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Best Short Books: The 60 BEST Fast Reads (100 Pages or Less)

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
9 MINUTE READ

Looking for the best short books of all time?

You’re in the right place!

Here’s what you’ll find on this page…

How Long Is a Short Book?

For the sake of these short book recommendations:

  • Short NONFICTION books are books with 114 pages or less; and
  • Short FICTION books are books with 104 pages or less.

Why these numbers?

“Fast reads”, for me, are any books an average reader can finish in under 2 hours.

Based on average reading speeds and average number of words per page for each genre, that comes out at books of 114 pages or less for nonfiction and books of 104 pages or less for fiction.

Want the hard science? see this short article on how long it takes to read 100 pages of a book.

Is it a perfect solution? No.

But it’s based on robust science and well established norms so it’s good enough for me!

Why These Best Short Books and Not Others?

Why these best short books and not others? The short books below are the top picks from my huge database of the top books of all time, ranked by a combination of Goodreads rating, number of Goodreads reviews and first publication date. The aim is to surface what’s most loved, what’s most popular and what’s proven timelessly relevant.

Think something’s missing? Email me and I’ll add it to the next round of updates. I honestly love hearing from you so please, do get in touch!

The 30 Best Short NONFICTION Books of All Time

Here are the best 30 short nonfiction books of all time (114 pages or less, including biographies) from my database…

NOTE: Some of these books, especially the philosophical dialogues are HARD. You might read them in under 2 hours but you will need MUCH longer to really understand them.

Fortunately, one of the first parts to reading any book well is to read it right though, without stopping, cover-to-cover – so these books still qualify for our list.

Books 1-10: The Top 10 Best Short Nonfiction Books

The top 10 best short nonfiction books of all time are…

Best Short Books Nonfiction: Meditations
1. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius (FREE Summary)
A deeply humbling and thought-provoking insight into the stoic mindset of one of history’s greatest leaders and thinkers – by Roman emperor, philosopher and example to us all, Marcus Aurelius.
Published 180 // 99 pages // Rated 4.2 over 156,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: On the Shortness of Life
2. On the Shortness of Life – Seneca
Published -49 // 106 pages // Rated 4.2 over 23,700 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: The Handbook
3. The Handbook – Epictetus
Published 125 // 35 pages // Rated 4.2 over 17,100 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: We Should All Be Feminists
4. We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published 1929 // 64 pages // Rated 4.4 over 216,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: As a Man Thinketh
5. As a Man Thinketh – James Allen (FREE Summary)
THE #1 ranking, uplifting, pocket-sized pep-talk on the power and importance of changing your thoughts as the cornerstone to changing your life – by philosopher and prolific self-help author, James Allen.
Published 1902 // 34 pages // Rated 4.3 over 68,100 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: Fragments
6. Fragments – Heraclitus
Published -500 // 97 pages // Rated 4.2 over 6,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: Letters to a Young Poet
7. Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
Published 1929 // 80 pages // Rated 4.3 over 60,500 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: The Law
8. The Law – Frédéric Bastiat
Published 1849 // 61 pages // Rated 4.4 over 11,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: A Room of One's Own
9. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
Published 1929 // 112 pages // Rated 4.2 over 141,900 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Nonfiction: The Elements of Style
10. The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr. (FREE Summary)
A short, prescriptive classic filled with good advice on writing great (American) English while omitting needless words – by professor and author William Strunk Jr.
Published 1918 // 105 pages // Rated 4.1 over 82,600 reviews on Goodreads

Books 11-30: 20 Great Short Nonfiction Books to Read Next

Here are the next 20 best short nonfiction books from my database…

11. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass
Published 1845 // 76 pages // Rated 4.0 over 108,800 reviews on Goodreads
12. Common Sense – Thomas Paine
Published 1776 // 64 pages // Rated 4.0 over 32,100 reviews on Goodreads
13. Acres of Diamonds – Russell H. Conwell
Published 1892 // 68 pages // Rated 4.2 over 8,400 reviews on Goodreads
14. Meno – Plato
Published -386 // 32 pages // Rated 4.0 over 7,500 reviews on Goodreads
15. Letter from the Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr.
Published 1963 // 35 pages // Rated 4.7 over 5,700 reviews on Goodreads
16. Narrative of Sojourner Truth – Sojourner Truth
Published 1850 // 80 pages // Rated 4.1 over 8,900 reviews on Goodreads
17. A Confession – Leo Tolstoy
Published 1880 // 108 pages // Rated 4.1 over 11,400 reviews on Goodreads
18. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff
Published 1970 // 97 pages // Rated 4.1 over 61,000 reviews on Goodreads
19. Politics and the English Language – George Orwell
Published 1946 // 20 pages // Rated 4.3 over 5,700 reviews on Goodreads
20. The Prince – Niccolò Machiavelli
Published 1532 // 80 pages // Rated 3.8 over 285,600 reviews on Goodreads
21. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
Published 1748 // 96 pages // Rated 3.9 over 18,300 reviews on Goodreads
22. Self-Reliance – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Published 1841 // 52 pages // Rated 4.0 over 7,700 reviews on Goodreads
23. In Praise of Shadows – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Published 1933 // 56 pages // Rated 4.1 over 15,000 reviews on Goodreads
24. In Praise of Folly – Erasmus
Published 1511 // 71 pages // Rated 3.9 over 14,700 reviews on Goodreads
25. Parmenides – Plato
Published -340 // 96 pages // Rated 4.0 over 2,200 reviews on Goodreads
26. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau
Published 1849 // 48 pages // Rated 4.0 over 13,600 reviews on Goodreads
27. Existentialism is a Humanism – Jean-Paul Sartre
Published 1946 // 108 pages // Rated 4.0 over 27,400 reviews on Goodreads
28. The Way to Wealth – Benjamin Franklin
Published 1758 // 30 pages // Rated 4.1 over 2,300 reviews on Goodreads
29. Protagoras – Plato
Published -390 // 59 pages // Rated 3.9 over 2,500 reviews on Goodreads
30. Playing in the Dark – Toni Morrison
Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
Published 1992 // 110 pages // Rated 4.3 over 5,600 reviews on Goodreads

