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Novella Challenge (or Another List of Short Books)

October 16, 2009

november-novella-challenge-300x181Who, me? Join another challenge? Shocking! Actually, since four challenges end this month for me, I don’t feel the tiniest twinge of guilt for joining in J.T. Oldfield’s November Novella Challenge. Which, we’re allowed to start early (*cough*read-a-thon*cough*). In the challenge description, J.T. says novellas are 70-120 pages, but when I asked about a book that’s called a novella but is over the 120 limit, I got the go-ahead! (It’s actually quite difficult to find books that are 120 pages or less.) I’m officially signing up for Level III, which is to read 8 novellas in November, but the books I found are so enticing I might find myself at Level IV, the ‘read as many as you freakin’ can’ level. And because I’m me, I ended up making a ridiculously huge pool that I will now share with you annotated style!

Almost all of the books on this list are less than 200 pages, and most of them call themselves novellas (or are called so by others). Several of the novellas come in a collection of short stories; I’ve indicated when that happens. As long as the novella itself falls within the original challenge parameters, I’ve astericked it (because I like following rules, even when they’re flexible). I got a lot of ideas from the Novella Challenge Trish held last year. :) Also, all of the books on this list are available at my library, so that left out a lot of wonderful sounding small books! And, I don’t do challenge crossovers, so if I’m reading a novella for another challenge, you won’t see it here. Let’s get going!

