Getting behind on that Goodreads reading goal? About to embark on vacation and reluctant to lug around your next to-be-read tome? Check out one of these gripping books, all under 250 pages in length. Meditative and thoughtful in their content, timeless and epic in their scope, these books defy their miniature page counts by having an outsized impact on their readers. Proving that even the minute can contain multitudes, these books will linger long after you’re finished . . . leaving you plenty of time to pick up another pocket-sized recommendation.
Ada and her father have the power to heal illness by slicing open sick bodies and temporarily burying them in the healing but unstable Ground nearby. But their precarious existence is disrupted when Ada begins an affair with one of their patients, a man named Samson who is cared for by his widowed, pregnant sister. Despite her father’s disapproval, Ada explores what it would mean to leave her life behind and build something unknown with her lover. FOLLOW ME TO GROUND is an eerie, surreal debut, an unsettling but compulsive coming-of-age folklore.
One of Literary Hub’s Favorite Books of the Year
“Seethingly assured…like all the best horror, [Follow Me to Ground] is an impressive balancing act between judicious withholding and unnerving reveals.” —The Guardian
A “legitimately frightening” (The New York Times Book Review) debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal.
“You’ve never encountered a father-daughter story like Rainsford’s slim debut” (Entertainment Weekly). Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson—and they quickly strike up an affair. Soon, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover, and eventually she comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.
“Visceral in its descriptions…this unworldly story is a well-crafted and eerie exploration of desire…beautifully intoxicating” (Shelf Awareness). In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. “A triumph of imagination and myth-bending…equal parts beauty and horror [Follow Me to Ground is] unlike anything you will read this year” (Téa Obreht).
In this arresting and magical historical novel, two seemingly disparate people find their fates interwoven in nineteenth-century Europe. Henri is a faithful soldier in the French army, given the honor of serving Napoleon because of Henri’s own short height. But when his dedication to Napoleon leaves him freezing in the Russian wilderness, Henri begins to rethink his alliances. Meanwhile, an enigmatic web-footed Venetian woman named Villanelle is determined to get by on dishonesty after losing her heart—literally and figuratively—to a noblewoman. Henri and Villanelle will come together in the carnival of Venice with fairy tale–esque consequences.
MOUTH TO MOUTH explores the ways in which people’s paths diverge and collide—all the way up to an unforgettable ending. When an unnamed narrator runs into his old classmate Jeff Cook in a JFK airport lounge, he barely recognizes him. But Jeff remembers him well and launches into the strange story of his life. Years earlier, Jeff saved a man—renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault—from drowning. When Jeff begins visiting Francis’s gallery, Francis doesn’t seem to recognize him but takes him under his wing nonetheless and introduces him to a world of high culture and shifting values.
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2022 * An NPR and Time Best Book of the Year * Longlisted for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize (Canada) * Finalist for CALIBA’s 2022 Golden Poppy Awards
A successful art dealer confesses the story of his meteoric rise in this “powerful, intoxicating, and shocking” (The New York Times) novel that’s a “slow burn à la Patricia Highsmith” (Oprah Daily). “You’ll struggle not to rip through in one sitting” (Vogue).
In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, our narrator listens as Jeff Cook, a former classmate he only vaguely remembers, shares the uncanny story of his adult life—a life that changed course years before, the moment he resuscitated a drowning man.
Jeff reveals that after that traumatic, galvanizing morning on the beach, he was compelled to learn more about the man whose life he had saved, convinced that their fates were now entwined. But are we agents of our fate—or are we its pawns? Upon discovering that the man is renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault, Jeff begins to surreptitiously visit his Beverly Hills gallery. Although Francis does not seem to recognize him as the man who saved his life, he nevertheless casts his legendary eye on Jeff and sees something worthy. He takes the younger man under his wing, initiating him into his world, where knowledge, taste, and access are currency; a world where value is constantly shifting and calling into question what is real, and what matters. The paths of the two men come together and diverge in dizzying ways until the novel’s staggering ending.
Sly, suspenseful, and “gloriously addicting” (BuzzFeed), Mouth to Mouth masterfully blurs the line between opportunity and exploitation, self-respect and self-delusion, fact and fiction—exposing the myriad ways we deceive each other, and ourselves.
In this unflinching debut collection, ten stories explore the diverse lives and of Black Muslims in America. In “Who’s Down?” a vegetarian father enlists his daughter to help him order a cheeseburger, while in “Due North,” a daughter is haunted by her recently deceased father. Meanwhile, in “New Mexico,” an agent assigned to spy on a member of the Nation of Islam begins to question his responsibility. Finally, in “Candy for Hanif,” a woman’s trip to the store to help her disabled son turns existential after she witnesses a near-death experience.
A groundbreaking debut collection portraying the lived experiences of Black Muslims grappling with faith, family, and freedom in America.
In Temple Folk, Black Muslims contemplate the convictions of their race, religion, economics, politics, and sexuality in America. The ten stories in this collection contribute to the bounty of diverse narratives about Black life by intimately portraying the experiences of a community that resists the mainstream culture to which they are expected to accept and aspire to while functioning within the country in which they are born.
In “Due North,” an obedient daughter struggles to understand why she’s haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased father. In “Who’s Down?” a father, after a brief affair with vegetarianism, conspires with his daughter to order him a double cheeseburger. In “Candy for Hanif” a mother’s routine trip to the store for her disabled son takes an unlikely turn when she reflects on a near-death experience. In “Woman in Niqab,” a daughter’s suspicion of her father’s infidelity prompts her to wear her hair in public. In “New Mexico,” a federal agent tasked with spying on a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam grapples with his responsibilities closer to home.
