Planning My Reading Stacks for Novellas in November 2021

Not much more than a week until Novellas in November (#NovNov) begins! I gathered up all of my potential reads for a photo shoot. Review copies are stood upright and library loans are toggled in a separate pile on top; all the rest are from my shelves.

 

Week One: Contemporary Fiction

 

Week Two: Short Nonfiction

 

Week Three: Novellas in Translation

A rather pathetic little pile there, but I also have a copy of that week’s buddy read, Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, on the way. (The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind would be my token contribution to German Literature Month.)

 

Week Four: Short Classics

Last but not least, some comics collections that don’t seem to fit in one of the other categories. Of course, some books fit into two or more categories, and contemporary vs. classic feels like a fluid division – I haven’t checked rigorously for our suggested 1980 cut-off date, so some older stuff might have made it into different piles.

Also available on my Kindle: The Therapist by Nial Giacomelli, Record of a Night too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami, Childhood: Two Novellas by Gerard Reve, and Milton in Purgatory by Edward Vass. As an additional review copy on my Nook, I have Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg by Emily Rapp Black, which is 140-some pages.

Plus … I recently placed an order for some new and secondhand books with my birthday money (and then some), and it should arrive before the end of the month. On the way and of novella length are Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns, Bear by Marian Engel, The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy, and In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo.

I also recently requested review copies of Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (128 pages; coming out from Faber today) and The Fell by Sarah Moss (160 pages; coming out from Picador on November 11th), so hope to have those in hand soon.

Remember that this year we have chosen a buddy read for each week. I’m again looking after short nonfiction in the second week of the month and short classics in the final week. We plan to post our reviews on the Thursday or Friday of the week in question. Feel free to publish yours at any time in the month and we’ll round up the links on our review posts.

Superman Simon is thinking of reading a novella a day in November! Taken together, I’d have enough novellas here for TWO per day. But my record thus far (in 2018) is 26; since then, I’ve managed 16 per year.

I have no specific number in mind this time. Considering I also plan to read one or two books for Margaret Atwood Reading Month (and perhaps one for AusReading Month) and have a blog tour date, as well as other review books to catch up on and in-demand library books to keep on top of, I can’t devote my full attention to novellas.

If I can read all the review copies, mop up the 4–5 set-aside titles on the pile (the ones with bookmarks in), maybe manage two rereads (the Wharton plus Conundrum), make a dent in my owned copies, and get to one or more from the library, I’ll be happy.

Karen, Kate and Margaret have already come up with their lists of possible titles. Cathy’s has gone up today, too.

Do you have any novellas in mind to read next month?

46 responses

  1. Wow, that’s a lot! I didn’t realise Fludd was a novella; I’ve been interested in reading it for a while. I’ll also be reading The Fell this November, and may combine Novellas in November and SF Month by reading some SF novellas, which I tend to get on better with than other kinds of novella.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fludd is right at the top end of the word count, probably — it’s 186 pages in my Penguin paperback. I’ll see if I can read it soon and pass it on to you.

      Oh goodness, I didn’t know it was SF month as well! (I knew about Australia, German Lit, Margaret Atwood and nonfiction. Such a busy month for challenges.) I often hear shorter SF material being referred to as “novelettes,” which is cute. Do you know if there is a technical difference?

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      1. I’m not sure! I’ve heard the term as well. I think there must be a specific difference as SF competitions often have novella and novelette categories, so I assume it’s to do with word count.

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  2. We have quite a few that cross over! I included The Appointment in my translated fiction options for German Lit Month and have now realised that it was written in English!

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    1. We do have a good amount of overlap, even beyond the buddy reads! I definitely plan to read Old School since that’s from my set-aside pile, and Winter Flowers and Small Things Like These as they’re review copies.