  • Angels & Insects: Two Novellas by A.S. Byatt : I’m listening to this one on CD right now, so I’m not sure if I’ll actually count it. But it’s two marvelous Victorian-style novellas-I’ve finished “Morpho Eugenia” and am in the middle of “The Conjugal Angel” (which features some Tennysons! and mediums!). Byatt’s one of my very favourite authors, so I love pretty much anything written by her, but I really think these will appeal to fans of Possession, since they have a similar style.
  • Disquiet by Julia Leigh*: I got this one for the read-a-thon, but even if I don’t pick it up then I intend to read it! As I said in my read-a-thon list, this one is a Gothic story set in a French chateau.
  • Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto*: I read two of Yoshimoto’s novellas in January (contained in the book Kitchen) and loved them! This book features two more stories about contemporary Japanese youth.
  • The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier: I’ve been wanting to read more by Latina/o authors lately, and this book by a Cuban set in post-independence Haiti sounds perfect.
  • The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins: I put this in my R.I.P. IV pool originally, but I don’t need more R.I.P. reads. ;) I love Collins, and I wanted at least one classic author in this pool!
  • From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury: another one I’ve transferred over from my R.I.P. pool! I’ve been wanting to read more Bradbury since reading Something Wicked This Way Comes a couple years ago.
  • Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson: this one’s only 130 pages, so very close to the 120 limit! Anyway, Woodson is one of my new favourite authors-this will be the third book of hers I’ve read this year. It’s told in letters from a 12-year-old boy to his younger sister; they’re both living in foster care but have been split up.
  • The Girl With the Golden Shoes by Colin Channer: I typed ‘novella’ into my library’s catalogue and looked at the results; this one immediately jumped out at me because of the title! Then I saw it was described as a Caribbean fairy tale, and I was sold!
  • Agamemnon’s Daughter: a Novella and Stories by Ismail Kadare*: another one with a great title! Kadare is an Albanian who won the Man Booker International Prize. Two of my four very favourite authors (and many of my other favourites) happen to be popular with the Booker committee, so I’m always curious about those prize winners. The title story is the novella; there are two other stories in the collection.
  • Little Star of Bela Lua by Luana Monteiro*: I’m fascinated by Brazil, so I was excited to stumble across a female Brazilian author! Especially one who favours magical realism. :D The book includes a novella and three stories.
  • Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang*: although I’ve been reading more POC fiction, I haven’t been too focused on Asian American authors. Chang is Chinese American, and this book (which includes one novella and five stories) focuses on recent immigrants.
  • Tumble Home: a Novella and Short Stories by Amy Hempel*: Hempel was one of my favourite authors in high school, and I still remember some of her short stories perfectly, they’re so amazing. I can’t wait to read more of her! The title story is the novella.
  • The Ladies From St. Petersburg: Three Novellas by Nina Berberova: St. Petersburg! A Russian female author! The Revolution!
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe: I’ve never read Goethe, but I’ve always meant to! This novella, which was a ‘cult classic’ back in its day, seems like the perfect introduction.
  • Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle*: isn’t that another great title?! It seems like novellas have more evocative titles than novels. Anyway, this sounds like a hauntingly beautiful story, that looks at a couple in the wake of the death of their baby.
  • There are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union: a Novella and Five Stories by Reginald Hill: if you know anything about me, you know I can’t pass up a book with ‘ghosts’ and a reference to Russia in the title! :) These are appartently a variety of detective stories, which I find extra-intriguing. (However, I can’t find the page count anywhere online, so I have no idea how long the novella is!)
  • The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys: I transferred this slim book over from the Canadian Challenge! Even though it’s published by Norton, it sounds like a total Persephone book, set on an estate in England full of Canadian soldiers and English girls planting victory gardens during WWII.
  • Before We Were Free or A Cafecito Story by Julia Alvarez: the latter title sounds a touch more interesting (it’s about coffee farming and sustainability), but it’s in a bilingual edition and I can’t tell from the page count if it works for the challenge! If not, Before We Were Free, about a 12-year-old girl in the dictatorship of 60s Dominican Republic, sounds really good too.
  • The Touchstone by Edith Wharton*: Wharton is another old favourite of mine who I can always trust to deliver a marvelous (though depressing) story! This is her first published novella, about a man who has to live with a guilty conscience.
  • Detective Story by Imre Kertesz*: Kertesz won the Nobel prize, which I tend to be oblivious to, but I loved Kristin Lavransdatter by another European Nobel laureate! Kertesz is a Hungarian Jewish author who survived the Holocaust; while this book is set in Latin America and a murder mystery, it still speaks out against dictatorships.
  • When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka: another Asian American for my list! :) When I as in elementary school, I read this really affecting book about Japanese internment camps (called The Moon Bridge), but I haven’t read anything about it since. This novella looks at the effect of the camps on several generations of one Japanese American family.
  • Raise the Red Lantern by Su Tong*: I mentioned earlier this year that most of my contemporary Chinese fiction reading has been by male authors, and I’ve noticed quite a bit of misogyny that really frustrates me. But I figure I’ll give the guys one last shot, with this collection of three novellas (“Nineteen Thirty-Four Escapes”, “Opium Family”, and the title story).
  • Aura by Carlos Fuentes*: it’s bilingual, which means I can read the English part and then amuse myself pretending to speak Spanish. ;) Anyway, Fuentes is a Panama (? I have no idea what the adjective is) author, and this sounds like a gothic-y story: young man goes to mansion with old woman and her young niece with beautiful green eyes.
  • Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco*: I LOVED Baricco’s earlier novella, Silk, so even though this one is about war, I’m willing to trust that he’ll make it beautiful.
  • A Smile of Fortune by Joseph Conrad*: I read Conrad’s most famous novella, Heart of Darkness, for the first novella challenge and really enjoyed it. I thought it’d be neat if, for my second taste of him, I chose a more obscure one-it’s focused on a ship captain, which I like since I enjoy nautical books!
  • In the Heart of the Country by J.M. Coetzee: I’ve been wanting to try out Coetzee forever, but he makes me nervous. Starting out with a shorter work makes me less so!
  • The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate: I studied Latin in high school, and went to a tiny residential liberal arts college, so I’m a sucker for boarding school stories, especially about classics teachers!

Do you like novellas? What’s your favourite?

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 7:23 am

    So many of these I have not heard of. I can’t wait to read your reviews. Peace, Locomotion is such a great book. Happy reading.

