Hello everyone! Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
Today we are diverging from the planned topic and discussing our favorite short fiction and novellas. It’s too depressing to think about bookish events in the middle of all this mess, and neither one of us has too many on our bucket lists. So! We figured we would do an older topic and share the love for some of our favorite novellas and shorter pieces of fiction. We know a lot of people are having trouble focusing on reading — ourselves included — so novellas are a great way to bust that slump and feel productive!
1. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon SandersonThe Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Published by Tachyon Publications on October 11, 2012
Also available in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.
A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.
Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.
Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.
Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.
I just love this perfect little bundle of a book. It’s an excellent introduction to those who have been wanting to read some Sanderson but can’t bring themselves to start a massive series or tome right now. It’s the perfect little summary of how wonderful he is at magic systems and character development and making you think deeply about yourself. Somehow, he accomplished more in these 175 pages than many authors do in much longer books. I love it and it’s perfect, now go read it!
2. Binti Trilogy by Nnedi OkoraforBinti (Binti, #1) by Nnedi Okorafor
Published by Tor.com on September 22, 2015
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.
Ugh, I love this entire trilogy so dang much, but this first one really ripped out my heart — which I definitely mean as high praise. This is wonderful science-fiction that explores immigration and otherness and perception and what it means to belong. I truly love this series and at less than 100 pages, there’s really no reason not to give this one a go!
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman CapoteBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Published by Penguin Books on September 3, 1998
With her tousled blond hair and upturned nose, dark glasses and chic black dresses, Holly Golightly is top notch in style and a sensation wherever she goes. Her brownstone apartment vibrates with martini-soaked parties as she plays hostess to millionaires and gangsters alike. Yet Holly never loses sight of her ultimate goal.
That’s right everybody, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not just an amazing ear-worm of a song, it’s a gorgeous little novella staring the original manic-pixie-dream-girl, Holly Golightly. Holly is a force to be reckoned with but really she just desperately needs to be seen. It’s a really beautiful depiction of how important friendships can be, and how they can change us if they hit us just at the right time. Be warned, that having been published in the 1950s, this book definitely includes outdated language regarding race and some internalized homophobia, so proceed with some caution.
4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Published by Spiegel & Grau on July 14, 2015
“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
Every person I know who has read this book has been changed by it. Full stop. I highly recommend the audiobook, read by the author, as the conceit of the book is that it is a letter written to his young son. You’ll probably want to follow up with the text so you can highlight and reread and revisit, but for me, audio was the best way to take this in the first time, so that all I could do was listen and focus and take it in. It’s wonderful and should be required reading for everyone.
5. The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1) by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor.com on April 5, 2016
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward ChildrenNo SolicitationsNo VisitorsNo Quests
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
Even as a kid, I remember thinking how weird it must have been for the Pevensie children to live these whole, rich lives in Narnia and then suddenly become kids again in London. This series, which starts with Every Heart a Doorway, takes that uncomfortable feeling of “then what” and runs with it. It’s the other side of the portal fantasy, and one that perhaps we’d rather not look too hard at. I love these books so much and reread them most every time a new one comes out. There’s so much to unravel in them, or you can just choose to be transported away to new lands. They are marvelous, and I would physically push them into your hands if I could.
1. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian ReidI'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Published by Thorndike Press on October 19, 2016
With remarkable, masterful skill, Iain Reid builds a plot that steadily crescendos into a harrowing endingone that will have you at the edge of your seats and one that you will never see coming. Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel will pull you in from the very first page]]and will never let you go.
This is a quick little book that is not what it appears at first glance. There is a deep sense of foreboding that permeates the story as a man his girlfriend travel so she can meet his family. During the course of the trip the reader is privvy to the girlfriend’s (she does not actually have a name in the story) internal monologue about whether she should break off the relationship or not. The audio of this book is amazing and so eerie in places that my husband asked me to turn it off because it was scaring him. If that it’s enticing enough I don’t know what is.
2. Exit West by Mosin HamidExit West by Mohsin Hamid
Published by Penguin Random House on March 6, 2018
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
This story seems all too prescient these days. Two very different people find each other and fall in love amid the turmoil of a deteriorating city. I haven’t actually read this one but it is so short and includes a touch of magical realism, which I am always game for. I know when it came out years ago it was extremely popular so I can only hope it lives up to the hype.
3. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
This book is so disturbing! Its a series but I have only read The Butterfly Garden. I did like it enough to continue so hopefully one of these days I can find the time to continue the series. This is a horror novel that deserves all the trigger warnings. It follows a girl who is kidnapped by someone who keeps a garden of “butterflies”. He’s a collector and the way the kidnapped girls are treated is appaling. It’s perfect for fans of books that push the horror envelope just a little bit.
4. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowai
Pride and Prejudice was one of the first classics I ever read so naturally it holds a soft spot in my bookish heart. Kowai’s novel is essentially a Pride and Prejudice retelling with magic and paints a world where mastery of grammar is part of a proper lady’s education. I know this one has mixed reviews but I would like to think my overwhelming love of the source material will assuage most shortcoming.
5. The Incendiaries by RO Kwon
I told myself I wouldn’t put The Incendiaries on this list. I promise I tried. But you can see how well that went and here we are. Kwon’s debut is one of those books that sticks with you. It’s essentially a coming of age tale thrown into the middle of an extremist cult. It asks hard questions about faith, hope, and what it means to love someone even when they do terrible things. The most powerful aspect of the novel were the musings on what it was like to let go of a belief in a higher power. While short, the writing style is complex and makes for a lower read.
What About You?
What are some of your favorite quick reads? What do you think of our list? Let us know in the comments!