43 Short Classics You Actually Have Time to Read


Want to be well-read in the classics, but don’t have time to read War & Peace? Grab one of these short classics you actually have time to read!

Do you want to be well-read but don’t have the time to sit down and read a 1,000+ page novel? While War and Peace is a long classic worth your time, how likely are you to have the time to sit down and read it?

Yet at the same time, you don’t want to feel like a complete fool when you converse with some crazy English major who only reads books written more than 100 years ago. What if you could feel well-read without taking up too much of your time?

Enter my list of short classics you actually have time to read. Though I listed all the short classics I could find, I’ve highlighted the ones that I think would be most valuable. For example, John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony is short, but I’ve never actually come across it in a conversation.

My highlighted list of short classics is of a more practical nature. These featured short classics have conversational value.

If you hang around smart people long enough, you might actually have a chance to bring them up in conversation. Plus, you’d be surprised how often classics are referenced in popular culture. For example, Of Mice and Men is referenced in the tv shows Friends and Lost and even a Katy Perry song.

Not only was I aiming for short classics with conversational value but also I chose stories that each taught a valuable lesson. In these short classics you can see perfect examples of human nature – the darkness, absurdities and greed that are common to all men.

So, in 200 pages or less, here are some short classics you actually have time to read in your busy schedule.

Sidenote: I included both traditional classics and modern classics on my list. Also, page counts are from Goodreads.

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Short Classics Under 100 Pages

The Highlights

book cover for Songs of Innocence and Of Experience by William Blake

Songs of Innocence and of Experience
by William Blake

“Tyger Tyger burning bright
In the forests of the night.”
-William Blake, The Tyger

If you really don’t have much time but want to read short classics, one of the best place to start is with poetry. With a poetry collection, you can easily sneak in a few poems in your free time – and a page of poetry is a lot quicker to read than a page of regular text. William Blake’s small collection of poetry is actually the shortest classic on my list. Showing the contrary states of the human soul, Blake aims to portray the innocence of childhood against the realities of a fallen world. A perfect example, is his famous poem, The Tyger, in which Blake intones of the tiger, “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
Total length: 56 pages


book cover for The Misanthrope by Moliere

The Misanthrope
by Molière

“Betrayed and wronged in everything
I’ll flee this bitter world where vice is King

And seek some spot unpeopled and apart
Where I’ll be free to have an honest heart.”
-Molière, The Misanthrope

Besides poetry, another great way to enjoy short classics is to read classic plays. Even at the same numbers of pages, plays have much more spacing inside the text, making them really quick reads. The second shortest item on my list of short classics is Molière’s famous play, The Misanthrope. This short work is a humorous look at the absurdities of human nature. Molière uses the protagonist, a man quick to judge others but blind to his own flaws, as a perfect satire of not just the French Aristocracy, but people in general. 
Total length: 64 pages


book cover for The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

If you aren’t in the mood for poetry or a play, The Little Prince is a short illustrated story full of morals – if only you have eyes to see them. It’s one of those classic books in which you can get out of it as much or as little as you want. This short allegory follows a young boy, the Little Prince, who decides to give up his pleasant life on his tiny planet to go discover the universe. Along the way, he encounters a strange place called Earth and learns about some of the absurdities of the adults.
Total length: 93 pages


book cover for The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl
by John Steinbeck

“For it is said that humans are never satisfied,
that you give them one thing and they want something more.”
-John Steinbeck, The Pearl

Imagine having the luckiest day of your life. In today’s world, that might mean winning the lottery. In John Steinbeck’s novella, The Pearl, it meant that a poor diver named Kino found the largest and most beautifully perfect pearl. His luck had changed … or had it? Short classics are best when they teach you about human nature, and The Pearl perfectly captures the vices of greed and envy. “Luck, you see, brings bitter friends,” as poor Kino learns of his fellow man. A short little story with a powerful lesson, The Pearl is a great introduction to the classics and John Steinbeck’s brilliant body of work.
Total length: 96 pages

Related: 33 Children’s Classics Your Kids Will Love

Other Short Classics Under 100 Pages

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (47 pages)
The Legend of Sleeping Hollow and Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (83 pages)
The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot (88 pages)
Sonnets From the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (93 pages)
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (95 pages)

Short Classics Under 150 Pages

The Highlights

book cover for Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck

“The best laid schemes of mice and men
often go awry.”
-Robert Burns, To A Mouse

Pack your tissues because this classic novel is a book that will make you cry. This memorable story follows eternal optimists George and Lennie who share a common dream – to own some land of their own. When life leads them to work on a California ranch, they bump up against the reality that life can be extremely unfair. I think if you were to only read one of the short classics on my list, this would be the one. Steinbeck is a brilliant writer, and I promise that this story will stick with you long after you’ve read it.
Total length: 112 pages


book cover for A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own
by Virginia Woolf

