Short on Time? Pick Up a Short Book!

We’ve all been there. It’s January 1st and we think we can read 100 (or 24, or 52) books in the new year. We set lofty reading goals and have every intention of reaching them…

…and then all of the sudden it’s December and you’re coming up a few books short. I may be speaking from personal experience here. If your heart is set on reaching your reading goal, here’s a pro tip: start reading shorter books. Shorter books can help with short attention spans, reading ruts, or those mad dashes to reach 85 books in the next four weeks. If you need to add a few more books to get closer to your reading goal, here are a handful of titles to consider.

Under 200 Pages

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Tokyo resident Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life. In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction–many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Told in a series of vignettes-sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous-Sandra Cisneros’ masterpiece is a classic story of childhood and self-discovery.

How To Be A Good Creature by Sy Montgomery

This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals–Sy’s friends–and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home–a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse–but John’s not there. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Under 300 Pages

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to an isolated mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they die…Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

A reclusive bookseller begins to feel the discomfort of love again. Two college roommates have a devastating middle-aged reunion. A proud old man rages powerlessly in his granddaughter’s hospital room. A writer receives a visit from all the  men who have tried to suppress her voice. 

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Leah is changed. A marine biologist, she left for a routine expedition months earlier, only this time her submarine sank to the sea floor. When she finally surfaces and returns home, her wife Miri knows that something is wrong. Barely eating and lost in her thoughts, Leah rotates between rooms in their apartment, running the taps morning and night. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.

The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

Almost every afternoon, the Woman in the Purple Skirt sits on the same park bench, where she eats a cream bun while the local children make a game of trying to get her attention. Unbeknownst to her, she is being watched–by the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan, who is always perched just out of sight, monitoring which buses she takes, what she eats, whom she speaks to.

And if you’re not inspired or don’t have time to panic-read, here’s a reminder that it’s okay to not reach your reading goals. We set our goals but life can get in the way. Enjoy the next book you pick up and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. After all, reading is meant to be enjoyable, not a chore. If your challenge is no longer bringing you joy, say goodbye to the pressure and enjoy savoring the story.

-Melinda

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