Great Novellas discussion

What are some great novellas?

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I want to read more novellas this year.

What are some of your favorites?

I am looking for novellas of all genres: lit, regular old fiction, SF, horror, comedy, etc.

message 2: by Melanie (new)

Melanie (meloknee) | 5 comments House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros.The House on Mango Street

message 3: by Melanie (new)

Melanie (meloknee) | 5 comments Wait, wait, I've got an even better one: Pedro Páramo Juan Rulfo was key to the introduction of Latin American Magical Realism.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Nice! Those sound great.

I was actually going to get for you for Christmas the novella I just finished - The Driver's Seat, by Muriel Spark - but I couldn't find it at any stores.

It is awesome, you should definitely check it out.

That Ruflo novella sounds great, and as a bonus I've also been meaning to read more Magical Realism, so win-win.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

'Coma' by Alex Garland is one that comes to mind and also 'Old School' by Tobias Wolff.

message 6: by John (new)

John In the sci-fi bucket, I really enjoyed the first two novellas in Geoff Ryman's Unconquered Countries (the last two are worth reading also), and J. G. Ballard's "The Ultimate City," which unfortunately can only be found in his Low Flying Aircraft collection from 1978.

Also, I know how you feel about Gene Wolfe, but I found his novella "The Ziggurat," in his Strange Travellers collection, one of the most frightening sci-fi horror stories I've ever read (and the prose is pretty clear & straight forward, unlike in his New Sun novels). The three novellas in Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus are somewhat more conceptual but I also found them to be pretty thrilling reads.

On the border between science fiction fantasy and horror is China Mieville's novella "The Tain" in his Looking for Jake collection.

As for horror, I really enjoyed Peter Straub's Pork Pie Hat, which draws heavily on another truly awesome horror novella, Machen's Great God Pan.

Finally, in the general/mainstream lit category, I'd recommend Simon Leys's The Death of Napoleon.

I hope there is something here that might interest you. Good luck!

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I will be reading Machen's The Great God Pan soon, as well as a whole series of mythos-based and weird fiction novellas.

I am constantly looking for my entry point into Wolfe's fiction, so I will look into The Ziggurat.

I love JG Ballard, but haven't read that one. Running Wild is a terrific novella.

Thanks for the recs, I am adding them to my 'master list'.

message 8: by Nancy (new)

Nancy If we are using Wikipedia's definition of a novella (100-199 pages), then this is just a little long at 224 pages.

There are a number of stunning illustrations by Brian Froud, so the story may come close to qualifying as a novella after all.

Something Rich and Strange, by Patricia McKillip is a beautiful, magical story about Megan, an artist, and Jonah, a shop owner, and the unusual characters they meet.

I read this story in one sitting and just as Jonah was lured to the sea by a beautiful voice, I was compelled to get in my car and drive to the beach on a miserable, rainy day.

This is not a fast-paced story. It is dreamlike, magical and enchanting. If you love the sea and all its treasures, you will be drawn in.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I like to think of a novella as being less than 200 pages in a mass market PB, around 180 for a trade-size - which would qualify a lot of classic SF.


Is word count the only thing that defines a novella?

What is longer, a novella or a novelette?

message 10: by Matt (new)

Matt (celebrim) | 1 comments Novellete is shorter.

So far as I know, word count is the defining feature. At least, that is the criteria that the Hugo awards use to separate short stories, novelletes, novellas, and full novels.

I've always seen the separation as an excuse to offer more awards. From the 19th century onward, the novel and the short story are fully developed styles of fiction. I'm not sure what literary criteria we'd use to separate the novella from a novel or novellette from a short story other than length, but having never read alot of either I can't definitively say that there isn't one.

For example, a short story is generally considered to be contained within a single 'chapter' which is a simple self-contained story arc. Perhaps a novellette is a a story that can be broken into several acts, each of which is itself a short story, but no more than a certain small number or these - three or five seems a likely choice for western literature.