The 30 Best Short FICTION Books of All Time

Here are the best 30 short fiction books of all time (104 pages or less, excluding books of poetry and plays) from my database…

NOTE: I’ve also excluded children’s books from this list. For more of those, check out this list of the 30 best children’s books of all time.

Books 1-10: The Top 10 Best Short Fiction Books

The top 10 best short fiction books of all time are…

Best Short Books Fiction: A Christmas Carol
1. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Published 1843 // 104 pages // Rated 4.1 over 572,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: The Tell-Tale Heart
2. The Tell-Tale Heart – Edgar Allan Poe
Published 1843 // 48 pages // Rated 4.2 over 65,800 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: Notes from the Underground
3. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Published 1864 // 96 pages // Rated 4.2 over 101,400 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: The Overcoat
4. The Overcoat – Nikolai Gogol
Published 1842 // 57 pages // Rated 4.2 over 31,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: The Yellow Wall-Paper
5. The Yellow Wall-Paper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Published 1892 // 64 pages // Rated 4.1 over 114,600 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: The Death of Ivan Ilych
6. The Death of Ivan Ilych – Leo Tolstoy
Published 1886 // 86 pages // Rated 4.1 over 81,500 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: White Nights
7. White Nights – Fyodor Dostoevsky
Published 1848 // 82 pages // Rated 4.0 over 66,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: Siddhartha
8. Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse
Published 1922 // 81 pages // Rated 4.0 over 640,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: The Fall of the House of Usher
9. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe
Published 1839 // 36 pages // Rated 4.0 over 38,800 reviews on Goodreads
Best Short Books Fiction: The Time Machine
10. The Time Machine – H.G. Wells
Published 1895 // 80 pages // Rated 3.9 over 453,900 reviews on Goodreads

Books 11-30: 20 Great Short Fiction Books to Read Next

Here are the next 20 best short fiction books from my database…

11. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Published 1774 // 88 pages // Rated 3.7 over 98,700 reviews on Goodreads
12. Chess Story – Stefan Zweig
Published 1942 // 104 pages // Rated 4.3 over 86,000 reviews on Goodreads
13. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
Published 1886 // 54 pages // Rated 3.8 over 433,400 reviews on Goodreads
14. The Royal Game – Stefan Zweig
Published 1942 // 96 pages // Rated 4.3 over 85,900 reviews on Goodreads
15. Bartleby the Scrivener – Herman Melville
Published 1853 // 64 pages // Rated 3.9 over 50,400 reviews on Goodreads
16. The Alienist – Machado de Assis
Published 1882 // 98 pages // Rated 4.1 over 11,600 reviews on Goodreads
17. The Murders in the Rue Morgue – Edgar Allan Poe
Published 1841 // 38 pages // Rated 3.9 over 21,900 reviews on Goodreads
18. A Doll’s House – Henrik Ibsen
Published 1879 // 81 pages // Rated 3.7 over 117,300 reviews on Goodreads
19. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
Published 1890 // 36 pages // Rated 4.0 over 21,700 reviews on Goodreads
20. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
Published 1915 // 96 pages // Rated 3.8 over 736,300 reviews on Goodreads
21. The Queen of Spades – Alexander Pushkin
Published 1834 // 52 pages // Rated 3.9 over 9,200 reviews on Goodreads
22. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Published 1937 // 103 pages // Rated 3.9 over 2,107,000 reviews on Goodreads
23. Utopia – Thomas More
Published 1516 // 96 pages // Rated 3.6 over 63,800 reviews on Goodreads
24. The Firm – Robin Waterfield
Published 1991 // 76 pages // Rated 4.0 over 591,400 reviews on Goodreads
25. The Machine Stops – E.M. Forster
Published 1909 // 48 pages // Rated 4.1 over 11,700 reviews on Goodreads
26. The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas – Ursula K. Le Guin
Published 1973 // 32 pages // Rated 4.4 over 22,900 reviews on Goodreads
27. The Dead – James Joyce
Published 1914 // 64 pages // Rated 4.0 over 17,300 reviews on Goodreads
28. The Fall – Albert Camus
Published 1956 // 92 pages // Rated 4.0 over 83,300 reviews on Goodreads
29. The Call of Cthulhu – H.P. Lovecraft
Published 1928 // 43 pages // Rated 4.0 over 44,200 reviews on Goodreads
30. Rappaccini’s Daughter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
Published 1844 // 48 pages // Rated 3.9 over 5,200 reviews on Goodreads

More Book Recommendations

Enjoyed this list of the best short books of all time? Here’s a breakdown of all the book lists and book recommendations on the site…

More Best Books of All Time (by Type)

These are some lists of overall best books to read...

More Best Nonfiction Books (by Topic)

These are some lists of best nonfiction books to read...

More Best Fiction Books (by Genre)

These are some lists of best fiction books to read...

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Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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