To some people reading classic literature is a big challenge – an investment of time and mental energy. Usually classics are a big fat books full of wisdom and philosophies. However, here are few examples of short classic book that you can read in a day or in a single sitting; yet they are equally meaningful, emotionally challenging and beautifully written.
Author: Albert Camus
This novel by French author, published in 1942, is often cited as Camus’ example of philosophy of the absurd and existentialism. The title character is Meursault, a French-Algerian man, who attends his mother’s funeral. He killed an Arab man in French Algiers after a few days of funeral. The Arab man was involved in a conflict with a friend. Meursault is sentenced to death after trial. The story of the book is divided in two parts. One part illustrates Meursault’s views before the murder and another after the murder. This short classic book ends as a meditation on the meaninglessness of existence.
The Quiet American
Author: Graham Greene
This 1954 classic by Graham Greene is clear-cut account of the futility of war. The inspiration of this book came from the time Greene spent in French Indochina as a war correspondent. This short classic book recounts the French colonialism in Vietnam being eradicated by the Americans in the 1950s. The book has received much attention because of its prediction of the Vietnam War outcome.
The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
I loved this classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald since I first read it (no need to mention that I read it several times). The Great Gatsby, written in 1925, is recognized as one of the greatest books ever written. You can finish this short classic book in one sitting. The story revolves around Jay Gatsby, the young and mysterious millionaire on Long Island, in the summer of 1922. The consequences following his quixotic passion and obsession for beautiful Daisy Buchanan twist the plot and makes it darker. The themes of book are decadence, idealism, social upheaval and resistance to change.
Author: Elie Wiesel
In this book Elie Wiesel wrote his experience with his father in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Auschwitz. In just over 100 pages short classic book, Elie wrote about God of Death and his increasing disgust towards humanity. It’s not a book that makes you happy but it should be mandatory reading for humanity.
Author: George Orwell
This 1945 allegorical short classic book by George Orwell is a light-hearted political satire. Animal Farm by George Orwell illustrates the events leading to the Russian Revolution in 1917 and then to the Stalin Era of Soviet Union. In Orwell’s analogy, the revolt of animal against farmer Jones represents October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution; the Battle of the Cowshed represents the allied invasion of Soviet Russia; the pigs’ rise to pre-eminence portrays the rise of a Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR.
Author: John Steinbeck
The American author John Steinbeck wrote this classic book in 1947. The story revolves around a pearl diver, Kino, who finds a beautiful pearl from the sea. He wants to sell it for a good price so that he can pay for his sick child’s treatment. Story is about man’s greedy and evil nature as well as defiance of societal norms. This short classic book by Steinbeck, inspired from a Mexican folk tale, is truly hard-hitting read.
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, published in 1969, is one of the longer books on this list. But you will hardly notice time when you are reading it and probably finish it in one sitting. The plot hinges between the aliens, time travel, World War II history, and some times personal anecdotes. This iconic short classic book is Vonnegut’s one of the most influential and classic work.
The Day of the Locust
Author: Nathanael West
The Day of the Locust by the American author Nathanael West was first published in 1939. The plot of the novel revolves around Tod Hackett, a young artist from the Yale School of Fine Arts. The novel set in 1930s illustrating the great depression in a very general way.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer, wrote this novel and first published in 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir. The story, set in Soviet Labour Camp in 1950s, is about a single day in life of Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, an ordinary prisoner. Government accused Ivan of becoming a spy after captured by German during WWII; and sentenced 10 years in forced labour camp even if he was innocent.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray is a young and handsome man. Dorian listens to Lord Henry and impressed by his hedonistic world views. He begins to thing that beauty is the only aspect of the life worth pursuing. He wishes to remain as beautiful as he is now at any cost. Comedic playwright Oscar Wilde wrote this philosophical novel. You can finish this short classic book in a day.
The Old Man and the Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
The American author Ernest Hemingway wrote this short classic book and published in 1952. It was Hemingway’s last major work in fiction and one of the most famous works which lead Hemingway to a Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1954. It’s a simple story of an aging Cuban fisherman named Santiago and his struggle with catching a giant marlin fish.