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters;
and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
-Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Based on two lectures she gave at women’s colleges at the University of Cambridge, A Room of One’s Own is an influential feminist text. Virginia Woolf believes that in order for a woman to truly write, she needs two things: money and a room to herself. While you may not agree with everything she says, this short essay covers the interesting topics of intellectual freedom and the process of creating. Of all the short classics on my list, I feel this is the most thought-provoking of them all.
Total length: 112 pages


book cover for A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

A Room with a View
by E. M. Forster

“Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice.”
-E. M. Forster, A Room with a View

Lucy has her whole life planned out. She’ll marry her perfectly respectable fiance Cecil and live a quiet peaceful life in England. However, when she visits Italy with her cousin Charlotte, Lucy’s life is turned upside down as she meets an explosion of colorful characters, including the passionate George. Can she accept the chaos of this new life or go back to her old ways in England? If you tend toward the romantic, this is the perfect choice for you.
Total length: 119 pages


book cover for Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm
by George Orwell

“All animals are created equal. But some are more equal than others.”
-George Orwell, Animal Farm

On the surface, Animal Farm is just a simple tale of animals revolting against the cruel farmer to set up their own government. In reality, Animal Farm is the perfect parable for the danger of giving up our freedoms for the sake of security. If you’ve ever wondered how a dictatorship comes to be, this classic short novel will show you. To really get the most of this short classic, you’ll want to pair it with my favorite book of all time, George Orwell’s 1984.
Total length: 122 pages


book cover for The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger
by Albert Camus

“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”
-Albert Camus, The Stranger

Ready for a short novel that will make you think? Enter Albert Camus’ thought-provoking short classic book, The Stranger, the story of Mersault, a seemingly ordinary man without any feelings. After he kills a stranger on an Algerian beach, Mersault is put on trial for murder. On the surface, The Stranger seems like a simple novel, but if you care to look deeper, you can find the roots of many philosophical questions (though few answers).
Total length: 123 pages


book cover for The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible
by Arthur Miller

“Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.”
-Arthur Miller, The Crucible

Based on actual people and events, The Crucible is a short classic play set during the Salem Witch Trials. In the 1690s, the townspeople of the small New England town of Salem are suddenly engulfed in rumors of witchcraft. The mass hysteria leads to the accusation and trial of Elizabeth Proctor for being a witch. Remember that Miller’s play was written in 1953, right in the middle of the Senator McCarthy era. The hysteria of the townspeople in the play perfectly mirrors the hysteria caused by McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade and reminds us to not let our fears get the better of us.
Total length: 143 pages

Related: Long Classics That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Other Short Classics Under 150 Pages

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (104 pages)
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (107 pages)
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (117 pages)
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (118 pages)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (126 pages)
Candide by Voltaire (129 pages)
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (131 pages)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (132 pages)
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (140 pages)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (144 pages)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Unknown (144 pages)

Short Classics Under 200 Pages

The Highlights


book cover for Fahrenheit 541 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door …
Who knows who might be target of a well-read man?”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

One of those short classics you probably read in high school, Ray Bradbury’s novel seems particularly prophetic in our current age of technology. Set in a society where printed books are considered dangerous, Fahrenheit 451 tells the tale of Guy Montag, a firemen whose job it is to search out and burn books, until he begins to question everything he has ever known. Ray Bradbury’s novel serves as a warning against the dangers of censorship and the consequences of an addiction to television.
Total length: 175 pages


book cover for The Great Gastby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

I swear every American teenager reads this classic in high school, but if you happen to have skipped it, you really ought to read it now. Actually, even if you read it in high school, you really should read it again as an adult. You’ll definitely pick up a lot more of the underlying themes. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American novel serves as the quintessential work of the Jazz Age. As the narrator enters the world of Long Island’s fabulously wealthy, we meet the mysterious Jay Gatsby and the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. A short but memorable book that everyone should read in their lifetime.
Total length: 180 pages


book cover for Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

“We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”
-William Golding, Lord of the Flies

What happens when a group of English school boys are marooned on a deserted island? The above quote perfectly summarizes this novel. As the boys attempt to rule themselves, the dark side of human nature comes out in all its ugliness. Even if our society isn’t perfect, this book makes you glad that at least you live in a civilized society. If you didn’t by chance read this book growing up, now is a great time to pick it up. It’s probably even more terrifying to read as an adult imagining your kids as characters in the novel than it was to read as a teen.
Total length: 182 pages


book cover for The Awakening by Kate Chopin

The Awakening
by Kate Chopin

“The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.”
-Kate Chopin, The Awakening

