May 03

So many books, in praise of novellas, and we recommend a new novella by Graham Swift and a novel that is the first in a new science-fiction trilogy.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:12)

Hidden BodiesHidden Bodies
by Caroline Kepnes, performed by Santino Fontana, is my pick for this week’s Audiobook of the Week.
Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 100,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to


One-sit Wonders (07:30)

This week’s episode was inspired by an article on by Cynan Jones called “The Case for Very Short Novels.”

Michael and I talk a bit about the terminology (“novella,” specifically), our relationship to short novels, and how we approach them.

Titles discussed:

  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  • The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
  • Bartleby the Scrivener
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • The Time Machine by HG Wells
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  • The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

More titles are listed on the Wikipedia page for “Novella.”

Please let us know your thoughts on novellas, and share some of your favorites.


Two books we can’t wait for you to read (22:55)


Mothering Sunday   Sleeping Giants


My pick this week is a novella, Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift. Just 177 pages, it packs a punch that belies its small size. Most of the novel is set in just 5 hours in the spring of 1924, with the story of a young housemaid who spends her day off in an illicit assignation with the son of the wealthy neighbors. There, her life changes in an instant.

Michael takes a different direction, telling us about the first book in a science fiction trilogy. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Nouvel starts with a young girl, Rose, who falls off her bicycle into a hole in the ground that turns out to be a chamber that is actually a metal hand. Fast forward 20 years, and Rose is a physicist who is helping to investigate the origin of this hand and what it means.






  • Peg Bradley

    I really enjoyed your discussion of One Sit Wonders. Short novels and stories definitely take a higher concentration level than many longer novels. When I first started listening to audiobooks I thought shorter ‘books’ world be my best entry into to this new realm of reading. I quickly found that these are the worst types of books for me to listen to. I am typically doing other things while I am listening to an audiobook and the short stories/novellas required more concentration than I was capable of. Keep up the great work. I love your podcast!

  • Thank you, Peg!

  • Kristin Robertson

    How about the novella as a marketing tool for an established media savvy author? I can think of several established authors who have published a novella as a prelude to a new title. I have never seen this particular style of novella available as a traditional book, but I have seen and read them in an e-book format, or even at an author’s website. Are these novellas different from the stand-alone titles that were discussed?

  • I loved this discussion, especially because I’m going through a novella phase at the moment. One of my favorites is The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark – it’s wicked and sly and it packs such a brilliant punch. Also, The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter is one of my favorites. I’m not if it meets the official novella word count, but at under 200 pages, it’s still a pretty short novel and a really fast read. Thanks for the awesome episode and the podcast in general!

  • Janet Schneider

    Great discussion! Novelissimo–love it! I 100% prefer, and am more likely to pick up, a book where “every word is doing a job”.

  • Jenni has recently started publishing novellas that are available as e-books, trade paperbacks and sometimes as audiobooks as well. Several of them have been excellent and I think they would be right up Michael’s alley. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor or Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire would be great places to start.

    If your tastes run more to the literary Peirene Press (that Ann and Michael mentioned on the podcast) publishes translated novellas. I would recommend The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen and Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi.

  • I love novellas–and it is true that often you cannot skim! You must read carefully. I notice that all but one of the novella authors you mention are men, and the novella by the woman (Edith Wharton) is a novella primarily about a man! Here is a Goodreads list I started dedicated to novellas by women, about women:

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