32 Short Books You Can Start (& Finish) in a Single Weekend

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If we can binge-watch an entire Netflix series in a single weekend, we can—and should—do the same for books. But don’t worry; we’re not asking you to tackle all 784 pages of The Goldfinch over the course of 48 hours. Let us instead suggest 32 short books (we're talking under 300 pages) that you can start and finish before the weekend is through.

The 49 Best Memoirs We've Ever Read

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1. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen

Pages: 288

In 1618, in the German duchy of Württemberg, plague is spreading and the Thirty Years' War has begun. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. An illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone's business. Accused of offering a local woman a drink that has made her ill, Katharina—with the help of her scientist son—must try to convince the community of her innocence.

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2. We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

Pages: 288

When 29-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it's not easy. She deserted them all five years before with little explanation, and they've got questions. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. In the vein of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The NestWe Are the Brennans explores the redemptive power of love in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.

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3. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays by Kiese Laymon

Pages: 176

Originally published in 2013, this new edition of award-winning author Laymon's (Heavy: An American Memoir) first work of nonfiction includes six new essays which draw heavily on his family's experiences in the South. From an interview with his mother to reflections on Ole Miss football, Laymon's essays are candid, whip-smart and unforgettable. As one of our other favorite writers, Roxane Gay, notes, "I first encountered Kiese Laymon's writing when I read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. I was stunned into stillness."

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4. Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler

Pages: 272

On the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration, a young woman snoops through her boyfriend's phone and makes the startling discovery that he's an anonymous—and popular—internet conspiracy theorist. Left with no reason to stay in New York and increasingly alienated from the people around her, the unnamed narrator flees to Berlin, where she experiences dating apps, expat meetups, open-plan offices and bureaucratic waiting rooms. Along the way, she’s confronted by delusions, gaslighting and the confluence between fiction and reality in the internet age.

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5. The Incendiaries by R.o. Kwon

Pages: 240

Phoebe and Will meet their first month at college. Soon, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive religious extremist cult. When the group bombs several buildings, Phoebe disappears and Will devotes himself to finding her.

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6. What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart

Pages: 224

A young woman has a life-altering affair with a much older married woman in this buzzy debut novel for readers of Kristen Arnett and Lisa Taddeo. The story follows Mallory, a freshman in college reeling from her mother's recent death, who begins sleeping with a stranger she meets at the gym in secret. Desiring not only the woman but also the idea of who she is when they're together, Mallory retreats from the rest of the world, solidifying a sense of aloneness that will haunt her for years even after the affair ends.

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7. Luster By Raven Leilani

Pages: 240

This absolutely unsettling (in a good way) first novel tracks three characters: Edie, a young, Black assistant in a publishing house, the older white man she’s having an affair with and that older, white man’s over-achieving white wife. Eventually, Edie moves in with the couple…and things only get weirder from there.

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8. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Pages: 179

Offill’s suspenseful love story is a portrait of a marriage, as well as a rumination on the mysteries of life: intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge and more. The novel’s protagonist, “the wife,” confronts the usual catastrophes—a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—with an analytical nature that nods to both Keats and Kafka.

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9. I’ll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein

Pages: 288

Klein’s 2017 memoir, You’ll Grow Out of It, explored her thoughts on what it meant to be a 21st century woman. In the comedy writer’s new essay collection, she debunks the cultural myths and impossible expectations around motherhood and explores the humiliations, poignancies and possibilities of midlife in essays like "Listening to Beyoncé in the Parking Lot of Party City," "Your Husband Will Remarry Five Minutes After You Die" and "An Open Love Letter to Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent."

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10. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Pages: 256

When she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012, Keegan had a promising literary career ahead of her and a job waiting at The New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. This posthumous collection of essays and stories articulates the struggle we face as we figure out what we want to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

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11. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Pages: 176

The late, great actress and writer Carrie Fisher adapted this, her only memoir, from her smash-hit one-woman show and it's nothing short of wonderful. From growing up with famous parents and achieving massive success at the age of 19 to struggles with mental health and near constant relationship drama, Fisher is candid and hilarious. (And it really makes you wish she could've been around for a little longer.)

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12. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Pages: 128

This daring novel about a woman trapped in a marriage essentially ended Chopin’s career and was the last thing she published before her death in 1904. Still, it has become a landmark work for its frank commentary on the psychology of infidelity and honest depictions of female sexual desire. Though it certainly won’t shock you the way it shocked readers in the early 20th century, you’ll definitely appreciate Chopin’s willingness to cover territory previously uncharted…especially by a woman. *Faux gasp*

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13. Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein

Pages: 288

If you could find out the exact day you would meet the love of your life, would you? It wasn’t a choice for 29-year-old Edie, whose grandmother has accurately predicted the day every single member of the family has met their match. The morning of the day she’s supposed to meet her person, she boards a plane to her twin sister's surprise engagement when a handsome musician sits beside her. But fate isn’t as straightforward as Edie expected, and she can't fight the feeling that her perfect guy doesn't have perfect timing. After a tragedy and a shocking revelation rock Edie's carefully constructed world, she's forced to consider whether love chooses us or if we choose it ourselves.