  2. October 16, 2009 7:24 am

    Without Blood is beautiful and I remember enjoying it as much as Silk.

  3. October 16, 2009 7:28 am

    Sadly, I shouldn’t join this challenge. I have several novellas I want to read (Cousin Phillis by Gaskell, The Haunted Hotel (didn’t realize that was a novella) and more), but with NaNo going on in November, I want all pressure off!

  4. October 16, 2009 7:48 am

    You reminded me of a novella I read over and over again in jr. high-The Tent by Gary Paulsen. If you’ve read anything else by Paulsen (ie Hatchet) this is different. I loved it! Now I have to track down a copy to reread!

  5. October 16, 2009 7:53 am

    I like Lady Susan by Jane Austen.

  6. October 16, 2009 8:01 am

    You have some awesome sounding books here, Eva! I don’t think I’ll be joining the challenge officially, but I’d really like to read 200 books this year (based on my current numbers, it probably won’t happen but I’d still like to try) and a few novellas might help me get there. I’ve starred your post so I can go back and read more closely when I’m looking for some ideas for shorter books.

  7. October 16, 2009 8:29 am

    Hi Eva! Thanks for joining the challenge! It looks like you have a pretty great list there!

  8. Bea permalink
    October 16, 2009 8:52 am

    I don’t know how to call someone from Panama in English, but in Spanish we call them Panameños [/trivia]

    I recently finished Gaskell’s Mr Harrison’s Confessions and it’s so sweet! Plus, it’s so nice to find the ties that bind together Cranford (the TV series). I’m saving My Lady Ludlow for the challenge, though.

  9. Bea permalink
    October 16, 2009 8:54 am

    Oh, nevermind, is Panamanian. Still, Panameño sounds better (in my opinion, at least!)

  10. October 16, 2009 9:04 am

    I like novellas, but I never thought that there are very many of them out there; they rarely seem to be published individually — and often are included with short story collections.

    I think the most memorable novella (both for story and writing) I’ve read was “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx. Still haven’t seen the movie!

    Anyway, a lot of the novellas on you list look interesting!

  11. October 16, 2009 11:09 am

    The Haunted Hotel is a great one. And how can you have too many RIP reads? ;) Just because people are starting to question my sanity because of my double digit entries into the challenge doesn’t mean that you can’t let there be a little overflow on a challenge!

    BTW … I think I’m going to over-read on my 1% Well-Read Challenge too. I just can’t stop reading classics and RIP books!

  12. October 16, 2009 1:50 pm

    this is quite a list!! I love Byatt also, although I find anything other than Possession to be a little much. Although I still love her. I’ve heard Angels and Insects is quite good.

  13. October 16, 2009 6:30 pm

    I guess I don’t often think about whether a book is a “novella” or not – but I tend toward longer, heftier stories, simply because I like to have my books last a long time!

    You’ve put together an amazing list there, with so many books that are new to me. Good luck with this challenge :)

  14. October 17, 2009 1:05 am

    thanks for posting all the great suggestions-I already have a copy of “Hardboiled” by Banana Yoshimoto-91 pages-on my sort of reading schedule for November so I decided sign up for level one of the November Novella challenge-

  15. October 17, 2009 2:56 am

    I remember when Swimmer In The Secret Sea was first published in Redbook. I thought it was so beautiful and sad.

  16. October 17, 2009 6:00 am

    What a wonderful list of books, I have just lately been looking at shorter fiction just to fit between the bigger stuff so maybe I should join in this challenge even though I have promised myself to give up challenges for a few months ha! I have only read The Haunted Hotel on your list as it was part of my sensation season.

    I would recommend… Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys which I think is short enough and the wonderful surreal book by Ian McEwan ‘The Daydreamer’ which I read only last week, I also would read The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill which you can win this week too. Phew. Lots of short books I would recommend. Will be looking at all yours too.

