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.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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.

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