Posted by: hannah jo | January 26, 2008

In Praise of Novellas

Here I sit, fighting the arrival of a cold or the flu, I fear, so what better way to distract myself than to write about that lovely prose creation called the novella? Just within the past year or so, I realized that I adore novellas. They’re scrumptious treats when I need to get immersed in a story quickly, but want to read something longer than, say, a New Yorker article.

novella is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. I think novellas force authors to strip their stories down to the essentials and to rip out unnecessary thoughts and descriptions, so I appreciate the spare prose.

Some of the best books I’ve read during the past couple of years have been novellas: Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan, Everyman by Philip Roth, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin, and How We Got Insipid by Jonathan Lethem (although it’s technically two short stories published together in one small book). I’m sure there are lots of others that I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I’ll add them later when they occur to me.

Here is a list of notable novellas, which could use a little work, and here are the Five Best Novellas, according to Louis Auchincloss. I think I’ll go look for those right now…



  1. I usually skip over novellas thinking: make up your mind, do you want to be a book or do you want to be a short story? You’d think a person like me who complains about long books (I just started a 680 pager) would embrace the format.

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