      Alas, I had thought that one and Elizabeth and Her German Garden were good ones for German Lit Month but then read the announcement post more carefully and realized they’re not technically eligible since they were written in English. So only The Pigeon will count for me. But maybe I’ll include them as part of the spirit of the thing 🙂

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      1. I can include the Jenny Erpenbeck for German Literature Month instead but will probably read The Appointment too!

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  3. My stack of possibilities is far more modest. https://bookertalk.com/tuning-up-for-novellas-in-november/amp/

    I’m shuddering at the sight of Ben Okri in your piles. I tried his Booker winning novel and couldn’t get further than 10 pages. Dire.

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    1. Wonderful! I’m so glad you’re busy planning your stack, and will join us for one of the buddy reads. And how clever to combine with another challenge (Australia Reading Month). I’ll add in a link to your post above.

      I’ve never read a whole Okri book before so I’m not sure if I’ll get on with this one or not. I know what you mean about The Famished Road: I glanced at the first few pages and it was a non-starter for me. At least this one is quite a bit shorter!

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      1. Good to know we had the same reaction to Okri. How it won the prize astounds me

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    2. I had the same experience with The Famished Road. I must have tried and failed four times over the years, then I decided I wouldn’t try to understand the first part, just read, and realised it was far more fun than I thought. Rather repetitive and overlong are the downsides, but it’s funny and ridiculous and just like someone telling you a very long and creative dream, with a side dish of poverty and pettiness thrown in.

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      1. It’s never a promising sign if a book feels like hard work…

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      2. Sometimes you just have to push through until it clicks. Other times, it’s just not worth the pain. If I hadn’t bought this book myself and dragged it through several house moves, I wouldn’t have been so determined to force myself. And it all paid off in the end, because I loved it.

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      3. I know what you mean. There have been times it’s been worth it, when it’s taken me a year or a year and a half to read an amazing book where the pages just didn’t turn for a long time.

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      4. You have more determination than I do clearly

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  4. You have loads to choose from (and I’m sure you will tear through lots). I don’t think we have many of the same choices, but I must say your Snoopy books made me smile – I LOVED Snoopy, and still have mine, complete with some outfits 🙂

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    1. I picked up that stack of comics from the Little Free Library just before we closed it at the end of the summer. I always read Garfield and Peanuts growing up!

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  5. Crikey. Is this a reading challenge or a military campaign? I definitely don’t do organised, if this is what it takes!

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    1. I delight in hoarding slim books all through the year and then gathering them up in advance of November. Perhaps you’d let whimsy guide you to a short book or two at the library 🙂

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  6. So many books – amazing.

    I have a couple of questions – I see the upper page limit is 200 pages, but what is the lower limit? When does a short story become a novella?

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    1. That’s an interesting question! Some of my very shortest novellas have been under 50 pages: https://bookishbeck.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/the-shortest-of-the-short-four-novellas-of-under-50-pages/. (Though, on reflection, “Bartleby” is probably better classed as a short story.) If the text is in a self-contained volume (rather than in a short story collection), I count it. Or it might be specifically labelled as a novella in the subtitle or on a library catalogue. Does that help?

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      1. Thanks, yes it does help.

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  7. I currently have two free slots in my expanded-for-the-pandemic library list, so I’ve released the suspension on a couple of books. Aiyiyi, I’m just not sure what’s possible, but one is on your buddy reads list (although I’m sure I won’t match the date) and the other is non-fiction I’ve had in the back of my mind for awhile. *crosses fingers*

    To my thinking, there is a distinction between novella and short novel that is difficult (and perhaps unnecessary or, even, imagined LOL) to articulate, so I wonder if that’s where the whole ‘novelette’ and ‘novella’ aspect emerges for that prizelist you’ve mentioned. But I’m wholly (look how I didn’t say ‘quite’ Heheh) content to make it all about word- and page-count when it comes to making stacks and plans. Surely there are a hundred academics who have talked all that out, at length…

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    1. It would be great to have you join for one of the buddy reads, and any time during November is fine! (After that, we probably won’t be updating the master list of links.)

