by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director
Today is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year. You have 9 hours, 33 minutes, and 11 seconds of daylight to work with today. What will you do with yours? If reading is on your to-do list, you might want to consider reading one of the many influential books that have the added advantage of being short.
A search of the Web results in several variations of lists of the best short books. Goodreads lists the most influential books under 100 pages . Titles include “Animal Farm,” “The Little Prince,” “The Art of War,” “Common Sense,” “Hiroshima,” and “The Constitution of the United States.”
“War and Peace,” weighing in at over 1,400 pages, makes a big impression, but books don’t have to weigh a lot to be heavy hitters. The MentalFloss website lists seven slim books that pack a big punch. Among the seven are “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine (52 Pages), “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (72 pages), “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli (82 pages), “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau (26 pages), “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk and E.B. White (52 pages), “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (68 pages), and “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (54 pages).
Looking for something a little lighter? Checkout Flavorwire and its list of incredible novels under 200 pages. Titles include “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” a macabre and hilarious book by Shirley Jackson (all in only 146 pages), “Dept. of Speculation,” a book exploring intimacy, trust, and faith by Jenny Offill (a good bet for 179 pages), and “The Buddha in the Attic,” a mesmerizing account of the Japanese “picture brides,” by Julie Otsuka (a breeze at 129 pages).
You can find a list of 55 great books under 200 pages at Reddit.com. Consider Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” In this 181 page novel, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home, drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, at age seven, he encountered a remarkable girl. Or try “Last Night at the Lobster,” by Stewart O’Nan, a 146 page tale of an under-performing Red Lobster Restaurant in a run-down New England mall. It’s four days until Christmas, and the manager has to convince a less than enthusiastic staff to serve their customers as if their jobs depended on it.
If a literary classic is what you’re after, you can read one of several short novels by John Steinbeck including “Of Mice and Men” (107 pages), “The Pearl” (87 pages), or “Cannery Row” (196 pages). Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” will only cost you 93 pages, while “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a bargain at 180 pages. Finally, don’t forget one of my personal favorites, Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” At 96 pages, you can afford to read this Christmas classic every year.
The average adult reads between 250 and 300 words, or one page per minute. At that rate, you can finish “War and Peace” in just under 24 hours, assuming you refrained from sleeping, and didn’t stumble too much on the Russian names. Or, you can enjoy a short book in two or three hours, with plenty of time for other pursuits. You do also have the option of switching on a lamp and reading after the sun goes down on this shortest day of the year. In any case, pick up a good book and enjoy.