10 of the Shortest Bestselling and Classic Books

Some classics are pretty trim volumes.
Some classics are pretty trim volumes. / Amazon

Books are getting shorter. One analysis of New York Times non-fiction bestsellers released between 2011 and 2017 found that the average length of a title on the list went from 467 pages in 2011 down to 273 pages by 2017, a decrease of 42 percent.

That’s still a hefty tome. If you really want to breeze through a good book, you can find popular and bestselling titles that redefine what it means to be a slim volume. Check out 10 titles you could get through in a day. (One asterisk: page counts are estimates and can fluctuate depending on the printing or format.)

1. On Bullsh-t (2005) // 67 Pages; $10

The cover to 'On Bullsh-t' is pictured
'On Bullsh-t.' / Amazon

In 1985, philosopher and professor emeritus at Princeton Harry Frankfurt wrote a treatise on the dangers of disregarding the truth, commonly known as bullsh-t. The paper was passed around to students and colleagues before Princeton published it for the mass market in 2005, where it became a New York Times bestseller.

2. Of Mice and Men (1937) // 107 Pages; $10

The cover to 'Of Mice and Men' is pictured
'Of Mice and Men.' / Amazon

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

3. Who Moved My Cheese? (1998) // 96 Pages; $16

The cover to 'Who Moved My Cheese?' is pictured
'Who Moved My Cheese?' / Amazon

Spencer Johnson’s parable about four mice making their way through a maze to learn about adapting to change once their cheese disappears struck a chord with readers. As of 2018, it has sold more than 30 million copies—a good portion of them in hardcover. For years, Johnson refused to issue the book in paperback, believing people would take it more seriously in hardback.

4. Animal Farm (1945) // 140 Pages; $7

The cover to 'Animal Farm' is pictured
'Animal Farm.' / Amazon

George Orwell wrote this tidy allegory about Communist Russia. While it’s been a perennial influence in the States, a number of countries—including Cuba and North Korea—have banned it.

5. The Elements of Style (1918) // 43+ Pages; $12

The cover to 'The Elements of Style' is pictured
'The Elements of Style.' / Amazon

William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White have helped generations of writers with this pocket guide to grammar and formatting. Regularly updated over the years, it was initially 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 clocks in at over 100 pages.

6. 84, Charing Cross Road (1970) // 112 Pages; $13

The cover to '84, Charing Cross Road' is pictured
'84, Charing Cross Road.' / Amazon

In the 1950s, writer Helene Hanff wrote to a bookseller in London, hoping to procure some titles she was unable to find in New York. The respondent, Frank Doel, wrote her back, sparking a friendship defined by letters over the next two decades: Their correspondence makes up this epistolary work, which hit the New York Times list and was later made into a film in 1987 starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft.

7. Love Story (1970) // 224 Pages; $7

The cover to 'Love Story' is pictured
'Love Story.' / Amazon

Erich Segal didn’t win many raves for this treacly tale of two lovers whose entanglement is cut short when one of them is diagnosed with terminal leukemia. The five-person panel on the National Book Committee threatened to resign if the title was nominated for a prize. Perhaps Segal didn’t care: The book was a runaway bestseller, with a hit movie version released that same year.

8. The Little Prince (1943) // 96 Pages; $16

The cover to 'The Little Prince' is pictured
'The Little Prince.' / Amazon

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry penned this children’s book that has since resonated with audiences of all ages. The author inadvertently did some research while putting together this story of a downed pilot who meets an alien dignitary: While flying from Paris to Saigon, Saint-Exupéry crashed his plane. The book is among the most oft-translated in the world, even getting an edition in the Amerindian language of Toba in 2005, an honor it shared with the Bible.

9. Shopgirl (2000) // 130 Pages; $9

The cover to 'Shopgirl' is pictured
'Shopgirl.' / Amazon

Like many titles on this list, Shopgirl is technically a novella—something author Steve Martin proudly announces on the dust jacket. In Beverly Hills, twenty-something Mirabelle searches for meaning in her life. Jeremy is an age-appropriate suitor; Ray is a 50-ish professional who takes a liking to her. Martin later adapted the book into a film, which he costarred in.

10. The Old Man and the Sea (1952) // 128 Pages; $11

The cover to 'The Old Man and the Sea' is pictured
'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.