Coming in just below the 200 page mark and the final of the short classics I’ll feature is Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I can’t say I particularly liked this novel, but I still feel it deserves to be highlighted on my list of short classics. For its time, Kate Chopin tale of a woman’s infidelity was rather shocking, and really delves into the main character’s psychology. I’ve chosen more fun easy reads thus far, but I figure I might as well end on a short book that might impress the English major sitting next to you.
Total length: 195 pages

Related: 30 Books Every Millennial Needs to Read

Other Short Classics Under 200 pages

O, Pioneers! by Willa Cather (159 pages)
Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville (160 pages)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (162 pages)
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (170 pages)
The Call of the Wild by Jack London (172 pages)
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (176 pages)
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (176 pages)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill (179 pages)
Our Town by Thornton Wilder (181 pages)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin (184 pages)
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (188 pages)
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (192 pages)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (194 pages)

What are your favorite short classics?

Who has time to read long classic books? If you want to feel well-read, try these short classics that you actually have time to read.

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  • Reply jennifer gaarder September 3, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Great selection of some splendid classics.

  • Reply Jordanne September 3, 2018 at 9:29 am

    I’ve read a few of the poems in Songs of Innocence and of Experience & I can’t stand anything by Steinbeck but the rest are on my TBR – pinned this, I like it! Great post!

  • Reply Entertainingly Nerdy September 3, 2018 at 10:26 am

    I hate to say this..even though I really want to try and get into more classic books I’ve always felt like reading them is more of a chore. But I guess that’s only because I read them feeling like I should rather than reading them for fun.

  • Reply DJ Sakata September 3, 2018 at 10:59 am

    I haven’t read many of these – I need to get cracking

  • Reply Lulu @ Roadside Reader September 3, 2018 at 11:11 am

    I didn’t realize there were so many short classics out there. Also, The Pearl, I can remember that one had me bawling as a kid when I first read it

  • Reply Amanda McGill September 3, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    I haven’t read many classics, but this would be a great place to start!

  • Reply Cassie September 3, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Perfect selection. This is great if you need to complete a reading challenge and have no time. 🙂 I will pin it!

  • Reply Tasha September 3, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    I have read some classics and have my favourites.

  • Reply Cia Black September 3, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    I just got myself a copy of animal Farm and am so excited to read it.

  • Reply Christine September 3, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    I love this! Definitely makes it more accessible for those who are daunted by the classics. I have a scratch off poster with a 100 classics on it that I’m hoping to get through 🙂

  • Reply Megan @ Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest September 3, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    I remember reading The Crucible in high school but I don’t remember a lot of what it was about. Animal Farm has been on my TBR for quite some time, too. I must admit many of these are unknown to me. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply Charlotte September 4, 2018 at 5:38 am

    I’ve always said that I don’t like classics and I don’t read them, but I think it’s because I only think of classics as being the Brontes and Jane Austin. Those are the kinds of books I just can’t get into. But some of these are books that have been on my radar for a while, and it’s good to know that they’re short! I’ll have to add some to my list. Thanks for such a great post!

  • Reply TheBooktarian September 5, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I”ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of classics.
    But, now and then I read one or two. I should read more, especially since I have JANE EYRE on my shelf and I haven’t read it!

  • Reply lauren September 5, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    I’ve read so few classics that I always feel like I should try but I’m still struggling to get through 1984 which I start last year ;A;

  • Reply Karie Babbitt September 10, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    My dad used to try to get me to read the Little Prince and I always thought it must be dumb because he only reads history type books. Now that my dad is older and I love learning about my dad this reminded me what a good way to learn more about my dad but by reading one of his favorite books. I am definitely going to go get this.

  • Reply CJ | A Well-Read Tart September 22, 2018 at 7:12 am

    This is so great! I feel like so many people are daunted by classics as being long and/or difficult to understand, and this list definitely eliminates the problem of that first part, haha. One of my favorite shorter classics is Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton.

    I admittedly don’t read many classics anymore. I read a ton in high school and college, and I loved them — but when it comes to reading them of my own volition, more contemporary books always seem to take precedence. I did manage to read all of Jane Austen’s works on my own, though, plus Lady Susan. It always takes me a few pages to ease into the wording, but once I’m in, I’m in, and thoroughly loving each story! 🙂

    Oh, Lady Susan is also a great short classic for those who want a taste of Austen but aren’t quite ready for a full novel. 🙂

  • Reply Elsie @ Tea and Ink Society March 18, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I “found” it on Pinterest and really enjoyed it! I shared in my newsletter. One of my favourite short classics is the delightful Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell. I think most editions would have it under 200 pages.

  • Reply Reading Challenge Update – THE HOBBLEIT June 26, 2019 at 7:02 am

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