Novellas to Practice your Reading

Frequently, students who are struggling with the Reading section of the SAT are given the unhelpful advice to “read more.” Now it isn’t that reading more is wrong, it is that weak readers don’t have any idea where to start. The world is filled with options, but without guidance, students frequently pick up challenging and boring materials and get frustrated because they struggle with long texts with old-fashioned or complex writing styles.

Yes, you need to read more, but no, you don’t need to tackle War and Peace. There are plenty of options that are written at an appropriately difficult level, but are shorter in length, allowing for some light at the end of the reading tunnel.

Not all options are good fro all people. One mistake students make is thinking that any book will do. Not all books speak to all people. Some people like a slow examination of character while others need a peppy adventure. And that’s okay. Figure out the types of stories you enjoy and start there. One place to start is with Novellas. Novellas are longer than short stories but shorter than novels, typically between 100 and 200 pages. Often they can be read over the course of week, or a long Sunday afternoon, allowing you to not forget who did what to whom.

The list below is comprised mostly of classics, many of which can be downloaded for free or very cheaply. They have high quality writing but are not overly challenging. Don’t just grab the first on the list though. Spend some time on www.goodreads.com and read the descriptions and reviews until something speaks to you.

  • Animal Farm by Orwell
  • Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck
  • Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Stevenson
  • Heart of Darkness by Conrad
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Capote
  • The Time Machine by Wells
  • Ethan Frome by Warton
  • We have always lived in the Castle by Jackson
  • The Crying of Lot 49 by Pynchon
  • The Man who would be King by Kipling
  • War of the Worlds by Wells
  • Lord of the Flies by Golding
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Porter
  • The Third Man by Greene
  • The Thin Man by Hammett
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde
  • Balzac and the little Chinese Seamstress by Sijie
  • Bartleby the Scrivener by Melville
  • The Awakening by Chopin
  • The House on Mango Street by Cisneros
  • The Penelopiad by Atwood
  • The Turn of the Screw by James
  • Three Blind Mice by Christie
  • The Uncommon Reader by Bennett
  • The 39 Steps by Buchan
  • The Bluest Eye by Morrison

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