One of the problems would then be defining these acts in a rigorous way. For example, Anathem has 937 pages, but the author has broken it into something like 7 acts. It would be lovely if we could demonstrate that each act was itself a novellette, but I suspect that modern literature lacks any such rigorous discipline.

message 11: by Nancy (last edited Jan 06, 2009 12:59PM) (new)

Nancy Another favorite is Paul Di Filippo's A Year in the Linear City. I loved the description of the city, the characters and the sheer imagination and originality of this story. The style and bizarre setting reminds me a little of China Miéville or Jeff VanderMeer. On the downside, the story is short (a novella?) and doesn't explore the mysteries of this world in sufficient length.

This story can be found in a collection titled Cities, edited by Peter Crowther and featuring stories by China Miéville, Geoff Ryman and Michael Moorcock. You can also get an electronic version of DiFilippo's story at

message 12: by Jerrod (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) D_Davis;
I agree Novellas are where it's at. A good satisfying story that doesn't involve a huge investment of time or patience. Anyway here a a few that I like, the * novella's might be harder to get and/or expensive [for the size of the book anyway:] based on small, exclusive printings.

*Nearly People by Conrad Williams
*The Scalding Rooms by Conrad Williams
Lye Street by Alan Campbell [prequel to scar night novel which is #1 in a trilogy:]
King of Souls by Brian Knight

Just a few on the brain right now anyway. Are you using a strict definition of novella? Sticking between ~50-100 pages?

message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael (elstongunn59) | 1 comments Give 'The Death of Ivan Ilyich' by Tolstoy a shot. I think you would dig it. Pretty devastating read.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Mikey, Jerrod - thanks. Added to my 'to read' list.

Nancy - I've been meaning to read some Di Filippo, so I will queue this up.


This thread is proving to be quite useful.

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

So today at lunch I went novella shopping. I had a gift cert. and a punch card good for $100 at Eliot Bay Books in Seattle.

I purchased:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Pedro Paramo - Juan Ruflo
To a God Unknown - John Steinbeck
The Great Romance - The Inhabitant (an anonymously written utopian SF novel from New Zealand, written around 1881 - sounds awesome!)
Cenotaxis - Sean Williams
Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

One of my favorite new-found horror authors, Kealan Patrick Burke, has decided to release some of his early novellas as free downloads:

I haven't read them yet, but I am really looking forward to it. Especially 'The Turtle Boy'.

message 17: by Melanie (new)

Melanie (meloknee) | 5 comments Dan,

I took a couple Latin American lit classes in high school and college, so if you need anymore magical realism recs, I can look through my collection. Back when I actually read books that are considered thought provoking and "literature" as opposed to the pulp fiction I prefer to read these days, magical realism and latin lit were by far my favorite genre. The one for few things that truly suck about proofreading for a living is that the last thing you want to do when you finish a long day of work is pick up a book. Now days, I need something that I can sit down and read in one sitting, otherwise it never gets read.

OK, sorry, that was totally off-subject.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Nah, that's cool Mel. I'll totally hit you up for some recs later.

I've always found it funny that 'Magical Realism' is really just fantasy for the lit-minded scholar.


It's crazy to think that where a book is shelved in a book store largely determines its fate in the lit/scholarly world and its chances of being taken seriously as a work of powerful fiction.

I, too, tend to hang out in the ghettos of the pulps and genre, and that is where I love to be.

message 19: by Nancy (last edited Jan 06, 2009 05:29PM) (new)

Nancy D_Davis wrote: "One of my favorite new-found horror authors, Kealan Patrick Burke, has decided to release some of his early novellas as free downloads:

I haven'..."

Oh, goody! I'll have to read "The Turtle Boy" online so my signed edition can stay pristine.

message 20: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Tim Lebbon's four novellas are also worth checking out:

Fears Unnamed

And Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain is beautiful and heartbreaking. I've yet to see the film.

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Nice - I'll definitely check out Lebbon's book of novellas.

