What Are Some Classic Books That Can Be Read Quickly?
Posted on 30th of October, 2018


As other people here have already pointed out, many of the so called "classics" are really not that long when you take a closer look at them. It is simply because some of the larger books like War and Peace tend to steal most of the limelight that people are under the mistaken impression that for a book to qualify as a "classic" it must be big enough to shatter a floor tile if you drop it. Classics is also a very broad category, which could mean anything from Victorian era books to The Old Man and the Sea or Lord of the Flies. Most places where you can buy or borrow classic books these days will also have some form of information where you can check out the page count, so first figure out what type of books you would like to read within the "classics" genre and then go for the ones that are short enough to fit in your time schedule.
I can easily read a thousand page book in a single evening, but someone else may struggle to complete ten pages before bedtime. What qualifies as short to different people is going to depend on exactly how much time they have as well as the speed at which they are able to read. My advice is to read whatever classic book you are interested in and forget about the page or word count. If a book is long, but good, why would you rob yourself of the opportunity to read it? To those complaining about the amount of available time that they have to read, what does it matter? There's no law stating that you only have a certain amount to complete a book. You simply keep reading it while you have the time and eventually you are going to finish it, even if it takes a couple of months. If it's not about the quality of the books, but instead an attempt to brag about how many classics you have read, then you might as well just skim the synopsis’s for the books online as you don't really care about the content in any case. What about modern books that are all published in a series? Do you only read books with no sequels or if they fall under a certain page count too?
"Classics" are not a genre that you MUST read even if you don't want to, so I don't know why anyone would want to read them as quickly as possible. Having said that, I know that not everyone has the same amount of time available for reading and some classics can be a little wordy (I'm looking at you War and Peace), so here's my suggestions;

1. Die Verwandlung by Franz Kafka - I believe that outside of my country, this book is known as "The Metamorphosis" and it is quite worth the time it takes to complete it. It is a short story that can be read rather quickly. I would really recommend reading the original German novella if possible because of the unique way in which Kafka wrote his sentences. This is something that I believe the English translations are not able to fully capture. The story appears rather simple and surreal as it features a salesman who struggles to adapt to the fact that he has someone transformed into a giant insect, but there are plenty of deeper insights to mull over after reading the book.

2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - I'm always surprised by how many people think that Heart of Darkness is a huge book because they have seen the Francis Ford Coppola movie, Apocalypse Now, which was inspired by the book. Heart of Darkness was originally a three-part serial story that was published in some magazine, so it's really not as lenghty as many people believe. Conrad was inspired by his own travel journals when he wrote the story and the book has since been used as the inspiration for other books, films and even games. It's been included as one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century, so I would say it definitely qualifies as a short classic.

3. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I'll finish things off with a book that I strongly believe is a classic, but it doesn't always get the love or recognition that it deserves. It is also only 200 odd pages long, so still qualifies as a "short "book in my opinion. Ethan Frome is not an "easy" book to read in the sense that it deals with some very harrowing elements, but it is a very compelling one. It also features a nice twist that I won't spoil, but in essence it is about a man named Ethan Frome who falls in love with his wife's cousin. Things become rather complicated because Ethan's wife is sick and her cousin takes care of her. To say anything more would ruin a good story, so read it and see if you agree with me that it is a bona fide classic.
It is funny how everyone hears the word "classic" literature and they automatically just think that the books are going to be huge and complicated. I think you would be surprised by just how many classic books are out there that are laugh out loud funny, riveting or suspenseful without you having to have a degree in literature to enjoy them. If you want to read classic books purely for the enjoyment, then I have plenty of suggestions. If, however, you simply want to read a classic book as quickly as possible in order to appear snobbish or something, then you really are better off sticking with the latest bestsellers. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume that lack of time is your motivation for this question, so here are my suggestions.

1. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley - 1818. There is a brand new movie about Mary Shelley coming out soon, so what better time to get acquainted with this classic book if you have not already done so. You especially need to read this book if your impression of Frankenstein's creature is that of a dumb, lumbering brute who can only growl out monosyllabic words. Popular culture has completely twisted this classic tale around to the point that think the Creature is actually called Frankenstein. The book has less than 300 pages and you get to see the experience from the perspective of Victor Frankenstein, the Creature as well as Captain Walton.

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 1925. With the amount of awards and nominations that this book has received, it is probably unlikely that you have not already read it. If not, and your only experience with Jay Gatsby and the object of his affection, Daisy Buchanan, is with the movies, then you must read it. It has got less than 200 pages, but the description of the Roaring Twenties is so vivid that you feel you can step into the pages and experience it for yourself. While the story doesn't feel very complex when you first read it, it is the type of book that you can read over and over to discover new meanings, which is one of the things that make it a classic in my opinion.

3. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - 1898. I can't really say that I have a fondness for the horror genre, but I'll gladly make an exception for The Turn of the Screw. This book is a classic in every sense of the word and don't let anyone else tell you differently. It is essentially a novella, so it weighs in at less than 100 pages, but every one of them is good. Even critics have long argued whether this is really a horror story about ghosts or if the sanity of one of the characters are simply questionable. I'll leave it up to you to come to your own conclusion.

4. Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - 1886. Like Frankenstein, this classic by Robert Louis Stevenson is a tale that everyone thinks they know, but I would wager that not that many has actually sat down and read the original story. It is a very brief tale and can be read in a single sitting, but combines elements of horror and mystery along with drama and even science fiction. In the book, a Dr named Jekyll manages to transform into an evil alter ego with the name of Mr. Hyde by using potions. He does this in an attempt to separate his good and bad sides, but it ultimately ends in tragedy. This book has less than 100 pages, so you can easily read it in a single sitting.

5. War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells - 1898. Forget the movies, forget the television shows, you can even forget the original radio drama, this novel by H. G. Wells is the real deal. I've read somewhere that this book has never been out of print, which is a true testament to its enduring popularity. It is not just one of the earliest books about aliens invading our planet, but in my opinion, still one of the very best. Oh, and it is also less than 200 pages, which qualifies as short in my opinion.

6. Animal Farm by George Orwell - 1945. I'll end off my suggestions with this classic by George Orwell, Animal Farm. Everyone can quote the "all animals are equal" line from the book, but when asked to describe more than just the basic plot outline they begin to falter. This is one of those classics that even I thought I had read until I read it again and discovered that I haven't really. It's obviously a very political book, but still very relevant and very interesting to this day. At less than 150 pages, it is also a very short book to cross off your reading list.
"Short" is subjective, so for the purpose of my answers I'm going to assume that you agree with me that it is any classical literature that is under two hundred pages in length.

1 The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - Hemingway is well known in the classical literature circles, but did you know that one of his best books is also one of his shortest. Just read The Old Man and the Sea, it is something like 120 pages (although it felt like even less to me the last time that I read it), which means it can easily be completed in one evening. The book is basically about the epic struggle between an aging fisherman and the massive marlin that he reels in after months of bad luck. Determined not to lose his prize catch, the old man spends days trying to get the fish back to shore, battling hungry sharks in the process. It's a riveting book and well deserved of its classic status.

2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Steinbeck is another famous name in classic literature and Of Mice and Men is one of my favorite works by him. The story takes place during the Great Depression era of the United States and deals with two migrant ranch workers who attempt to make a living during this difficult period. The book has less than 200 pages (180 if I remember correctly), but makes the most of them. It is quite a tragic story and some of the controversial themes in this book has resulted in it being the frequent target of censors. However, you shouldn't let any of this stand in the way of enjoying this great book.

3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - Everyone knows Oscar Wilde as a playwright and for his poetry, which makes The Picture of Dorian Gray a real classic. It is the only novel that Wilde ever wrote and while I can't remember the exact page count, it is short enough to complete in a day with ease. The book is about Dorian Gray, a man who is so handsome that an artist begs him to allow him to paint his picture. This event catapults the young man into a lifestyle of hedonism, but he begins to fear what will happen if his beauty fades with ages. After taking the drastic measure of selling his soul in return for eternal youth, it is the painting that begins to age instead of Dorian, but this takes a toll on the conscious of the young man.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - This one gets mentioned a lot, but it is not only a classic, it is also very underrated despite all the acclaim. It was the only novel Emily Bronte ever wrote before her untimely death and one can't help but wonder what other tales she would have come up with if her life turned out a little differently. The story is spread out across a number of years and it is not quite the love story that I see many people think it is. The protagonist, Heathcliff, who is adopted, but runs away when the love of his life decides to wed another man. It isn't until he is rich and successful that he returns for his revenge.

5. Between The Acts by Virginia Woolf - For my final choice, I selected something a little different. There is no doubt in my mind that Virginia Woolf is a classic author, but I wonder how many people have really read her final book, Between The Acts. It is less than 200 pages and it is about a play. Woolf herself considered the story to be too silly and planned on revising it, but never got around to it before she committed suicide. In the end, the novel was published after her death and while it is not her best work, it deserves its spot on this list.

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