Tricky, isn’t it? Making time for a healthy dose of literature is near to impossible with the mountain of other things to get done. I’ll be the first to admit how easy it is to ignore my need for words on paper in favor of another episode of my newest Netflix obsession and half a bowl of guacamole.
Yes, okay. A full bowl. Shush.
But a good book is, I find, essential to human happiness. I’m already living my life, after all. It would be nice to see what someone else’s is like for a while.
That said, of course, the laundry ain’t gonna do itself and I’ve got two birthday cakes to decorate by this weekend, so today’s good book needs to keep it snappy.
Whether you’re a tried and true bookworm attached at the hip to your Kindle looking to knock out a few more on your yearly reading goal or a non-reader who would like to dip your toes into the blissful world of words, here are eight inspiring and informative reads that keep it quick.
by Gillian Flynn
Easily read in a single sitting, Flynn’s shortest published work first appeared as What Do You Do? in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology (and really, what writer could resist the Game of Thrones mastermind asking them to write him a story?).
A nameless narrator, a beautiful and wealthy woman, and a creepily imaginative teenage boy. A recipe for an excellent ghost story, wouldn’t you say?
Fans of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects will appreciate this quick and engrossing tale of perceptions and haunted things.
Men Explain Things to Me
by Rebecca Solnit
Originally an iconic essay that took an initially humorous look at the problems with how men and women talk to each other (both how men address women and how women are conditioned to respond), this expanded version includes Solnit’s more recent writings on the larger conversation surrounding the importance of feminism during times of crisis.
Important for everyone to read, and ideal to take in one essay at a time to fully appreciate the weight of how dangerous sexist interaction can be.
Letters to a Young Poet
by Rainer Maria Rilke
My God, nobody writes letters like these anymore. Cordial but sweet, simple but profound, they ring with sincerity that is difficult to find in most modern-day letters.
I’m not a poet, but Rilke’s combined realism and optimism toward life and art can apply to anyone in search of sage advice, and it certainly applies to writers of different genres. I think I found my copy in a box of giveaways one year in college, and I’ve cherished it ever since as a source of wisdom and encouragement.
by Jessica Valenti
Not for the faint of heart, nor the mansplainers of the world. If you’re looking to take a good hard look at everyday sexism and the toll it can take on people’s lives, start here. Women and non binary folk are sure to see the parallels between lines they’ve walked in their own lives and the ones Valenti draws (including, but not limited to, feeling like you have to play everyone else’s game when you really want to punch something).
Particularly timely in the age of #MeToo and Time’s Up, but certainly a read for every generation of humans looking for a better grasp on objectification and identity.
by Jason Reynolds
Anyone (ANYONE) who has ever been frustrated by one’s life not achieving the goals they’ve set out for it will find some understanding in the poems of For Everyone.
A personal favorite passage:
I’d rather my appetite
be whet by a teaspoon
every now and then.
Fans of Rupi Kaur’s punchy, to the point observations that meld into an overarching take on humanity will find a kindred spirit in Reynolds, who very eloquently sums up the frustration of not being where you wish you were.
Three Squares a Day with Occasional Torture
by Julie Innis
I had to toss in a collection of short stories. This somewhat wacky series of tales takes us from the plight of a would-be serial killer with commitment issues to a disagreement about the so-called natural order of things and much more in between. Go into these with your mind open to the possibility of just a little absurdity.
Each story is about a ten minute read, so if you’re looking for a few off-the-beaten-path quirks that you can finish in a single bus ride, you’ve got ’em.
Persepolis (& Persepolis 2)
by Marjane Satrapi
Alright, I cheated. There are technically nine books on this list if you count Satrapi’s follow up to the critically acclaimed memoir of her childhood. I could have very easily cheated further and made the whole list graphic novels (quick reads and enthralling ones, I find), but that’s a post for another time, I think.
Persepolis follows young Marjane Satrapi’s upbringing in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and I promise, you do not need to be any kind of expert on the subject to appreciate this book. Her love of punk culture, her confusion about the changing expectations of women, and the precariousness of powerful political discourse are ideas we can all be compassionate towards.
And if you don’t know who the Shah was or why he is important, don’t worry. You’ll learn that, too.
(And yes, yes, it’s also a movie, but do me a favor, and read the books first, because they are wonderful.)
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Listen, I’m no scientist. I will nearly always pick up a novel or a memoir before I touch a textbook, so it’s an awfully good thing that this is not a textbook. This is 200 (small) pages about how cool the universe is as told by the rockstar dad of the cosmos.
You won’t emerge an expert on the space time continuum, because let’s be clear, this book can fit in my back pocket, but you’ll definitely know a lot more about astrophysics than you did before. And that’s an awfully fun thing to have in one’s repertoire.
Got a few other suggestions for literature on the lighter side?
Comment below with a recommendation of your own!
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