In an era of feed scrolling and 60–second videos, no one has any abundance of time to read hundreds of pages in novels such as Victor Hugo’s famous Les Miserables or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. But that doesn’t mean that reading is mutually exclusive with our shortened attention spans of the modern age. What if you could read in–depth stories with multifaceted characters and plots in less than 100 pages?
Novellas are the perfect length for our modern society with a minimal attention span. They are the perfect reading for a lazy Sunday afternoon, waiting in a restaurant for your friends, or even a “Read in a Single Sitting” book. Novellas can be finished in a single sitting, immersing you completely in its world from start to finish. This encompassing experience enables the writer to craft resonances and reflections that might fade away in a longer format. As American writer Ian McEwan says, “To sit with a novella is analogous to watching a play or a longish movie.”
Novellas and short stories may seem similar, but they are not equals—cousins rather than siblings. Beyond the length difference, novellas aim to disrupt traditional publishing models. They force writers to think about the question: What if every word counts? The answer: Novellas are attention seekers, and every word is whittled down to the essential, aimed to grab the reader’s attention. There’s no time to waste.
Novellas are no new phenomenon, with classics like Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Kafka’s Metamorphosis claiming the genre. Yet they’ve struggled to maintain prestige, considered inferior as if their small size has anything to do with their content.
So, why are novellas gaining popularity once again?
In the constant rush of today's world, readers may hesitate to invest money and time in a new book that they don’t have sufficient time to read. Leisure time has decreased in the last few decades, and with it our opportunities to read have shrunk. That’s why readers appreciate the prospect of a "quick read" that conveniently fits into their hectic schedules. The shorter length and affordable price of novellas offer a distinct appeal that can give them an advantage over longer and more expensive books.
In the advent of the digital literary market place, authors are increasingly able to self–publish online, bypassing traditional publishing companies that often overlook novellas. This has led to a flood of exceptional novellas in the current market able to be accessed with one click. Looking for a good read while you wait for the bus, instead of mindlessly scrolling? Novellas fit in perfectly.
The novella taking over the literary world right now is Foster by Claire Keegan. In less than 90 pages, the reader understands more about love, loss, and how grief can be transformed into tenderness and kindness. With an impact far exceeding its size, Foster accomplishes what we expect from exceptional literature: it opens hearts, minds, and surpasses books many times its length.
Another short form of fiction that putting the novella back on the map is Zadie Smith's The Embassy of Cambodia. Originally published in The New Yorker, this novella is more than a miniature novel fragmented into 21 dainty "chapters," holding the essence of what other writers would need countless pages to convey. Through the narrator Fatou's experiences and observations, the novella explores themes of identity, social inequality, and the complexities of human relationships. The Embassy of Cambodia is living proof that novellas are slim, ambitious, and captivating, proving that size is no measure of their literary prowess.
Novellas have the ability to leave a mark on the literary landscape. Their audience will only continue to grow in the future, and novellas, due to their accessibility and creativity, are a great way to grab their attention. As the media continues to evolve and our free time only shrinks, novellas hold immense potential to shape the future of reading.