Short stories and novellas can get lost in the shadow of epic novels and great works of biography, but the compact storytelling form can pack a wallop. Aside from my standbys Poe, Maupassant, Ambrose Bierce, O. Henry, and Conan Doyle, these are some of my favorite stories and novellas.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader

Leone Leoni by George Sand

This is one of the books I read in college that I didn’t sell back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. On the surface, it’s a light romance or melodrama, but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s an adventure, it’s psychological, it’s suspense. There are masked balls and alpine avalanches. I very much wish I could read it again for the first time.

First published in 1835, and only about 160 pages, it is available for free, digitally.

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Have you read this short story as an adult? The double-speak and false logic in it is uncanny. It feels less fantastical and more frustrating. Still, the imaginative quest is an enjoyable, and quick, read.

First published in 1865, it is about 70 pages and available for free, digitally

The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye

If, like me, you love the Sherlock stories but have read them all (over and over), try the collection of these adventures as imagined by Faye. Hers are the first pastiche pieces that forget I wasn’t reading Conan Doyle.

My review

Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles

An extension of Rules of Civility, this novella follows Evelyn’s story in Hollywood at the height of the golden age of cinema. With a cameo by Olivia DeHavilland, it’s a glittering snapshot of 1930s Los Angeles.

Only available digitally, it’s about 90 pages. 

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

This a charming, funny, first-person novel about the Duchess of Cavendish. Far from conventional, the 17th century woman was a writer of science fiction and managed to become a member of the Royal Society.

This entertaining novel clocks in at about 175 pages. 

The Curse of the Caste by Julia C. Collins

Written in serialized form in 1865, it is the first novel ever published by a black American woman. Centered around a mixed-race woman as she tried to navigate the Reconstruction era, it is set in antebellum Louisiana and Connecticut. Avid readers will recognize shades of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens in the storytelling.

It’s a great read and is only about 140 pages. 

Voltaire’s Calligrapher by Pablo de Santis

Translated by Lisa Carter.

The narrator happens to be a calligrapher for the playwright Voltaire. Yet his adventures range further than escaping a hangman or sustaining employment. He uncovers a steampunk wonder, with a sinister twist.

My review of the 160 page book. 

The 39 Steps by John Buchan

The quick, lithe spy adventure became a successful Hitchcock film — though the plot details differ quite a bit. Mistaken for a man who knows too much, Hannay must discover the secret of the 39 steps to get his pursuers to stop following him.

Go for a tense jaunt through the Scottish highlands in 100 pages. 


Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye

The novel is a spider web of small tales, each with an allegorical twist. Somewhere vaguely Germanic, or possibly in eastern European, is the small town of Hemmersmoor. There, nine ghosts haunt a defeated woman, a carnival steals souls, and a bet turns deadly.

My review of the 198 pages. 

The Disappearance of Signora Giulia by Piero Chiara

Translated by Jill Foulston

Every Thursday for three years, Signora Giulia takes the train to Milan to visit her daughter. But one Thursday she simply disappears. And the case is left in your hands. The fabulous Pushkin Vertigo specializes in translating and publishing vintage, classic crime.

This 128-page mystery is a great place to get started on their fantastic catalog. 

Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa

Translated by Stephen Snyder

This collection of stories is frighteningly brilliant. Each is gently tied to the next by a tiny thread. This detailed stitching, when tugged, wrinkles and shapes the fabric around it. Dark and labyrinthian, the collection was arresting and gorgeous. At just 162 pages, there’s no excuse for not getting lost in its pages.

My review.

Do you have a favorite short story? Or novella?


12 thoughts on “TOP TEN TUESDAY: Short and sweet”

  1. I haven’t read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for a very long time. My Grandma gave me a copy of that (and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There) when I was a kid, and I just found one of the two books the other day. I was going to have my boy read it because he loves wordplay, but I’ll have to read it again before I lend it to him.

  2. Sone of these are new to me and I can’t wait to read them!

    My favorite short story is “We Have Always Lived in the Castle.” My soul lives in that deranged and beautiful place.

    1. I found it by accident, browsing on a bookshelf, looking for more Wilkie Collins! It’s really a great novella.

    1. I hadn’t until about 5 years ago. I was surprised at what a quick read it was!

  3. I’m going to have to check out that Lyndsay Faye collection. Love me some Sherlock Holmes!

    1. Please do — she does a wonderful job. And if you like her work, she has written several great novels as well.

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