Short novels that leave an impression

Whether you're time poor, looking for something to read over your lunch break, haven't the bandwidth for a 500-page epic, or simply need a circuit breaker to knock you out of a reading slump, here are some of our favourite short novels that are guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.

Orbital by Samantha Harvey – 144 pages

An exquisitely written examination of human life, Samantha Harvey's Orbital takes place over a single day as six astronauts meditate on their own existence and the fragility of our planet. Our booksellers have been rhapsodising about this book since it was released, with our head book buyer Alison going so far as to say it is one of the best books she's read ... perhaps ever.

You can read more of our bookseller's raves here.

So Late in the Day by Claire Keegan – 64 pages

From the acclaimed Irish writer Claire Keegan, So Late in the Day is a triptych of stories about love, lust and betrayal, that asks whether it is possible to love without sharing. If you haven't discovered Keegan's economical but exquisite writing before now, So Late in the Day is the perfect place to start.

Clear by Carys Davies – 160 pages

Set in 19th century Scotland, Clear is an intimate novel about ordinary people who have been buffeted by history, and a powerful exploration of the distances and connections between us.

You can read our staff review here.

It Lasts Forever and Then it's Over by Anne de Marcken – 136 pages

Haunting, but darkly comic, It Lasts Forever and Then it's Over is a dreamlike odyssey through the afterlife, where an unnamed – but defiantly alive – narrator finds herself adrift. Captivatingly written, this absrudist tale plumbs the theme of mortality and how it changes everything, except possibly love.

You can read our staff review here.

Love Me Tender by Constance Debré, translated by Holly James – 176 pages

A starkly beautiful account of impossible sacrifices asked from mothers, Love Me Tender is a defiant work of autofiction about a woman who loses custody of her son after she abandons her marriage and legal career to write full-time and begin a relationship with a woman.

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka – 192 pages

A slim novel about what happens to a group of recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool, Julie Otsuka's The Swimmers is a spellbinding exploration of memory, grief, motherhood, and the stories that make up a life.

You can read our staff review here.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers – 160 pages

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a solarpunk novella about a gender non-binary monk whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of a robot seeking the answer to the question: what do people need? This joyful and optimistic book from Hugo Award-winning writer Becky Chambers asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

They by Kay Dick – 128 pages

First published in 1977 and recently rediscovered, Kay Dick's dystopian masterpiece They is a radical book about censorship, a celebration of non-conformity, and a still-timely warning against the rise of modern conservatism.

Until August by Gabriel García Márquez, translated by Anne MacLean – 144 pages

Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez's final book, Until August, is a profound meditation on freedom, regret, and the mysteries of love. This posthumously-published book is about a middle-aged woman who travels each year to the island where her mother is buried to take a lover for a single night.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson – 160 pages

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water is a shattering debut novel about two Black British artists falling in and out of love.

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au – 112 pages

Winner of our 2022 Readings Prize for Fiction Cold Enough for Snow is a beautifully tender story about a young woman who is accompanying her mother on a holiday to Japan. Exquisitely written, this is a novel about the relationship between life and art, how difficult it is to speak truly, and what lies in the unsaid between a mother and daughter.

You can read our staff review here.

Cover image for Orbital


Samantha Harvey

In stock at 8 shops, ships in 3-4 daysIn stock at 8 shops