Thursday, December 16, 2010

50 Books, 150 Pages or Less: Part 3 of 3

Great novels don't have to be long. For anyone short on time or attention, here are some great reads with less than 150 pages.

Interested in other short reads? Come by the library and check out our Short Fiction display, or view all three parts of this list.

When the Emperor Was Divine: A Novel by Julie Otsuka

143 pages

Otsuka’s novel follows the internment of a Japanese-American family during World War II, with each of its five chapters narrated by a different family member. Publishers Weekly When the Emperor Was Divine a “heartbreaking, bracingly unsentimental debut,” while the New York Times wrote that “Ms. Otsuka's precise but poetic evocation of the ordinary that lends this slender novel its mesmerizing power.”

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The Messiah of Stockholm: A Novel by Cynthia Ozick

141 pages

Lars Andemening is a descendant of Polish Jews. Orphaned during World War II, he grew up in Sweden. Twice divorced and estranged from his only child, Lars leads a solitary life with the growing conviction that he is the son of Bruno Schulz, a Polish writer killed by the Nazis. Reviewing it for the New York Times, none other than Harlold Bloom described Ozick’s novel as, simply, “brilliant”.

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The Yellow Arrow by Victor Pelevin

92 pages

A long distance train rushes across Russia toward a wrecked bridge. The train has no beginning or end and it is impossible to get off, but the passengers are apparently indifferent. According to Publishers Weekly, Pelevin’s novel of post-soviet anxieties “fuses pungent, visceral imagery reminiscent of Maxim Gorky with an absurdist comic outlook.”

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Death is Not the End: An Inspector Rebus Novella by Ian Rankin

73 pages

In this swift, suspenseful introduction to Rankin’s hardened Edinburgh policeman, John Rebus receives a call from his high school sweetheart and agrees to track down her missing son. Publishers Weekly stated that in Death is Not the End, “Taut exposition, wry dialogue and deft plotting, together with an insider's view of the seedy underside of Edinburgh, combine to make a superior thriller.”

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The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson

119 pages

After a doctor gives Ambrose Zephyr one month to live, he and his wife embark on a whirlwind world tour, visiting all the places they love or have always wanted to see from A to Z--Amsterdam to Zanzibar. Kirkus Reviews stated that The End of the Alphabet “distills the essence of life and love,” and that, although the book could be read in a single sitting, it could “continue to resonate with readers for weeks, months, even years.”

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The Humbling by Philip Roth

140 pages

In the 13th novel from Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Roth, an aging stage actor suddenly loses his talent, followed by his audience and his wife. Struggling to rebuild his life, he begins a disastrous relationship with a younger woman. NPR called The Humbling “a swift but piercing, uncluttered but nuanced morality tale,” while USA Today described it as “slim, bleak, and sexy.”

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Salt River: A Novel by James Sallis

146 pages

John Turner--former soldier, policeman, convict, and psychotherapist--moved to rural Tennessee to escape his past. While serving as interim sheriff, a fatal car accident and a visitor from his past destroy his hard-won tranquility. Publishers Weekly called Salt River “sublime,” while Booklist stated that, “Like a tightly structured blues song, the melancholy tale finds resonance in every line and every prolonged chord.” Salt River is the third and final volume of the celebrated Turner series, which begins with Cypress Grove and Cripple Creek.

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As We Are Now: A Novel by May Sarton

133 pages

Sarton’s harrowing exploration of growing old and unwanted was first published in 1973. After suffering a heart attack, 76-year-old Caroline Spencer is moved by relatives into a nursing home. As We Are Now is Caroline’s diary of her time there. Legendary critic Brooks Atkinson called Sarton’s novel “a masterly portrait of a woman’s loneliness, helplessness and despair.”

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The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders

134 pages

In the first book-length work from acclaimed satirist Saunders, the country of Inner Horner--which is surrounded by the larger and more prosperous Outer Horne--is so small that it can only hold one of its seven citizens at a time. One day, Inner Horner inexplicably shrinks, leaving most of its current inhabitant in Outer Horner. Led by their president Phil, the Outer Hornerites declare an invasion in progress and the two countries go to war. Kirkus Reviews called The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil “a mind-bending work inviting readers to ponder the nature of parable and the possibilities of language.”

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The List: A Love Story in 781 Chapters by Aneva Stout

94 pages

Stout’s funny, clever debut takes the form of a gift book, telling a tale of love lost and found and lost again in 781 second-person affirmations. For example, “373. You’ll waste lots of time trying to interpret his response.” Publishers Weekly wrote that The List: “offers all the guilty pleasures of chick lit,” and that, despite its length, it “has enough drama, emotional resonance and sharp throw-away lines to make it worth revisiting, either in part or whole.”

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The Jerusalem File by Joel Stone

147 pages

In Stone’s acclaimed mystery, retired Israeli security service officer Levin leads a solitary life but agrees to follow the wife of an acquaintance. He becomes obsessed with his target and, after her lover dies mysteriously, she has a request of her own. The Jerusalem File is an expert combination of hardboiled mystery and insightfulportrait of modern Israel.

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Frontera Dreams: A Hector Balascoran Shayne Detective Novel by Paco Ignacio Taibo II

120 pages

Paco Ignacio Taibo’s mysteries featuring the one-eyed existentialist detective Hector Balascoran Shayne are internationally renowned and wildly popular in the author’s native Mexico. This slim volume follows Shane north to the US-Mexico border, where he has gone to search for his vanished childhood sweetheart. Taibo’s novels are far from traditional mysteries, but they’re not to be missed. As one reviewer in the Washington Post Book World wrote,"Lovers of modern Latin-American literature should snap up [Taibo's work], as should mystery fans who like storytelling that's as fractured as the age they live in, and far more artful."

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Camera by Jean-Philippe Toussaint

122 pages

Camera is both a comedy and a philosophical novel—simultaneously feather light and bleakly heavy. Toussaint’s Parisian narrator does very little—he considers taking driving lessons, probably falls in love, goes on a few short trips, and finds a camera. Some readers may be turned off by the novel’s relative lack of a plot, but for anyone who prizes inventiveness, there might not be a better book on this list.

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The Club of Angels by Luis Fernando Verissimo

135 pages

A club of middle-aged gourmands meet monthly for lavish feasts. After each meal, one of them dies. The Club of Angels spent more than ten years on the bestseller list in the author’s native Brazil. Publishers Weekly called it a “swift and acidic portrait of a (literally) poisoned network of friendships,” with, “a bite that endures because of the great intelligence underlying it.”

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Inside Job by Connie Willis

99 pages

Rob, professional debunker and publisher of Jaundiced Eye magazine, is forced to reconsider his beliefs after attending a séance with his ex-actress employee Kildy where the medium seems to be channeling HL Menkin. According to Booklist, “Willis, one of SF's most spirited writers, rounds on the New Age; pays tribute to a great, skeptical journalist; and affectionately parodies pulp fiction at its best in this irresistible entertainment.”

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Double Homicide by Jonathan and Faye Kellerman

147 and 133 pages

Actually two books short novels packaged in one reversible volume, Double Homicide is a great introduction to two masters of crime fiction who happen to be married to each other. Two tales of murder and suspense set in two different cities.

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