With an unflinching eye for the contradictions between what these characters profess to believe and what they do, Temple Folk accomplishes the rare feat of presenting moral failures with compassion, nuance and humor to remind us that while perfection is what many of us strive for, it’s the errors that make us human.
In this imaginative and affecting novel inspired by the rap group clipping, the water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African women thrown overboard by enslavers grapple with a changing tide. While they live an idyllic life in the deep, this society forgets their traumatic past by entrusting all their memories to Yetu, their historian. But the past is destroying Yetu, who escapes to the surface only to discover the future her people long ago left behind. Now, to survive, Yetu believes her people need to embrace who they really are . . . and what they could be.
Octavia E. Butler meets Marvel’s Black Panther in The Deep, a story rich with Afrofuturism, folklore, and the power of memory, inspired by the Hugo Award–nominated song “The Deep” from Daveed Diggs’s rap group Clipping.
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
The Deep is “a tour de force reorientation of the storytelling gaze…a superb, multilayered work,” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) and a vividly original and uniquely affecting story inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping.
Perfect for fans of CALL ME BY MY NAME, LIE WITH ME is the passionate and atmospheric tale of one man’s first love. Writer Philippe is outside a hotel in Bordeaux when he runs into a young man who looks astonishingly like a boy he once knew. This inspires Philippe to look back on the world-altering affair he had with Thomas, the son of a farmer, in high school. While the two do not speak during the day, at night they meet in secret to embark on an erotic and sensitive coming-of-age together.
“I remember the movement of his hips pressing against the pinball machine. This one sentence had me in its grip until the end. Two young men find each other, always fearing that life itself might be the villain standing in their way. A stunning and heart-gripping tale.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
The critically acclaimed, internationally beloved novel by Philippe Besson—“this year’s Call Me By Your Name” (Vulture) with raves in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Vanity Fair, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Out—about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress and writer Molly Ringwald.
In this “sexy, pure, and radiant story” (Out), Philippe chances upon a young man outside a hotel in Bordeaux who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Thomas is the son of a farmer; Philippe the son of a school principal. At school, they don’t acknowledge each other. But they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.
Despite the intensity of their attraction, from the beginning Thomas knows how it will end: “Because you will leave and we will stay,” he says. Philippe becomes a writer and travels the world, though as this “tender, sensuous novel” (The New York Times Book Review) shows, he never lets go of the relationship that shaped him, and every story he’s ever told.
“Beautifully translated by Ringwald” (NPR), this is “Philippe Besson’s book of a lifetime...an elegiac tale of first, hidden love” (The New Yorker).
After Sierva Maria, the twelve-year-old daughter of a decaying noble family, is bitten by a rabid dog, she is believed to be possessed. When she is taken to a convent for observation, it is Father Cayetano Delaura who visits her cell. Delaura, who has already dreamed of a girl with long hair, finds himself falling in love with Sierva as he cares for her. And soon, Sierva follows him, leaving the two of them spiraling into an unsettling and feverish descent. OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS is a testament to Gabriel García Márquez’s imaginative and atmospheric mastery.
To most people, the Metropolitan Museum is a tourist stop that houses some of the world’s most famous Picassos and Vermeers. But in METROPOLITAN STORIES, a interwoven collection of vignettes, it becomes the living setting for a cast of eclectic and dedicated staff and the original, powerful stories from the art itself. In Coulson’s stories, we see the back rooms, cafeterias, conservation studios, and ghosts that hide behind the museum’s galleries. METROPOLITAN STORIES is an ode to the Met and a collage of human experience and imagination, all in one.
Two-time Booker Prize–winning author Hilary Mantel paints a portrait of the relationship between Ireland and England through a fable-esque story of a mythical giant and a man who seeks to demystify him. O’Brien, a giant who believes in all things mystical and magical, comes to London in 1782 to exhibit his size for money. Meanwhile, famed anatomist John Hunter is determined to become the owner of O’Brien’s corpse to dissect it for science. Through O’Brien’s trust of little people and Hunter’s ambition, Mantel crafts a fated tale as old as time.
Perhaps our first great pandemic novel, DELPHI explores the life of one woman determined to find control amidst chaos. An unnamed classics professor studying ancient prophecies is forced to enter lockdown in London when COVID-19 comes knocking. With a pandemic afoot, a marriage in crisis, and a son growing more distant even as they are stuck in the same home, the professor turns to her studies with new determination to tell her own future through any means necessary. DELPHI is a darkly funny and mesmerizingly absurd debut turned time capsule.
A Guardian Best Book of 2022 * “Clever and surprising.” —BuzzFeed * “Brilliantly funny.” —San Francisco Chronicle * “Ingenious.”—The Millions * “Powerful.” —Harper’s Bazaar
A captivating debut novel about a classics professor immersed in research for a new book on a prophecy in the ancient world who confronts chilling questions about her own life just as the pandemic descends—for readers of Jenny Offill, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Sally Rooney.
Covid-19 has arrived in London, and the entire world quickly succumbs to the surreal, chaotic mundanity of screens, isolation, and the disasters big and small that have plagued recent history. As our unnamed narrator—a classics professor immersed in her studies of ancient prophecies—navigates the tightening grip of lockdown, a marriage in crisis, and a ten-year-old son who seems increasingly unreachable, she becomes obsessed with predicting the future. Shifting her focus from chiromancy (prophecy by palm reading) to zoomancy (prophecy by animal behavior) to oenomancy (prophecy by wine), she fails to notice the future creeping into the heart of her very own home, and when she finally does, the threat has already breached the gates.
Brainy and ominous, imaginative and funny, Delphi is a snapshot and a time capsule—it vividly captures our current moment and places our reality in the context of myth. Clare Pollard has delivered one of our first great pandemic novels, a mesmerizing and richly layered story about how we keep on living in a world that is ever-more uncertain and absurd.
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