Great novellas

Jun 1, 2021

I bloody love a good novella. There was a time when the novella was super popular. Those good old days of magazine rack pulp fiction, with pocket-sized novellas in every pharmacy, newsagent, supermarket, you name it. Then production costs and distribution systems changed, and bookstore shelf real estate became an issue, so wide spines were more popular, and the novella fell out of favour. Now we come full circle, and with print on demand and ebooks especially, length of story and width of spine are not so relevant any more, so we’ve seen a great resurgence in the novella. I love the length, especially for horror and dark fiction. There’s something perfect about having the space for a storyline like a novel, but the immediacy and pace of a short story. Some of my most successful books have been novellas. Given the popularity of my recent post on great short story collections, I thought I’d do another post with great novellas. This isn’t by any means exhaustive, of course, but it’s a hell of a list to get you started.

By definition, a novella is a short novel. The Science Fiction Writers of America (and most other genre bodies) recognise that as any book or story that is between 17,501 and 40,000 words. Anything less is a short story or novelette. Anything more is a novel. Of course, it’s a flexible thing and often based on opinion. A bit over 40,000 words would still be considered a novella by some. Some people won’t consider anything a novel until it’s over 60,000 words. Regardless, generally speaking, we’re talking about short novels. So the list below might not always be books that are less than 40,000 words, but they are all short novels. I know I’ve missed some classics, so I apologise. And I’ll add to this as new ones pass my brain.

Like the short story list, I’ll start with my own. That’s the beauty of this being my blog. Thanks for reading! Then I’ll list a wide variety of others, alphabetical by author surname, to get your teeth into. Every title link goes to Goodreads so you can add anything to your TBR, or simply look them up wherever you prefer to shop. Of course, the big ol’ Zon is easy, but try to support local indie booksellers too.

Alan Baxter

My novellas include THE ROO, which is absolute gonzo creature feature mayhem, THE BOOK CLUB, which is a missing person crime mystery with cosmic horror, and the ELI CARVER books, best described as John Wick meets The Frighteners – loads of guns and ghosts. The third Eli Carver book, GHOST RECALL, which follows MANIFEST RECALL and RECALL NIGHT is out now. And of course, there’s THE GULP and THE FALL, two collections, each of five interconnected novellas of weird Australian isolated harbour town cosmic horror. I also wrote a dark horror novella with David Wood called Dark Rite.

Peter M Ball

Exile (Flotsam Series, #1) is the start of a great urban fantasy novella series.

Nathan Ballingrud

Ballingrud writer great novella length fiction, but one of the best is The Visible Filth, which can be found in Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell.

Clive Barker

The Hellbound Heart is an absolute classic.

Laird Barron

Barron is another who writes amazing novellas. Try X’s For Eyes.

John Boden

Try Walk The Darkness Down.

Kealan Patrick Burke

Try Jack & Jill.

Aaron Dries

Dirty Heads is simply outstanding.

Brian Evenson

The Warren is unlike anything you’ll have read before.

Philip Fracassi

A few good ones, try Shiloh.

Lisa L Hannet

There’s a great novella called “By Touch and By Glance” in her collection Songs for Dark Seasons.

Ernest Hemingway

There’s a reason The Old Man and the Sea is a classic.

Mark Allan Gunnells

2B is a great book with cool twists.

Laurel Hightower

Crossroads will tear your heart out.

Gabino Iglesias

Try Zero Saints.

Kathleen Jennings

Flyaway is amazing Australian gothic.

Stephen Graham Jones

SGJ writes amazingly at any length but just won the Stoker for Night of the Mannequins. Try that!

Paul Haines

One of the best novellas you’ll ever read is “Wives” which you can find in Paul’s collection, The Last Days of Kali Yuga.

Brian Keene

Try his new one, With Teeth.

Todd Keisling

Rock and roll and cosmic horror in The Final Reconciliation.

Samantha Kolesnik

True Crime is harsh and amazing.

Ed Kurtz

Try A Wind of Knives.

Eric LaRocca

The epistolary Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke is like nothing you’ll have read before.

Tim Lebbon

His novella White is one of the best I’ve read.

Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom reinvents Lovecraft in the best way.

Martin Livings

Rope is short and brutal.

Chad Lutzke

Check out Of Foster Homes and Flies.

Josh Malerman

The first thing by Malerman I ever read was A House at the Bottom of a Lake and it still blows my mind.

Richard Matheson

I Am Legend is still one of my all-time favourite books.

Christine Morgan

Long by novella standards, but it qualifies as a short novel for me, The Night Silver River Run Red is a great horror western.

Jason Nahrung

Salvage reinvents the vampire yarn.

Nnedi Okorafor

Binti (Binti, #1) is great sci-fi.

George Orwell

Animal Farm

Sarah Pinborough

The Language of Dying is lyrical and beautiful and heartbreaking.

Daniel I Russell

Try Critique.

Priya Sharma

Ormeshadow is wonderful.

Angela Slatter

Of Sorrow and Such is classic Slatter at her best.

Keith Stevenson (editor)

I’m including X6: A Novellanthology as it contains 6 great novellas and of particular note is Margo Lanagan’s “Sea Hearts” which became an amazing novel. This was also the original publication of Paul Haines’ “Wives” mentioned above.

Peter Straub

Magic Terror is a collection of four novellas, all amazing.

Steve Stred

The Window In the Ground is a cool concept cleverly realised.

John F D Taff

Fire & Rain (The Fearing #1) is the start of an amazing novella series, or you can also now buy it as an omnibus edition.

Sara Tantlinger

Try To Be Devoured. It’s incredible.

Stephen Volk

Whitstable is a wonderful piece of work.

Marlee Jane Ward

Welcome to Orphancorp is the start of a stellar novella trilogy.

Kaaron Warren

Without doubt, one of the best writers working today. Try Into Bones like Oil.

Corey J White

Killing Gravity (The Voidwitch Saga, #1) is the first of a brilliant SF novella trilogy.

Kim Wilkins

The Year of Ancient Ghosts is a collection of superb novellas.

Michael David Wilson

Try The Girl in the Video to be really weirded out.


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