Great rec!

message 22: by Ben (new)

Ben (benjaminaaron) Check out The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes. I read this early last year and was blown away by how good it was.

message 23: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 11 comments some favorites:
AURA by Carlos Fuentes
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (does that count as a novella?)
ah...I had whole list in my head, and it's one momentarily (I hope) blank...

but I can't recommend AURA highly enough. (I am also a huge fan of Pedro Paramo.)

message 24: by Sally (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) The best collection of novellas I've read this year was :

Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-shorts

Amazing writing.

message 25: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 11 comments Sally, I have that book (on your recommendation!) and I love it (thank you!). But those are not novellas, but short-short fiction, what's sometimes called flash fiction (I dislike the term). They are shorter than a traditional length story, whereas a novella is shy of being a traditional length novel.

message 26: by Sally (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) Oh. Well, I wasn't sure where the translation border was on that one. :) Sorry!

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Jerrod wrote: "Just a few on the brain right now anyway. Are you using a strict definition of novella? Sticking between ~50-100 pages? "

I want to expand the length of a novella to 200 pages in a mass market PB - at least in terms of what I am looking for and what I like to read.

I've read that ~150 pages is the cut-off, but by today's gargantuan standards, I think we could add a couple dozen pages to the novella.


So no, I am not being very strict. Novella, or a very, very short novel.

message 28: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 11 comments no hay de que.
as they say in Spanish.
that book needs more press anyway!

message 29: by Cathy (new)

Cathy (cathydavis01comcastnet) | 1 comments So I'm not as up on all this as the rest of you. Is a novella completely defined by length? Is there any genre they must belong to?

message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Length only.

I guess a novella is usually around 50-150 pages - although word count would be more accurate because page-count can be kind of arbitrary.

message 31: by Melanie (new)

Melanie (meloknee) | 5 comments Jessica, I second your rec. for Aura!

message 32: by Melanie (new)

Melanie (meloknee) | 5 comments D_Davis wrote:

I've always found it funny that 'Magical Realism' is really just fantasy for the lit-minded scholar.

I kept thinking about what you said here. It's interesting to me and I'd like to know if other readers out there agree with what you said here. Personally, as you know, I've never been into Fantasy. That's all you and mom. I think there's something about the way that magical realism tends to use spirituality as the bridge between the reality and fantasy that makes me more able to grasp. As though it's not the author that is creating an alter universe, but the individual characters. Then again, I don't read fantasy, so for all I know, the same could be said for that.

Look at me spouting off like some lit-minded scholar ;)

message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 08, 2009 08:17AM) (new)

I was really just being ultra reductive.


I've had that debate with others before, and honestly I don't know enough about MR to really argue. However, the few MR short stories I've read have reminded me of the fantasy stuff I like to read. Mainly urban fantasy and dark fantasy/horror - not the elf and dragon stuff. I'm done with that.

Some of the old weird stuff by Machen, Blackwood, Dunsany, Smith et al., has also reminded me of MR, at least in terms of tone. I bet you might like these above mentioned authors, you might even dig Thomas Ligotti who has written some amazing short stories and novellas.

And Michael Cisco is superb. Again, The Divinity Student is just about the greatest thing I've ever read, and I so far while reading PP, I would bet that Cisco was at least somewhat influenced by MR. His goal with that book was to make the reader feel like he was dreaming while reading, and he totally pulls it off.

The execution and intent are probable different though. MR us also more surreal.

You should check out the book I mentioned in the Pedro thread I started:

Last Dragon by JM McDermott.

Don't worry, there aren't any dragons in it!


Here is a review I wrote for it:

And speaking of ultra reductive, like Gene Wolfe said, "All novels are fantasy, some are just more honest about it."

message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

I just ordered a two volume set of science fiction novellas voted on by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Looking forward to getting these collections.

message 35: by Jerrod (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) D_Davis,
we'll since you have an expanded vision of 'novella', like myself, I'll recommend The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith. It's different from his other works, which isn't allot, that I've read, but It's still an enjoyable work. It clocks in around 200 pages.

Also you might want to check out some stories by Philip K Dick, he's got some interesting short fiction, mainly sci-fi. Might be something to kill time, but I'm not sure if he would be an author you would be interest in.

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

"Also you might want to check out some stories by Philip K Dick, he's got some interesting short fiction, mainly sci-fi. Might be something to kill time, but I'm not sure if he would be an author you would be interest in."


