I found this one to be easier to read than most of her novels, and difficult to put down. These characters and how the secret shapes their lives are bound to stick with you.


The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

Many classic readers will want to read Poe’s work, and The Tell-Tale Heart is a great place to start. It’s a quick short story (as well as one of his most famous works) about a murderer who becomes increasingly paranoid about his misdeeds.


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

Their Eyes Were Watching God is the renowned Southern love story of Janie Crawford, as she comes of age from being a voiceless teenage girl awakening to become an independent woman in control of her destiny.

It’s an absolute classic of the Harlem Renaissance that has been so widely read and deserves a place on your “to be read” list as well. For such a short novel, the content is truly epic, with memorable characters, suspense, and an unforgettable plot.


We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a dark, gothic short fiction book to read about an odd, unreliable narrator named Merricat and her family’s dark secrets.

It’s a tangled web of neurotic behavior, as a cousin arrives at the isolated family’s estate and it turns out this strange family may actually be murderous.

It really excels at building intrigue and suspense, keeping you completely glued to the pages to try to figure out what’s really going on.

List of All 100+ Best Short Classic Books

Best Classical Short Stories Under 100 Pages

Antigone by Sophocles

Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Candide by Voltaire

The Cask of the Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

The Dead by James Joyce

Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Oedipus Rex by Sophicles

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

To Build a Fire by Jack London

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Best Classic Short Novels Under 175 Pages

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

Candide by Voltaire

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Daisy Miller by Henry James

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Frankenstein by Marry Shelley

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Old Man and the Seaa by Ernest Hemmingway

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Passing by Nella Larson

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf 

A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

The Stranger by Albert Camus

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum


Best Short Classic Novels Under 250 Pages

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Love Story by Erich Segal

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers and Mary Shepard

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Our Town by Thornton Wilder

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Shane by Jack Shaefer

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Sula by Toni Morrison

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom


Conclusion

Now you know over 100+ short classic books and novels under 250 pages that you can read in a day.

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6 Comments

  1. I am surprised that Gebran Kahlil Gebran book the Prophet is not mentioned. This book translated in 22 languages, 500 millions sold around the world, after the Bible and the Quran…
    Stockholm – Sweden.

  2. I’m surprised there is only one Conan Doyle and no Agatha Christie. Five Little Pigs is excellent