It doesn't take a librarian to know that the quality of a book doesn't lie in the quantity of its pages. You know the type: that skinny book you pick up when you think you don't have much time to read, and then you find that you're setting time aside just to get back to it. The best short books can pack a potent punch in small doses and leave you scrambling for more. The following selection is just that type, and even better - they're short, but not-so-sweet. Think murder, betrayal, estrangement, voyeurism, and plain old manipulation. These little books will grab a hold of you and hang on.
- Alys, Always by Harriet Lane (209 pgs)
The wife of a celebrated novelist is in a fatal car crash and is comforted at the end by a stranger passing by. Frances Thorpe is an assistant editor for a newspaper, but when she meets Alys's family she discovers a world quite different from her own.
- Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar (224 pgs)
Born into exile, 11-year-old Nuri, the son of worldly parents who fled the revolution in their Arab country, is transfixed along with his widowed father by an Arab-English woman who joins their family, a situation that is complicated by Nuri's father's disappearance.
- Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey (183 pgs)
Arrested and forced to serve their country under a new regime when their president is overthrown by a military coup, a barber, a chef, a portraitist, and the women they love find their intimacies exposed by the government's new order.
- By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham (238 pgs)
Peter and Rebecca Harris--mid-forties denizens of Manhattan's SoHo, he a dealer, she an editor--are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca's much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, "the mistake"), shows up for a visit.
- The Cradle by Patrick Somerville (203 pgs)
It's 1997, and 25-year-old Marissa Bishop could be a bit crazy, or perhaps it's just pregnancy that makes her send her adoring husband, Matt, on an impossible quest: find her own childhood cradle, which was removed from her home ten years earlier when her mother left Marissa and her dad.
- The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman (230 pgs)
Treating a delusional scientist who has been using cloaking technology from an aborted government project to render himself nearly invisible, Austin therapist Victoria Vick becomes obsessed with his accounts of spying on the private lives of others.