I only have a handful of his novels left to read. He's my favorite author, and I am savoring those last few PKD novels. It is going to be a sad day when I no longer have a new PKD book to read.

I'm not as into his short fiction as am his novels, but I am starting a collection of novellas tonight - The Variable Man.

But I guess after I finish his novels, I'll have to read the short stories. They're sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting.

message 37: by Bill (new)

Bill (billymac) D, you must have read Stephen King's Different Seasons. Of course, this contains The Body and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and Apt Pupil.
The last story I wasn't overly keen on. But I loved those three. I remember reading them about 25 years ago during my midnight shift breaks.

Also, you must read Dan Simmons' Lovedeath. Five novellas, and two, the first one about insurance claims (hilarious) and Dying in Bangkok (just great) are must reads. The Great Lover is a horrific account of trench war in WW1.

Hope you enjoy these...

message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Bill - I've only read Shawshank, but I recently ordered the book to read the rest.

I'll check out Lovedeath - thanks!

message 39: by Jerrod (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) If you haven't already, you should definitley read both The Hellbound Heart and Cabal by Clive Barker.

message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

Read 'em.

Pretty good. My favorite Barker is Weaveworld, but I am not a huge fan of his work.

message 41: by Jerrod (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) He's definitley not for everyone. Weaveworld is one of his best, but I think the best I've read from him is Imagica.

message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

I love Weaveworld - it is such a fantastic and dark urban-fantasy. The atmosphere is incredible.

I've tried to read Imajica twice, and I just can't get into it.

I'm really looking forward to his newest one though - sounds fascinating.

message 43: by Jerrod (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) How are/did you like Nearly People?

message 44: by Jerrod (last edited Feb 03, 2009 05:19AM) (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) x3 by Gary A Braunbeck was good. Three Sci-Fi tales all regarding some form of time travel. I would have rated it higher but I felt that he should have put another story or two; it just seemed too short.

message 45: by Jerrod (last edited Feb 22, 2009 05:00PM) (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) Jigsaw Men is a great little novella. Under the premise that Frankenstein's theory worked and the martin invasion from War Of The World's is fact. Plus the British empire is whole and that is the setting, Here is a quick blurb about the book:

Detective Livingstone has been assigned to investigate the apparent abduction of Danielle, the daughter of Lord Trafalgar, British Minister for the Judiciary. The eyes of the peer, Livingstone's superiors and the press are on him. He hardly dares tell anyone that his only lead is a porn video that seems to show Danielle engaging in sexual acts with a man with six testicles -- a Jigsaw Man, one of the nation's underclass of reanimated soldiers. This unsavory clue leads Livingstone to uncover a much wider plot, one that threatens to change the face of a world in which World Wars One and Two were fought with Frankenstein's monsters and Martian Heat-Rays

message 46: by Nancy (last edited Jul 04, 2009 05:19AM) (new)

Nancy Jerrod wrote: "x3 by Gary A Braunbeck was good. Three Sci-Fi tales all regarding some form of time travel. I would have rated it higher but I felt that he should have put another story or two; it ..."

I loved Gary Braunbeck's In Silent Graves. It was one of the most thoughtful horror/dark fantasy stories I've read recently. I've yet to read his shorter works.

message 47: by Nancy (last edited Jul 04, 2009 05:26AM) (new)

Nancy The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson was excellent. It is an adventure story with some horror and sci-fi elements that never felt dated to me. It was also a very thoughtful story about what it means to be a man and a human.

message 48: by Jerrod (new)

Jerrod (liquidazrael) I recently found out that In Silent Graves is the paperback edition to the Limited HC that was titled The Indifference of Heaven. Word of warning though, you must read all of Braunbecks paperback fiction before reading his new one released this month, per Braunbeck.

And I agree nancy, In Silent Graves/Indifference of Heaven was an amazing book, so far I've really enjoyed all his material.

message 49: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) | 11 comments "The Driver's Seat" by Muriel Spark

my review here:

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

The Driver's Seat is amazing. Spark is awesome.

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