Great Short Books: A Year of Reading—Briefly

Scribner. Nov. 2022. 448p. ISBN 9781982180034. $28. REF
Hoping to inspire more people to read short novels, journalist and historian Davis (Don’t Know Much About History) offers an outstanding list of 58 short novels. Defining short novels as works between 100 and 200 pages, Davis combines an annotated bibliography with a recommended reading list. Each five- to six-page entry opens with complete bibliographic information and the first lines from the work, before moving on to plot summary, a short biography of the author, an evaluation, and recommendations for further reading. Entries are arranged alphabetically by title, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, from 1759 (Candide: or Optimism) to 2019 (The Nickel Boys). They include children’s titles (Charlotte’s Web), adult titles (Sula), and Nobel Prize winners (Ernest Hemingway; Kazuo Ishiguro; Thomas Mann). Addressing a wide variety of themes including politics, coming of age, coming out, despair, marriage, racism, totalitarianism, and sex, Davis adheres to three rules: page length, works that were new to him, and reading for pleasure. This work concludes with two indexes covering author and publication date; a list of the 11 Nobel Prize winners found in this book; an appendix recommending additional titles; and Davis’s top 16 favorites.
VERDICT Will be of interest to bibliophiles, teachers, and those looking for reading suggestions beyond the traditional recommended reading resources.
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