10 Classics So Short You Can Read Them in a Weekend
Mark Twain famously quipped that a classic was a book everyone talked about but nobody read. Sometimes this is for a good reason. Attempts to plow through Ulysses or Don Quixote are not for the faint of heart. Especially once we are out of school and away from required reading lists, carving out the time to become better read in the classics often just doesn’t seem possible.
While many of the great works of literature are indeed hefty tomes, there are also many that are so thin they can be read over a long weekend. Take your pick from any of these great titles and let the reading begin!
The Stranger – Albert Camus
Camus' brief novel The Stranger follows the protagonist, Monsieur Meursault and his detached, disengaged way of dealing with the world and everyday circumstances. Appearing unmoved by the death of his mother eventually damns him when facing a jury of his peers due to a crime he commits later in the novel. An astute observation on the silent demands of how one is expected to react to various circumstances in society, The Stranger is only 123 pages long, and could conceivably be finished in an afternoon.
The Art of Loving – Erich Fromm
The Art of Loving was originally published in 1956, though Fromm's ideas about love and human nature still resonate with readers today. At its core, Fromm believed that love is a skill that can be taught, developed and improved upon, rather than a mystical and un-analyzable force outside of our control. To Fromm, learning to grow in the skill of love is an Art that anyone can develop with practice, focus, maturity, and discipline.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho's novel The Alchemist became an international bestseller after its original publication in 1988. Since then, the allegorical novel about a young shepherd in search of a treasure he saw in his dreams has been translated in to 70 different languages and still consistently tops the bestseller list.
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
Though The Old Man and the Sea is only 128 pages long, it is the last major work of fiction Hemingway published and reignited interest in his pre-existing body of work. Through the protagonist, Santiago, and his struggle with the giant marlin, Hemingway tackles the overarching theme of man's struggle with nature, resilience, and the nature of resistance and defeat.
Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke is best known as a powerful poet, but in this collection of letters addressed to a young artist named Franz Kappus, Rilke reveals some profound wisdom on art, spirit, and the philosophy of life. A refreshing read for any creative struggling with the loneliness and doubt that so often accompanies the life of an artist.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Though it is now considered the great America novel, The Great Gatsby only sold around 20,000 when it was first released and received mixed reviews from literary critics. Fitzgerald's novel about the dark side of the American dream is only a tad over 200 pages and a must-read for anyone wanting to round out their literary knowledge.
Notes From Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
No one does dark and gritty like the Russian novelists, and Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground is no exception. Our protagonist is a desperate and suffering man, sparing the reader nothing in his pleas and confessions of despair. Unlike Dostoevsky's better known works, Notes From Underground is only 152 pages in length. Not a light read, but a far cry from the time commitment it takes to plow through the 1,000+ pages of The Brothers Karamazov.
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
William Golding's Lord of the Flies is a chilling exploration of what humanity will reduce itself to if left to its own devices. Told through the eyes of ordinary boys who find themselves marooned and having to figure out how to survive, Golding offers a cautionary tale of how quickly mankind can revert back to the dark ages of barbarism.
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
Clocking in as the shortest classic on the list, Sun Tzu’s famous work is only 68 pages long. The book often appears much longer due to notes and commentaries that have been added, but the original work itself can be devoured in an hour or two. Not only a treatise on ancient warfare, The Art of War gives some invaluable instruction on how to handle conflict and lead an honorable life.