Generally, I love big books: thick spine and all. However, there are days when I just feel like breezing-fast through a refreshingly short read. These are usually my intermissions between book series or when I feel like I am about to get into a reading slump. Short reads tend to help boost my reading morale and give me that nice “relentless reader” type of feeling. If you are in a reading slump or just feel like going through a book quickly, here are some of the best short reads that I have enjoyed reading over the years.
We all love our comfort zones, but at times great adventures (both fun and heart-breaking) await on the other side of the wall. Meet Miles, a timid reader who has always played it safe at home. But now he heads to boarding school where he meets the enigmatic and pretty much crazily disturbed young lady by the name of Alaska. She is just a force to be reckoned with and Miles gets caught up in a whirlpool of Alaska’s troubled life. His life was no longer the same after that encounter.
Favorite Quote: “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”
Being an introvert is a bit overwhelming at times. You are caught between these deep and wild desires you have burning on the inside yet you cannot fully express them outwardly. So, introverts tend to cower in the shadows even when they have so much to give and live for. This is Charlie’s dilemma as he goes through high school. We get to walk in his shoes through his letters to an unknown recipient. We get to experience his life and how it changed upon meeting this crazy duo who tries hard to drag him out of his bubble and show him how much he has to give. It is a book of passion and the joys of life and friendship. It is a book I have read often (and watched the movie too) and it never fails to make me cry with melancholic joy (is there such a thing?)
Favorite Quote: “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
The adult world is full of facades and masquerades. This is something you get to witness as a young adult. Things that seem perfect on the outside are usually rotten on the inside. Enter the Sinclair family, wealthy and all too perfect, spending holidays on an island and all. But Cadence is only 15 now and something happens to her that turns her world upside-down. We get to see just how deep the rot grows and how Cadence has to deal with it. The book won the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Young Adult Fiction, a recommendation enough for you to try it.
Favorite Quote: “Do not accept an evil you can change.”
Plays and Short Story Collections
Life in certain parts of the world is not as tolerable and peachy; people struggle every day. Victims of things like oppression, segregation, hunger, and poverty, the drama of life continues. This book has a collection of funny, sad, and uplifting stories from the depths of the Zimbabwean neighborhoods; both uptown and downtown. It shows how people struggle with different problems, being victims and victimizing others in the process too. It is a well-written collection of stories that will show you the pains of shattered dreams and all other struggles that arise from the human condition, corruption, and politics. And it all happens under the Robert Mugabe regime.
Favorite Quote: “Life is one big jest at the expense of humanity!”
What is the meaning of life? Is life worth living? These are the haunting arguments at the heart of this short play. The professor meets with a preacher who is desperate to show him how life is worth living. McCarthy is a very powerful writer whose precise and well-worded phrases words hit home. Turned into a nice film by HBO starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Johns, this play has enough depth to set your mind rolling.
Favorite Quote: “You give up the world line by line. Stoically. And then one day you realize that your courage is farcical. It doesn’t mean anything. You’ve become an accomplice in your own annihilation and there is nothing you can do about it. Everything you do closes a door somewhere ahead of you. And finally, there is only one door left.”
This is a very witty and funny play that focuses on human relations and social class in the English system. How far can people go to maintain facades for their own personal gain? What kind of uncomfortable position will humans twist themselves into just to keep up a lie? With very clever dialogue and humorous phrasing, this play is probably one of Oscar Wilde’s best. It makes for a nice and short refreshing read.
Favorite Quote: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
As Emily Dickinson once said, “Success is sweetest to those who haven’t succeeded.” In the bell jar, we meet the talented and successful young lady by the name of Esther Greenwood. Though she is in a position where many envy her, she is slowly sinking into despair and depression. We get to see how she sees the world around her and how she is slowly sinking and lonely in a world of glitz and glamour. This book will haunt you with its melancholic vibes, which makes it a beautiful piece of literature.
Favorite Quote: “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell. I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.”
The world can be very much alienating and dreams do shutter, especially in a callous world where men succumb to jealousy and petty tyranny. Here we have a strong bond between two friends who move from ranch to ranch hoping to finally break even someday and build a thing of their own. The world does not tolerate such innocence and we get to see how it breaks these two innocent and pure souls. It is a story of friendship, loneliness, and dreams. A real classic.
Favorite Quote: “Guy don’t need no sense to be a nice fella. Seems to me sometimes it jus’ works the other way around. Take a real smart guy and he ain’t hardly ever a nice fella.”
How many dreams did we let turn to dust just because we never dared to get out of our comfort zones and just start doing what we have always wanted to do? Meet the young shepherd who was bold enough to follow his dreams wherever they took him. Along the way, he gets to meet different people who give him fresh perspectives and insights that he would never have gotten if he stayed in his little corner. This is a book on how growth requires a daring and bold spirit at times. Get inspired and motivated by all the gems of wisdom in this book.
Favorite Quote: “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
Non-Fiction and Self-help
Stoicism is pretty much a stance needed if you are to live freely without unnecessary worries. Here, the Roman Emperor writes down his reflections on the journey to enlightenment, to becoming the best version of himself. It is a collection of thoughts that have been used over the years by different thinkers and statesmen.
Favorite Quote: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Doing the right thing is often very hard, especially when it comes to those moral grey areas in life. Here, Harvard professor Sandel brings to light various schools of thought when it comes to all things concerning justice. Based on his popular Harvard courses, this book uses simple words to explain the complex philosophical and moral conundrums that surround the topic of justice. Using thought experiments and real-life events, you get to ponder on how every action and decision you make might affect others in the long run.
Favorite Quote: “Self-knowledge is like lost innocence; however, unsettling you find it, it can never be ‘unthought’ or ‘unknown’.
Say the name Ayn Rand in certain circles and you are bound to make other people very angry. She was a bold woman who invented her philosophy of Objectivism. It is a philosophy of doers, people who do not wait for things to be handed down to them; in other words, a philosophy of bold go-getters. Here she argues the key points of that philosophy. If you want to be a person of action who does not wallow down waiting for hand-outs, this is a book for you. It will inspire you to go out there and build a monument for yourself and feel proud of your work.
Favorite Quote: “There is no way to make a human being accept the role of a sacrificial animal except by destroying his self-esteem. There is no way to destroy his self-esteem except by making him reject his consciousness. There is no way to make him reject his consciousness except by convincing him of its impotence.”
There you have it folks, a selection of the best short reads that I believe everyone should have on their to-read lists. I left out many titles that deserve to be mentioned but these few just stand out for me. Let me know in the comments, what are your favorite short reads and which ones would you recommend without blinking twice?
Written for Globalwriters Publishing by David