10 of the shortest bestsellers and classic books

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Books are getting shorter and shorter. An analysis of New York Times Non-fiction bestsellers published between 2011 and 2017 revealed that the average length of a title on the list fell from 467 pages in 2011 to 273 pages in 2017, a decrease of 42%.

It’s still a big volume. If you really want to skim through a good book, you can find popular and bestselling titles that redefine what it means to be thin volume. Check out 10 titles you could browse in a day. (An asterisk: Page count is an estimate and may vary by print or size.)

The cover of 'On Bullsh-t' is illustrated

‘On Bullsh-t.’ / Amazon

In 1985, philosopher and Princeton Emeritus Professor Harry Frankfurt wrote a treatise on the dangers of ignoring the truth, commonly referred to as bullsh-t. The document was distributed to students and colleagues before Princeton published it for the mass market in 2005, where it became a New York Times Bestseller.

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The cover of 'Of Mice and Men' is illustrated

‘Of mice and Men.’ / Amazon

John Steinbeck wrote this classy classic about two migrant workers struggling with the supreme economy during the Great Depression. It turned out to be something of a blessing, as Steinbeck had to rewrite it after his dog ate an early version of the manuscript.

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The cover of

‘Who moved my cheese?’ / Amazon

Spencer Johnson’s parable of four mice making their way through a maze to learn how to adapt to change once their cheese is gone has struck a chord with readers. In 2018, it sold over 30 million copies, many of them in hardcover. For years, Johnson refused to release the book in paperback, thinking people would take it more seriously in hardback.

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The cover of 'Animal Farm' is illustrated

‘Farm animal.’ / Amazon

George Orwell wrote this lovely allegory about communist Russia. Although it has always had influence in the United States, a number of countries, including Cuba and North Korea, have banned it.

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The cover of 'The Elements of Style' is illustrated

‘Elements of style.’ / Amazon

William Strunk Jr. and EB White have helped generations of writers with this pocket guide to grammar and formatting. Regularly updated over the years, it was originally published in 1918 by Strunk as a 43-page offering. In 1959, White, the author of Charlotte’s web and Stuart Little– revised it. The most recent edition is over 100 pages.

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The cover of '84, Charing Cross Road' is pictured

’84 Charing Cross Road.’ / Amazon

In the 1950s, writer Helene Hanff wrote to a London bookseller, hoping to procure titles she could not find in New York. The respondent, Frank Doel, replied, sparking a friendship defined by letters over the next two decades: Their correspondence constitutes this epistolary work, which struck the New York Times list and was later made into a movie in 1987 starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.

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The cover of

‘Love story.’ / Amazon

Erich Segal didn’t win much acclaim for this sweet story of two lovers whose tangle is interrupted when one of them is diagnosed with terminal leukemia. The five-person National Book Committee panel threatened to resign if the title was nominated for an award. Maybe Segal didn’t care: the book was a runaway bestseller, with a blockbuster film version released the same year.

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The cover of 'The Little Prince' is illustrated

‘The little Prince.’ / Amazon

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote this children’s book which has since resonated with audiences of all ages. The author inadvertently researched by putting together this story of a downed pilot who encounters an alien dignitary: While flying from Paris to Saigon, Saint-Exupéry crashed his plane. The book is among the most translated in the world, even obtaining an edition in the Native American language of Toba in 2005, an honor shared with the Bible.

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The cover of 'Shopgirl' is illustrated

‘Saleswoman.’ / Amazon

Like many titles on this list, Saleswoman is technically a short story – something author Steve Martin proudly announces on the cover. In Beverly Hills, Mirabelle, in her twenties, is looking for meaning in her life. Jeremy is an age-appropriate suitor; Ray is a middle-aged professional who takes a liking to her. Martin then adapted the book into a film, in which he starred.

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The cover of

‘The old Man and the Sea.’ / Amazon

Ernest Hemingway’s melancholic tale about an aging protagonist confronting nature is not only a well-read classic, it’s also one of the shortest novels to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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About Marcia G. Hussain

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