      It’s so hard to say, because as readers we aren’t usually given an idea of the word count. There are probably 160- or 180-page novels on my pile that have more words than some 220- or 240-page books out there because of the font size, but we had to set the cutoff somewhere.

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      1. I asked the question because my difficulty with equating word count with page numbers is that page numbers vary from edition to edition. Some short stories are so short that it’s easy to see they’re not novellas, but long short stories are more problematic. I’ll stick with your idea that it is a novella if the text is in a self-contained volume rather than in a short story collection. That does come rather unstuck though when I see that some of Agatha Christie’s short stories in the collection of Miss Marple Mysteries, an omnibus of 55 short stories have been published as individual e-books, eg. The Girl in the Train, 39 pages, although it is sub-titled as ‘An Agatha Christie Short Story’, so that’s clear enough …. maybe 🙂

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      2. It’s true: I had one book pegged as a novella but then saw that the copy I’ve ordered has over 200 pages!

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  8. Goodness! What riches!!! I’m not sure at the moment what I’ll read, but I will try to get in at least one novella! 😀

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    1. It will be great to have you participate. I love being knee-deep in stacks of books. I think you share that hobby!

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  9. I am participating but just in the absolutely most stripped down way – I plan to read two novellas and hopefully write about them! I’ve got a couple in mind and I’m actually reading one now. Good luck with your stacks and plans!

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  10. Give your voracious reading habits, I’m sure you’ll fit in most of these! Favourites here for me are The End We Start From, Old School, Whereabouts, The Invisible Land, Elizabeth and her German Garden, The Fell and Small Things Like These. Happy reading!

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    1. Two per day? Not a chance! Maybe 20 if I’m lucky. The ones you’ve listed all seem likely, though.

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  11. No commitments as yet, but I’ve a few possibles in a few piles. It’ll be a surprise to me as well as to anybody else! I’m a bit daunted by your category selections, though…

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    1. I’m glad you have some options picked out. That’s the most fun part! I’ll only get to a fraction of what’s in my stacks, but I enjoyed assembling them.

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  12. I’ve got about six in mind, I think, and some overlap with Nonfiction November (I’m doing Aus Reading Month with two books, too, but neither of then novellas although both nonfiction). I will be putting up a photo on 01 Nov.

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  13. What delicious stacks! I do have a few picked out, all Canadian, that I’ve been planning to read this year since last year. Ha! There are 5 of them, plus a bonus one if I can fit it in. Although, I think I’ll be doing well to get the 5 read!

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    1. Hooray! I find it’s a good excuse to get to books that have been languishing on the shelf for a year or more…

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  14. […] all my novellas so that I can participate in #NovellasInNovember hosted by Cathy at 746 Books and Rebecca of Bookish Beck, and to ensure I can kill two birds (or is it three?) with one stone, I have ensured there’s […]

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  15. I have too many novellas all over the place to take photos, but will be joining in, with SF, German and Nordic ones in the mix to take advantage of other reading challenges.

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  16. Hi Rebecca, I’ve been blogging for years but have not participated in a Novellas for November event. Your list here is interesting, prodding me to jump on the bandwagon this time. How does this work? Is there a sign up page that we need to link to our blog? Or do I just come back and comment when I have my list up? The focus of my review blog Ripple Effects is book and film reviews, in particular, adaptations from book to screen. So, I have a few in mind of books turning into movies on the big or small screens. Thanks for hosting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, Arti! I’ll be really interested to see what novellas-into-films you feature. No need to sign up. On November 1st we’ll each put up an opening post where you can leave your links (to reviews, lists, etc.) in the comments. We’ll add them into the master list as the month goes on and round them up at the end.

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  17. […] to Rebecca of Bookish Beck and Cathy of 746 Books for hosting this event for a few years now, albeit this is the first time I […]

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  18. I just want to gaze at that first photo all day.

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    1. Ha ha, thanks! Any particular books that caught your eye there?

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