  17. October 17, 2009 6:15 am

    I love novellas in one sense because they get to the heart of the story quicker than a full-length novel. They are perfect for avid readers because you can read many more in a year than novels! Cantarabooks.com is a small international literary press that publishes novellas. Mine, titled “Degrees of Freedom” was just published there!

  18. October 17, 2009 7:40 am

    I loved The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennet (176 pages). This is the story of a married couple who came home from the opera and found that they had – literally – be robbed of everything they owned (including the casserole in the oven). The liberation that they discover, being freed of their “stuff” is something for us all to consider. Funny, charming, and poignant.

    Also, although a tad over the limit (208 pages), I highly recommend Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment. I reviewed it on my blog.

  19. October 17, 2009 8:27 am

    How fun! I don’t read many (any?) novellas so none of these sound familiar. But if Raise the Red Lantern is based on the movie, I did enjoy the movie!

  20. October 17, 2009 10:33 am

    Vasilly, I’m glad you liked Peace, Locomation! It sounds a bit heart-rending. :)

    Claire, wonderful! I LOVED Silk!

    Amanda, come on…the lowest level is just one novella! That’s like an hour of reading! ;) (Not that I’m a challenge pusher or anything…)

    Sarah, I haven’t read anything by Paulsen, but thanks for the rec! I’m off to look it up. :)

    Bluestocking, Austen’s one of my fave writers, but I’ve always avoided her juvenilia and ‘bits’ (don’t think that’s the technical term). It’s like I want to know there’s a little but of Austen still waiting for me to discover it. Weird, right?

    Heather, Novellas are a great way to help the reading stats! :)

    J.T., thanks for hosting!

    Bea, Panameños is so much fun to say! Much better than English version-thanks for filling me in. :D I heard that the TV adaptation of Cranford included other novellas of Gaskell’s-I definitely want to read them!

    Valerie, I’ve seen the movie. It depressed me. In general, Proulx always depresses me. :( Maybe I’ll have to give it a try though…

    Kristen, you can’t have too many R.I.P. reads! But since I’ve already completed the rules of the challenge, I thought I’d just shift them over here. ;) lol-I’m not into double digits yet though!

    Daphne, a little much?! A little too much awesomeness you mean? ;)

    Becca, I tend to longer books too, for the same reason. :) But this year, shorter books have started to grow on me a little.

    Mel U, I love Yoshimoto!!! I’m glad you signed up. :D

    Bybee, then I definitely want to read it!

    Savidgereads, thank you for the compliemtna nd the recs! I read The Man in the Picture in January of this year. :) But I love McEwan and I’m off to look up Henrietta’s War.

    Lori Gordon, thank you for commenting.

    Weekend Reader, that sounds marvelous! I loved Bennet’s The Uncommon Reader, and I’ve been trying to become less materialistic! And I’ll go check out your review of Heroic Measures!

    Rebecca, as I mentioned to Becca, I don’t usually read many novellas either. But this year, and especially w/ the read-a-thon, I’ve beena bit more focused on them! Didn’t realise there was a movie w/ Red Lantern!

  21. October 17, 2009 7:42 pm

    I really like novellas–there’s more to them than a short story yet you can read them fairly quickly still. Have you read Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black–it’s about 160 pages and excellent. Hesperus Press publishes lots of titles that would fit this category. Have fun–there are several books here I’d like to read as well–the Byatt and Humphreys especially!

  22. stacybuckeye permalink
    October 19, 2009 10:02 am

    Good luck on the challenge. What a great list for the read-a-thon this weekend. Thanks for the suggestions :)

  23. October 20, 2009 5:59 am

    Danielle, I keep wanting to read that, but no library has it and none of the bookstore I visit on impulse have it either! So weird! lol Thanks for letting me know about Hesperus. :)

    Stacybuckeye, thanks! I think they’re very read-a-thon-y too!

  24. October 22, 2009 4:23 pm

    i love banana too. i’ve got her on my novella list too.

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