The best short, swift novels to shock, expand, and engulf you

The Books I Picked & Why

Zama

By Antonio Di Benedetto

Zama

Why this book?

Argentinian masterpiece written in 1956 and only recently published in English in 2016, Zama is told from the POV of a minor Spanish official colonizing Paraguay. The alienation of Don Diego de Zama reads like a horror storytaut and psychological, hes both villain and victim of the systems he perpetuates. Zama was adapted brilliantly into a film by Lucrecia Martel in 2017, which is how I learned about the book. I expected the film to have radically adapted its source material, but what I discovered instead was a novel from the 1950s that felt incredibly fresh and modern. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Tentacle

By Rita Indiana, Achy Obejas

Tentacle

Why this book?

Electric, dystopic, magical, queer, Tentacle is the most exciting, genre-bending book Ive gotten my little hands on in quite some time. Expansive in theme yet swiftly paced, it moves between three different connected time spans including futuristic Santo Domingo. Felt like a fever dream with seriously high stakes, I cant believe how much world building happens in under 200 pages. Rita Indiana is also a brilliant musician based in the Dominican Republic, I was introduced to her revelatory music after reading her fiction. Her music now haunts all my playlists. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Event Factory

By Renee Gladman

Event Factory

Why this book?

The first in a series of surreal, poetic short novels, set in the fictional city of Ravicka, a linguist-travelerarrives during an unspecified state of emergency. Event Factory feels like a travelog of an unsettling yet beautiful dream. I return to this book often and always get something differentthe events evaporate, but the details remain. You can easily enjoy Event Factory as a standalone novel. Gladman is a master. Fun fact: Dorothy, the small feminist press which publishes these books, began specifically to launch these singular novels. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

By Night in Chile

By Roberto Bolaño, Chris Andrews

By Night in Chile

Why this book?

Im also a playwright, so I really admire a full story told in propulsive first-person monologue. This novella is a confession of Father Urrutia from his deathbed, beginning with the line I am dying now, but I still have many things to say.As he speaks, the priest untangles the twisted, uncomfortable agreements between artists and institutions in Chile under Pinochet. I often recommend this book for people who have not yet read Bolaño and might feel intimated by the length of his major works. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

How to Order the Universe

By María José Ferrada, Elizabeth Bryer

How to Order the Universe

Why this book?

In this beguiling short novel just out from Tin House, Ferrara also examines the Pinochet regime, but through the eyes of a child. 7-year-old M sells tools to hardware stores with her salesman father, slowly realizing his downtrodden place in their society, along with dark secrets about the world around her. The dance of revelations through the young narrators perspective is poetic and effective. I read this in an afternoon, oscillating between feeling breathless and meditative. A high wire act, to say the least. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Random Book Lists