The Best Short Books: 16 Travel-Friendly Reads Under 200 Pages

We’ve scoured the bookshelves to find these slim reads perfect for stashing in your hand luggage (or reading on a lazy afternoon at home). Expect French novellas, short stories by Booker-winning authors and essays on postcolonial travel.

Whether it's a political biography on the beach, feminist essays on the New York subway or a sci-fi thriller on the plane ride home, books and travel are lifelong companions. Yet a Kindle isn't for everyone. If you're trying to ditch the checked bag then the chances of fitting a five hundred page Stephen King or Donna Tartt into your carry-on are pretty slim.

Thankfully, we've found a (small) mountain of books with less than 200 pages that are guaranteed to satisfy any reader - and any luggage restriction. The only challenge is choosing which one(s) to bring

Discover the best short books to pack for your next trip

Bonjour Tristesse

by Françoise Sagan

This French novella from 1954 was published when the author was just 18, but don't let that put you off. Bonjour Tristesse is both scandalous and wickedly funny, following the antics of an amoral 17-year-old girl determined to reject convention in pursuit of pleasure. Think Mad Men meets Call Me By Your Name in the French Riviera.

For fans of: Lolita

Best read: While sipping cocktails on a sun lounger in the south of France.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

For those who like their fiction on the creepier side, Shirley Jackson delivers the ultimate haunted house - only this time, it's the house's living residents doing the haunting… and one of them may or may not be guilty of poisoning (and murdering) the rest of the family.

For fans of: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix or original)

Best read: Curled into an armchair on a cabin retreat, hot chocolate optional.

A Small Place

by Jamaica Kincaid

For complicated thoughts on postcolonial tourism, look no further. This book-length essay mixes autobiography with cultural critique to trace the colonial legacy of Antigua, unpicking the complex position of tourism in postcolonial territories. No heads in the sand here.

For fans of: Serious, no-nonsense holiday reading.

Best read: When ready for an introspective reality check.

Travels in the Scriptorium

by Paul Auster

Mr Blank wakes in a strange room, not knowing who he is, how he got there or how to leave. But there are clues to his past: the manuscript left on the desk, detailing the story of another prisoner in an unrecognisable alternate reality, and the cast of strangely familiar people who come to pay him visits.

For fans of: Black Mirror

Best read: All in one go.

The End We Start From

by Megan Hunter

In a dystopian future, Britain has been overcome by epic floods, making refugees of its people including a mother and her newborn baby, Z. Told in spare, fragmented verse, The End We Start From illustrates their struggle, shelter to shelter, for survival.

For fans of: The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Netflix's A Quiet Place.

Best read: On a cross-country rail trip.

Tokyo Ueno Station

by Yu Miri

Glimpse the day-to-day buzz of Tokyo through the eyes of one of its most perceptive residents: the ghost of a homeless man haunting a park near Ueno Station. Translated from Japanese by Morgan Giles, Tokyo Ueno Station is a vivid portrait of contemporary Japan through life, death and afterlife.

For fans of: Convenience Store Woman

Best read: While people-watching from a park bench.

Invisible Cities

by Italo Calvino

"Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice." Framed by an imagined conversation between Marco Polo and the fifth Great Khan of the Mogul Empire, Invisible Cities unfolds in a series of short vignettes about fictitious cities. From "thin cities" to "hidden cities", he explores the human experience through time and memory, language and death.

For fans of: Kafka

Best read: Intermittently on your next city break.


by Richard Ford

Recently adapted into an indie flick by dream team Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, Wildlife follows a family of three in Great Falls, Montana during the 60s. When Jerry Brinson leaves his wife, Jeannette, and teenage son to fight a forest fire in the nearby mountains, their unit unravels into domestic disarray.

For fans of: Jonathan Franzen

Best read: Before watching the excellent adaptation.

The Argonauts

by Maggie Nelson

A memoir like no other, The Argonauts is Maggie Nelson's genre-bending exploration of love, gender, motherhood, language and so much more. Radical, lyrical and filled with intelligent mediations on queer and feminist theory, this is a book you won't be quick to forget.

For fans of: Books that don't fit in boxes.

Best read: At 30,000 feet.

Ghachar Ghochar

by Vivek Shanbhag

This rags-to-riches portrait of a family in India might be slim, but it sure knows how to pack a punch. From the perspective of an unnamed narrator whose uncle begins a successful spice company, Ghochar follows a family as their fortunes are turned on their head in a sharp tale of money and kinship.

For fans of: Psychological family drama.

Best read: While hiding from your relatives on a family holiday.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

The Reluctant Fundamentalists focuses on the experiences of a Pakistani Princeton graduate in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, as told to an American visitor at a busy Lahore café. Full of wit and astute observations, Hamid's novel was included in the Guardian's 2009 round-up of books that defined a decade.

For fans of: Metafiction and political drama.

Best read: Instead of seeing the film.

The Vegetarian

by Han Kang

After a series of horrifying nightmares, a young woman in Seoul decides to stop eating meat - but in South Korea, where vegetarianism is a shocking subversion of societal norms, her decision spirals into a series of bizarre and disturbing events. Winning the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, The Vegetarian is Han's second book to be translated into English.

For fans of: The dark and surreal.

Best read: With ample space between mealtimes.

Animal Farm

by George Orwell

At barely a hundred pages, this is one you can check off your to-be-read list in a two-hour flight (and finally stop pretending to have read). The classic tale of a farm overrun by four-legged rebels is a regular on school shelves, and should still be worth your while in adulthood.

For fans of: Dystopian classics.

Best read: In one sitting.


by Ian McEwan

Hamlet as you've never seen it before. After a slew of reinventions of the bard's greatest works -from Margaret Atwood's take on The Tempest to Jo Nesbø's Macbeth - McEwan approaches the classic Shakespearean tragedy from the perspective of an eerily intelligent unborn child. If that isn't reason enough to be intrigued, then we don't know what is.

For fans of: Shakespeare retellings.

Best read: In the bath, with a glass of wine.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?

by Kathleen Collins

Published posthumously, this collection of short stories by civil rights activist and screenwriter Kathleen Collins is a captivating exploration of race, gender and intimacy in the US, largely privileging the experiences of Black women. It was penned in the 70s, but you'd be forgiven for not noticing; her writing is just as fresh, funny and politically relevant in 2020.

For fans of: Dear White People

Best read: With a friend nearby to share Collins' best passages.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

by Haruki Murakami

You probably know Murakami for his weird and wonderful novels, but did you know that he's completed an ultramarathon? For runners and non-runners alike, this is a fascinating look into the trials and tribulations of running, and into the life of one of the most extraordinary and acclaimed writers at work today.

For fans of: Murakami, who can't justify another reread of Norwegian Wood.

Best read: To psych yourself up before hitting the hotel gym.

Discover More
14 Books Every Solo Female Traveller Should Read