*Andi says: “Just in time for a last minute library run or download!”
One of my favorite things about the days leading up to readathon is seeing everyone’s towering TBR piles. All those gorgeous books!
My TBR tends to be … less tower and more cottage. This is because I’m a slow reader. I read every word, often twice (or three times). I sound out unfamiliar names. It can take me a while to get through a book, especially a long book.
Since one of my other favorite things about readathon is the satisfaction of ticking titles off my TBR list, I like to have at least a few shorter books on hand.
If you’re like me and looking for recommendations of shorter books, here is a starter list of quick reads. Some are newer. Some are older. Some are even older than that. Most are between 100-200 pages (give or take). For children’s, YA, and poetry, I’ve included a few in the 200-350 range since they tend to have larger font and less text per page.
I’m still working on my readathon TBR, so please let me know your suggestions in the comments!
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa. This novella was my introduction to Marquez’s work and the book that made me fall in love with his writing. The Vicaro twins announce their intention to murder Santiago Nasar, but somehow, no one passes that message to Nasar. Heartrending, gorgeously written, and utterly riveting.
Paperback page count: 128
Sula by Toni Morrison. This short novel packs a wallop. Nel Wright and Sula Peace were close growing up until an accident drove them apart. Ten years after leaving town, Sula returns. Fireworks ensue in this emotionally complex and challenging (in the good way) story.
Paperback page count: 192
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. The fates of Japanese picture brides, sent to the U.S. to marry men they knew only from photos, are explored in this mesmerizing novel told in the third person plural. Let me say that again: third person plural. It’s brilliant.
Paperback page count: 144
Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, translated by Paul Turner. This 2-4th century Ancient Greek novella packs more action, adventure, and romance into 100+ pages than I ever thought possible—pirates, abductions, attempted abductions, and insight into Ancient Greece values, traditions, and ways of life. Also, it’s funny!
Paperback page count: 128
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. During a bleak New England winter, Ethan Frome falls in love with his sickly wife’s vibrant young cousin. It’s Edith Wharton, so stunning prose plays counterpoint to ironic tragedy. Yet it still manages to be tense and suspenseful while waiting for the inevitable hammer to come crashing down.
Paperback page count: 77
Passing by Nella Larsen. In 1920s Harlem, childhood friends Irene and Clare—who is passing as a white woman, including to her racist husband—reconnect. Irene is wary of Clare’s increasingly insistent overtures, which lead to a tragic climax in this difficult and important novel that confronts the anguish and rage racism causes.
Paperback page count: 160
Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Amidst the chaos and deprivation of the Depression, 10-year-old Bud Caldwell searches for his father after his mother’s death. A spirited and beautiful story that kept me fervently reading to the very last word.
Paperback page count: 272
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. Inspired by her father’s folktales, Minli sets off on a journey to improve her family’s fortune. This warm-hearted story about the power of storytelling goes by much too fast.
Paperback page count: 320
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Or any of DiCamillo’s novels. They might leave you sobbing, but it’ll be cathartic sobbing. She’s genius at distilling complicated, overwhelming emotions into lean, raw, powerful stories, for any age.
Paperback page count: 272
Young Adult Fiction
A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley. To recover her health, sickly Penelope is sent from London to the English country estate where her ancestors worked for centuries. While there, she discovers she can slip through a gap in time back to the 1560s, where she discovers a plot to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots. Penelope knows the plot will fail but can’t change the outcome. It’s a powerful, gripping story about the value of witnessing.
Paperback page count: 336
The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching #1) by Terry Pratchett. If you haven’t yet dipped into Pratchett’s Discworld series, this is a great place (and time!) to start. Nine-year-old Tiffany discovers she’s a witch in this charming, moving, and hilarious story.
Paperback page count: 352
Long Division by Kiese Laymon. In 2013, 14-year-old City Coldson delivers a blistering diatribe at a patronizing spelling bee and becomes an overnight YouTube star. His mom packs him off to his grandma’s rural town with a book called Long Division. Which is about a boy called City Coldson set in 1985. The 1985 City travels back to 1964, and things get twisty from there. I didn’t always follow the thread, but I couldn’t put it down.
Paperback page count: 276
Middle Grade/YA Poetry
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I read this memoir in verse while in a major reading slump, and the gorgeous sensory poems kept my eyes glued to the pages. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it. Her poems read like memories feel—snapshots of moments woven together to create a larger narrative.
Paperback page count: 368
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Lai’s autobiographical story follows Hà’s childhood in Saigon, her family’s flight from the city by ship, and her struggle to adapt to being a refugee in the U.S. Emotional intensity is expressed through sense images, which keeps readers grounded in Hà’s experience. I started reading it on my phone and then couldn’t stop until I got to the end.
Paperback page count: 288
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle. Set in the 1950s and 60s, Engle’s story takes readers from her parents’ first meeting to her 14th year. Her poems often revolve around place – her mother’s birthplace of Cuba before and during the revolution, California where Engle grew up, and Europe during a summer trip after she can’t return to Cuba. It’s an evocative combination of travel writing, poetry, and coming-of-age, with incisive insight into the experience of being a second generation American.
Paperback page count: 224
Mom and Me and Mom by Maya Angelou. If you’ve been following Emma Watson’s book club, you might have seen her hiding copies on the subway for lucky travelers to discover. Angelou’s moving, inspiring memoir focuses on her relationship with her mother and reads like prose poetry. I read it straight through a few years ago (but and it wasn’t even during a readathon).
Paperback page count: 224
84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff. A charming, heartening collection of letters sent between Hanff, a straight-talking New York City writer, and an antiquarian London bookshop. From the first letter Hanff sent in 1949 seeking a rare book, we follow her and the booksellers’ relationship spanning more than 20 years.
Paperback page count: 112
Ill Met By Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss. This is a fascinating read for fans of nonfiction about WWII. It’s Moss’ diary of his mission to kidnap a German general from occupied Crete, aided by Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Greek resistance.
Paperback page count: 212
The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. Chaos ensues after a scientist figures out how to make himself invisible but can’t make himself visible again. Suspenseful, philosophical, and creepy, it raises timeless questions about the relationship between humans and technology/science.
Paperback page count:192
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Arthur Dent discovers his best friend Ford Prefect is an alien as he rescues Arthur from Earth seconds before it’s demolished. Cue a hilarious romp through the universe.
Paperback page count: 208
The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami. In this mesmerizing story, a young boy is imprisoned underneath a library. From there, things get weird, compelling, and spooky, with a heaping dose of melancholy.
Paperback page count: 96
Thanks SO much to Sally Allen from @BookishinCT and Classic Books, Modern Wisdom! We’re hoarding all these recs!