Fiction lets us dwell in places and situations we would never be able to experience any other way. It reveals aspects of our lives that would be unknown to us if we weren't seeing them in the light these works of art. However, there comes a time when we can't spend as much time, as we would like, reading a book. Responsibilities cluster up and, all of a sudden, we just stop having that little "me time" we all require to enjoy a good novel. Whether you're an avid reader or someone who wants to start reading more often. Perhaps the idea of a large volume of literary fiction seems daunting. If any of these apply, perhaps what you need is to encourage yourself by reading some fantastic books that'll have you turning the pages so quickly that you won't even notice how little of your time it took you to finish them. Yet, one thing is certain: you will feel deeply satisfied.
1. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
It's a well known fact that Hemingway is a writer you should go to if you want to have a dazzling read that doesn't take up all of your time and attention. With his thrilling, straightforward style, Hemingway's last novel is something that you shouldn't miss. A beautiful reflection upon the power of age and the place of man in nature.
2. Bartleby, The Scrivener, Herman Melville
Based on the story of a rookie scrivener who gets to Wall Street and refuses to do the tasks that are conferred to him, Melville's book was first published in two separate issues of Putnam's Magazine. Incredibly witty and hilarious, it's a book you can enjoy in just one sitting.
3. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Telling the thrilling story of a soldier who realizes the truth about war during an expedition throughout the Congo river, Conrad's fierce narrative leaves its readers on the edge of their seats. It's such a thrilling and gut-wrenching story that inspired one of the best films ever made about the Vietnam War: Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
4. The Stranger, Albert Camus
If you're interested in philosophy but don't have time to dedicate to your readings, you should definitely take a look at Camus' only narrative book on existentialism. Despite its briefness, reading about Mersault's mishaps and his perception of life will really take you into a deep reflection that only a few books can really inspire.
5. The Pearl, John Steinbeck
Steinbeck has been hailed as one of the best American writers to capture the reality of his country, yet The Pearl shows he also an insight regarding the social and political problems from other realities. The novel bases itself on a town at the coast of Mexico, telling the story about the unravelling of a poor family through a captivating narrative that explores the themes of injustice, corruption, and hopelessness.
6. At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
Everyone loves The Call of Cthulhu, but one novel that you should definitely check out whenever you have a few spare hours is Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. It follows the journey of a scientist who ventures into Antartica, only to find the existence of strange, ancient beings dwelling in the ice. A thrilling, yet terrifying experience.
7. The Gambler, Fyodor Dostoyevski
No one has had the capacity of building a narrative as complex as Dostoyevski's, who managed to superbly create intricate psychologies and put them all to dialogue. Even though he's remembered mostly for doing works that appear stark and go into the most sombre aspects of our mind and morals, such as Crime and Punishment, this novel ends up being more playful and surprising, taking us to hysterical laughs, but also going through deep reflection in the process.
8. The Kreutzer Sonata, Leo Tolstoy
There's plenty of readers who claim to have read War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but most people can also be blatant liars. If you're willing to dig into the world of Tolstoy with a lighter read, The Kreutzer Sonata might just be the book you're looking for. It focuses mostly on the theme of jealousy and, while holding a rant against marriage, he hooks us into a compelling narrative that will make us finish the book in no time.
9. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel García Marquez
Perhaps the best introduction anyone can have to Latin American magical realism is this novel. García Márquez builds a complex universe where a murder takes place, giving way for an interaction of colorful and multidimensional psychologies.
10. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
If Stevenson only took 9 days to finish his book, you can read it in less time. This nineteenth century novel was supposed to be a metaphor for alcoholism, but in a sense, it's something that many of us can relate to. We're always trying to dissociate from the worst of our acts, yet we're the only ones responsible for them. Check it out if you're willing to get some silent reflection and understand a wide variety of pop culture references that you didn't know you were missing.
11. Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto
Yoshimoto's debut into writing is a marvelous read for anyone with an interest in gastronomy and the way it relates to our memory and our own personal stories. A delightful treat filled with sensitive descriptions and luscious emotions.
12. May Day, F. Scott Fitzgerald
A one-of-a-kind novel in the work of Fitzgerald, this books focuses on the savage classist system on American society and the terrible conflict that this disparity ensues. Who would think a novel with such a relentless social commentary could come out of the mind behind The Great Gatsby?
13. The Dead, James Joyce
You don't need to be an intellectual to understand James Joyce and this novella proves that. Instead of focusing on a mind-boggling concept as he did on Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake, Joyce appeals more to the emotions of his readers through a linear story that focuses on universal themes such as time, marriage, and change. An enthralling piece of modern fiction.
14. The Distracted Preacher, Thomas Hardy
Hardy is one of the favorite Victorian writers in every household, specially for his democratic vein and how he exposed the injustices of the tight society he lived in. However, The Distracted Preacher focuses on a much more playful tone, telling the story of a venturous minister who ends up falling in love with his landlady and ends up tangled in a colorful and wacky adventure.
15. Breakfast at Tiffany's, Truman Capote
If you didn't have enough of Holly Golightly with Audrey Hepburn's interpretation of her in Blake Edwards' 1961 film, you should definitely go hit the book that started it all. Capote is one of the most brilliant writers you could go to. His lush and emotional descriptions will get you so much into the story you won't even realize how quickly you finished reading it.
Once you get started with these great novellas, start your own personal library with these 35 books, and when you manage to get a hang on the rhythm, check out the 5 strategies that will help you read a hundred of them in less than a year.
Image by Jessy Easton (@jessytai)