Some reading options for Novellas in November!

With just ten days to go until this year’s Novellas in November kicks off, I’ve been looking at my piles of books to get some options for what to read.

Aside from our Buddy Reads this year, which are Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson, Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, here are some of the other books I have to choose from.

CONTEMPORARY OPTIONS

Moral Hazzard by Kate Jennings

Kate Jennings was an Australian poet, writer and memoirist who died earlier this year. I’ve included this novella so that I can take part in Aus Reading Month hosted by the lovely Brona at Brona’s Books. Kim at Reading Matters reviewed it last year and I thought it sounded intriguing.

Old School by Tobias Wolff

I love a school/ college set book and have heard great things about Old School which is set in and elite American prep school in the 1960s with a plot that revolves around the school’s literary contest, whose winners are given an audience with famous authors.

Bedlam by Jennifer Higgie

Bedlam is a fictionalised account of a period in the life of the painter Richard Dadd. In 1842 respected painter Dadd toured Europe and the Middle East. On his return to London, he stabbed his father to death and was locked up in Bedlam. I’m a sucker for anything about the art world and I love a fictionalised account of a real life, so am looking forward to this.

Glaciers by Alexis M Smith

Glaciers is set over one day and follows Isabel, a twentysomething thrift-store shopper and collector of remnants, who works with damaged books in the basement of a library. I get the feeling this might veer towards the twee, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

Winter in the Blood by James Welch

James Welch, most well-known for his 1986 novel Fool’s Crow, was a Blackfeet author who wrote several novels considered part of the Native American Renaissance literary movement. This  novella concerns a few days in the life of a 32-year-old man, descendant of Indians and living in two worlds, his mother’s home on the reservation and the dreary bars and hotels of nearby Havre and Malta, Montana. 

From the e-reader…

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

I adored Keegan’s other novella Foster when I read it earlier this year, so am looking forward to her new book. Here she is in this week’s Guardian, talking about how a book ‘needs to be as long as it needs to be’.

This is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill

I previously enjoyed Gaitskill’s Bad Behaviour and she is an author who writes unflinchingly about gender relationships. Who better then to tackle the complications of the #MeToo movement?

SHORT NON-FICTION OPTIONS

America by Jean Baudrillard

In this short work, France’s leading philosopher of postmodernism takes to the freeways of America in what is billed as ‘a collection of traveller’s tales from the land of hyperreality.’ I’m not expecting straightforward travel writing in this one!

Crapalachia: A Biography of Place by Scott McClanahan

When Scott McClanahan was fourteen he went to live with his Grandma Ruby and his Uncle Nathan, who suffered from cerebral palsy. Crapalachia is a portrait of these formative years, coming-of-age in rural West Virginia.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

First published in 1972, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing was based on his BBC television series of the same name. The Sunday Times commented that “this is an eye-opener in more ways than one: by concentrating on how we look at paintings . . . he will almost certainly change the way you look at pictures.” 

Falling is like Flying by Manon Uphoff

Following the death of her elder sister at the age of 69, Uphoff felt compelled to tell the story of her abusive childhood spent in the shadow of a domineering, abusive father. This could also have been included in short non-ficiton, but it has been described as a novelistic memoir so I’ll keep it in this section.

From the e-reader…

The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

I read, and loved, Real Estate, the third instalment of Levy’s ‘living autobiography’ earlier this year and now continue to read them out of order with this, her second in the series.

Hiroshima by John Hersey

On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey’s journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day. Told through the memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic “that stirs the conscience of humanity”

LITERATURE IN TRANSLATION OPTIONS

The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer

The Appointment is structured as a monologue where a young woman discusses her life with a doctor. I’ve heard great things about Volckmer’s debut and will read it for German Literature Month XI. This may be a slight cheat though, as Volckmer is German, but the book was originally written in English. So not technically translated…

Class Trip by Emmanuel Carrère, translated by Linda Coverdale

In Class Trip, a young boy, Nicolas embarks on an ill-fated overnight excursion. Prone to lurid imaginings bad happenings, Nicolas watches his fantasies grow horrifyingly real when a local child disappears. When he decides to play detective, things don’t turn out as he expects. If this is anything like Carrère’s other novella – The Moustache – it should be bonkers but brilliant.

Touring the Land of the Dead by Maki Kashimada, translated by Hayden Trowell

This is actually a pairing of two novellas which both explore themes of memory, loss and family through an emotionally charged and dream-like narrative voice.

Hôtel Splendid by Marie Redonnet, translated by Jordan Stump

French author Marie Dubonnet, who is often compared to Samuel Beckett, has written four novels, short stories and poetry, along with this novella which recounts the daily life of three sisters who live in a decrepit hotel on the edge of a swamp.

Winter Flowers by Angélique Villeneuve, translated by Adriana Hunter

This is the latest release from Peirene Press and explores the fall-out from WWI through the story of a soldier’s family coming to terms with the facial injuries he has sustained in battle.

The Governesses by Anne Serre, translated by Mark Hutchinson

Dubbed on Goodreads as a ‘semi-deranged erotic fairytale’ this novella is set in a large country house shut off from the world by a gated garden. Here, three young governesses responsible for the education of a group of little boys are preparing a party. 

