18 Classic Books You Can Read in One Day
If you, like the average American adult, can read about 300 words per minute (or 18,000 words per hour), then you can devour a literary masterpiece in a single afternoon.
The Little Prince
By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, ~100 pages. A crashed World War II pilot meets an alien prince stranded in the desert. While they work to escape, the Prince describes his inter-planetary journey to return home to the flower he loves. File this hand-painted masterpiece under “books for kids that every adult needs to read.”
By William Shakespeare, ~300 pages. Things turn sour when a Scottish general takes career advice from three witches, then sourer when he takes advice from his wife. You won’t toil and trouble over Shakespeare’s shortest play, as it’s also one of his best. But if tales of war and witchcraft don’t lift your kilt, any other Shakespeare can be conquered in mere hours; Hamlet, his longest, is only 30,000 words. Also give these best autobiographies ever written a read.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
By Truman Capote, ~160 pages. Witty, wistful, and all too fleeting, Capote’s fabulous novella shares a lot in common with its star character, Holly Golightly. Now a byword for a freewheeling soul, Holly will leave you feeling the same way she leaves the story’s narrator: wanting more. This book has some of the best book quotes, which is what makes it a must-read.
Between The World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates, ~150 pages. Coates’ clutch of personal essays on being black in America takes the form of a letter to his adolescent son, inviting you into his life with power and passion. Possibly the best-reviewed book of 2015, this collection is, in Toni Morrison’s words, “as profound as it is revelatory.” You’ll want to read these other 9 short nonfiction books you can read in a day.
The Old Man and the Sea
By Ernest Hemingway, ~130 pages. An old man goes to sea, proving the strength of both. Hemingway’s shortest novel is Moby-Dick for beginners, starring a protagonist you actually hope will survive to fish again. Reading has surprising benefits you might not know about!
By Natalie Babbitt, ~160 pages. This dazzling novel-turned-movie-turned-Broadway musical about a rural family who drank the spring of immortality bears a message as timeless as its forever-young characters: The worst and best parts of life come hand-in-hand. You read it in school—time to read it again. Don’t miss the other 10 best romance novels of all time.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
By Robert Louis Stevenson, ~50 pages. The original mad scientist makes a potion to mask his inner evil, which, as you know, sort of backfires. One of the great allegories on human nature, read it if only to brag to your friends that you have (it’s what Hyde would do.) You’ll also want to pick up 18 of the best thriller novels to read right now.
Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck, ~110 pages. A quick-witted schemer and his gentle giant companion try to make good as California ranchers, but bonds of love are tested when the giant turns not-so-gentle. Based on Steinbeck’s own hobo years, this Depression-era portrait is required school reading for a good reason.
A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens, ~80 pages. A cranky miser says “bah, humbug” to goodwill and human decency—until three ghosts crash his pity party. This cheerful classic is so funny and heartwarming at any time of year, it barely needs Muppets to improve it.
By George Orwell, ~140 pages. Orwell funnels all the cynicism of 1984 into a barnyard romp about talking animals who overthrow their human oppressors. Is it an allegory of the Russian Revolution, or a more realistic version of Charlotte’s Web? You decide.
By Albert Camus, ~125 pages. Navel-gazing Camus delivers an Idiot’s Guide to Absurdism in his story of a nihilist who takes a beach vacation that ends in murder (sort of like Weekend at Bernie’s, except French and joyless.) Goes down quicker than a bottle of Bordeaux, which you’ll probably need by the gut-punching conclusion.
By Ray Bradbury, ~250 pages. In the dystopian future, all books are illegal, and “firemen” are the one who start fires. Bradbury’s chilling vision of censorship gone amok may have been published in 1953, but its drama and heart still smolder in the hands of whoever holds it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams, ~225 pages. A U.K. man and his chum become homeless when Earth is demolished to build a bypass. Interplanetary hijinks ensue in the first book of the most beloved sci-fi comedy series ever written.
The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald, ~180 pages. Jay Gatsby lives in excess of everything except love. The Roaring Twenties go out with a bang in this beautifully written classic about finding something real behind walls of painted gold. Don’t forget to check out the best summer reads of all time and stock up before your next beach vacation.
By Kurt Vonnegut, ~290 pages. Vonnegut, a real POW, relives his grim memories of the Dresden firebombing through the eyes of Billy Pilgrim, a fake POW, optometrist, and time traveler. Equal parts sci-fi, satire, and WWII memoir, Mr. Vonnegut’s opus will leave you spinning. Here are 18 more of the best short books you’ll ever read.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
By Shirley Jackson, ~150 pages. Shirley Jackson’s final novel takes all the creepiness of The Lottery and stretches it to the snapping point over a small New England town. Featuring arsenic poisonings, rioting villagers, a burning mansion, and the sisterly love that survives it all, this grim fable will make you thankful for whatever weird family you have.
The Color Purple
By Alice Walker, ~300 pages. Beginning in the 1930s and spanning decades, this story of one poor black family tells the story of an entire generation of women in the American South. Yes, it’s hard… But so is life.