1. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
It’s the greatest book ever about party planning. It also features a grisly and haunting few pages on the scary, cat-loving Mrs. Talbot. If it weren’t called “Chapter XXIV,” I’d swear it was a perfect short story rather than a part of my favourite novella.
2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
“[D]o you happen to know any nice lesbians… I simply can’t afford a maid; and really, dykes are wonderful homemakers.”
3. The Breast, by Philip Roth
It’s either a slim and sexy novel or a long and dirty joke. I’m convinced it’s the latter but I’ve been told off for sharing this view too many times.
4. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
I give this book to eleven year-olds boys who come to my library and tell them that it’s an adventure story. I’ve not met one yet who enjoyed it. It’s also fun to play “Was Conrad a Racist?” at parties after you’ve read it.
5. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
I give this book to eleven year-olds boys who come to my library and tell them it’s science fiction. The results have been no better than with Conrad. Whatevs. It’s ace.
6. The Toth Family, by Istvan Orkeny
Orkeny is a wonderful Hungarian writer whose work I’ve only seen in bookshops there. This novella makes my list in part because it describes a man being cut and folded like a cardboard box. The whole text is bizarre but always lucid.
7. The Stepford Wives, by Ira Levin
Most of Levin’s novels are out of print in the U.K. so I had to buy this novel with Nicole Kidman on the cover. The novella simulates and deforms the squabbles, tensions and book groups of rich suburbia. The cover still annoys me.
8. The Comfort of Strangers, by Ian McEwan
I spent my whole time reading this novel thinking “get to the rape” You know something bad is going to happen from Chapter One and I was jumping at doorbells until that something bad happened.
9. Love and Friendship, by Jane Austen
I hate using words like “satire” and “pastiche.” There’s only one word for it: this novella is a clear diss. It’s a diss of the eighteenth century novel but a diss is always fun, no matter how dry its target.
10. Foe, by J.M. Coetzee
I like this novella more due to my taste in music than my literary preferences. Foe is both a quick Greatest Hits (with the colonial oppression, mutilation and misogyny from his other works forced into a hundred-and-something pages) and an awkward hip-hop remix of Robinson Crusoe.
Tim Russell is a young writer from Manchester. He has written a story collection called Sudden Scripture, set mainly in this city, and is now writing a novel about its suburbs. Find him online HERE.