From the e-reader…

Dinner by César Aira, translated by Katherine Silver

I’ve a few books by Argentine author César Aira in the 746 and have heard that his writing can be odd, to say the least. Dinner is about a bankrupt bachelor who goes to dinner with an old friend, just before the dead in the local cemetery rise from the dead!

The Old Child by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky

Jenny Erpenbeck impressed me with another short book, Visitation. The Old Child is an unsettling tale about a girl who appears to have lost her memory and is taken into a children’s home, where she obeys all rules with a disquieting rigidity.

CLASSIC OPTIONS

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

I really only know if William Maxwell from his role as editor of The New Yorker and his friendship with Irish writer Maeve Brennan, but I really like the sound of this story of a murder in small town Illinois in the 1920s which tears apart the friendship of two boys.

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

This coming-of-age story of one of Jamaica Kincaid’s most admired creations. Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. As she begins to discover the cracks in their marriage, she also starts to learn about herself.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

I’ve read a lot of Capote, but never his classic novella featuring the iconic Holly Golightly. I haven’t seen the film either, so I have no idea what to expect.

The Pumpkin-Eater by Penelope Mortimer

Penelope Mortimer’s classic 1962 novella charts the emotional breakdown of a woman married to her fourth and excessively well-paid husband. This income only serves to highlight the emptiness of a life led by a woman deprived of the domestic trappings that have defined her.

Catholics by Brian Moore

Luckily my Brian Moore readathon choice for this month is the novella length Catholics. Catholics is set in the near future where the Catholic faith has changed beyond recognition and the Vatican is discussing a merger with Buddhism. The novella focuses on a group of monks on a remote island in Ireland who are clinging to the old traditions.

Address Unknown by Katherine Kressmann Taylor

Originally published in 1938 and banned in Nazi Germany, Address Unknown is written as a series of fictional letters between a Jewish art dealer living in San Francisco and his former business partner, who has returned to Germany. I’m not including this in translated fiction, as it was originally published in English.


Obviously I won’t get round to reading all of these, but I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of them and what your thoughts were! Then maybe I can start to narrow down my choices.

Rebecca has listed her options this morning, and Karen Kate and Margaret have also posted their piles.

Have you started to plan your Novellas in November reading yet?

Novellas in November The 746

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

59 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I loved Gaitskill’s The Mare, so I’d definitely be interested to read more by her. The two novellas in Touring the Land of the Dead are on my 2021 to-read list, so I’ll try to pick them up this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lots to choose from there!
    I have just added Less Than Zero to my list (it’s 195pp) – I read it back in the day, but on the strength on the Bennington/Tartt/Ellis podcast, I decided to reread (will also reread The Secret History – interested to see how that holds-up, after loving it so much when I read it decades ago).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of interest here, Cathy. So Long, See You Tomorrow is one of my favourite books. I also loved Old School and Small Things Like These but I’m hoping that you’ll pick Dinner which may well find its way on to my TBR list for its sheer weirdness.

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  4. None of these is on my radar except the Berger, which I thought I might read for its half-centenary anniversary. As for me I usually make my mind up as to what I will read on the spur of the moment so I’m making no lists (and so no commitments) right now! But the clock is ticking, I know …

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  5. The Pumpkin Eater is brilliant — I read it last year (but actually filed it under Autumn reading instead of novellas) and I think you’ll love it. I read the Gaitskill and liked it well enough, but didn’t necessarily feel it added anything new to the conversation. I saw the film of Breakfast at Tiffany’s long before I read the book; both are fab. Let’s see how many of our mutually owned books we can both manage to review!

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  6. What a fab list! I have some good candidates (I overlap with Nonfiction November but not AusReadingMonth – but some of the latter two overlap). I’m afraid I won’t be making my piles until 01 November so I hope that will do!

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  7. Having had a terrible reading month so far, Novellas in November may help me out. I haven’t decided what I will be reading yet though.
    Some great suggestions above though. Glad to see So long See You Tomorrow, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Pumpkin Eater listed, such great books.

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  8. You’ve gone up market with your photos of book stacks – very classy looking!
    The Horishima book sounds fascinating but since I’ve only just finished Fall, about the 9/11 attacks I don’t think I can take on the aftermath of nuclear explosion right now. One to keep an eye on for the future though.

    I think I got over excited and did my reading list for Novellas in November in September!

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  9. Wonderful list. Bedlam sounds interesting to me. I’ve read some non-fiction books on this hospital and recall Richard Dadd being mentioned quite a few times. I would love to read Hiroshima, too. Some of the novellas I enjoyed in the past also included Balzac’s Colonel Chabert, and books by Stefan Zweig and Amelie Nothomb.

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  10. I don’t think I’ve read any of these. The classic options are the most familiar to me, but I haven’t read them.
    The cover of The Old Child does indeed look “unsettling” to say the least. Ha!
    I’ve got 5 books picked out for Novellas in November, plus a bonus one. But I’ll be doing well to get through 5! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. (I think my comment was erased because I wasn’t logged in. Or maybe it will appear twice now?)

    I haven’t read any of these books!
    The cover of The Old Child does indeed look “unsettling.” Ha!
    I have 5 novellas picked out to read for November, plus one bonus novella. But I’ll be doing well to get through 5! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So many lovely choices here Cathy! The Maxwell is one of my all-time favourites and I love The Pumpkin Eater too. I have two German language novellas lined up so I can take part in this and German Lit Month too (my reading is still very slow and patchy so I need to be strategic!)

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