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14. Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist by Sesali Bowen

Pages: 272

In this witty memoir, entertainment journalist Bowen reflects on growing up on the south side of Chicago while navigating Blackness, queerness, poverty, sex work, self-love and more. Combining personal essay and cultural commentary, Bowen presents a searing interrogation of sexism, fatphobia and capitalism within the context of race and hip-hop.

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15. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Pages: 256

Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is written as a letter from a son, Little Dog, to his mother, who can’t read. The letter unearths the family’s history, and is simultaneously a story about the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son and a broader exploration of race, class, and masculinity.

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16. Happy for You by Claire Stanford

Pages: 256

Four years into writing her still-unfinished philosophy dissertation, and anticipating a marriage proposal from her long-term boyfriend, Evelyn is wrestling with big questions about life: How can she do meaningful work in the world? Is she ready for marriage and motherhood? Swallowing her doubts, Evelyn makes a leap, leaving academia for a job as a researcher at a popular internet company, where her team is tasked with developing an app that will help users quantify and augment their happiness. As a biracial person, an Asian American and someone who doesn't know how to perform social media's vision of womanhood, she struggles to belong. But as her misgivings mount, Evelyn embarks on a journey toward an authentic happiness all her own.

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17. Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel GarcÍa MÁrquez

Pages: 147

The Colombian writer is best known for his masterful One Hundred Years of Solitude, but if you’re looking for a briefer intro to García Márquez’s world of magical realism, pick up this slim volume about Sierva Maria, the only child of a noble family in an 18th-century South American seaport. When she’s bitten by a rabid dog and believed to be possessed, she is brought to a convent for observation, where things get even stranger.

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18. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Pages: 176

Born from a blog post in which she coined the term mansplaining, Solnit’s sharp and witty feminist tome is based on conversations between men and women. These concise, cleverly told anecdotes are for all women to enjoy.

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19. I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer

Pages: 96

This latest collection of poems by Baer (What Kind of Woman) was born out of notes she's received from followers, supporters and detractors. From advice and opinions from strangers to outright harassment, Baer decided to transform the cruelty into art. By subverting the harsh negativity and hate women often receive—and combining it with heartwarming messages of support—Baer shows the reader how we too can turn bitterness into beauty.

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20. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Pages: 209

In just 209 pages, Nigerian-born Achebe crafted a powerful account of precolonial African life. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless Igbo warrior in the late 1800s, this 1994 novel explores a man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his Igbo traditions by British forces, and his despair as his community surrenders to the new order.

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21. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Pages: 176

This winner of the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction is written as a letter to Coates’s teen son and explores the sometimes bleak reality of what it’s like to be Black in the United States. It’s a must-read for young people as well as anyone who could use a reminder of the subtle—and not so subtle—ways people of color are discriminated against every day (read: most non-POCs).

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22. 100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet by Pamela Paul

Pages: 288

Love it or hate it, the internet has changed, well, everything. In this incisive glimpse into the pre-internet world, New York Times Book Review editor Paul reminds us of the ways—big and small—that our lives have changed. Think little things like postcards, an adolescence largely spared of documentation and genuine surprises at high school reunions and larger ones like weaker memories, the inability to entertain ourselves and the absence of privacy.

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23. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Pages: 260

First published in 1958, Dundy’s cult classic details the exploits of a young Missouri native who moves to Paris. There have been countless coming-of-age stories since (maybe too many), but Dundy’s iteration is impossibly charming without being too far removed from the struggles of young adulthood. It’s the best lazy-day-at-home reading.

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24. All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Pages: 224

Andrea is 39 years old, single and child-free. She has a great job in advertising, cool friends and a close family. So what’s the problem? It’s not that she wants the whole husband and kids thing, she just doesn’t want to feel like an outcast for not having them. Above all, she’s real: This is a no-frills protagonist you’ll feel you’ve known forever.

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25. Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin

Pages: 214

Under the watchful eye of their dominating grandmother, the twin sisters in this short story collection try desperately to become somebodies as they work as delivery girls, encountering constant challenges and threats to their heritage along the way.

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26. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

Pages: 142

Set in New York City during the Great Depression, West’s 1933 book is a super quick, darkly comedic read. Here, the titular Miss Lonelyhearts is an unnamed male advice columnist who is regarded as a joke by the entire staff of the newspaper where he works. Boozing and philandering ensue.

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27. Shit Cassandra Saw: Stories by Gwen E. Kirby

Pages: 288

Each of the stories in this debut collection highlight the life of a famous (or infamous) woman from history, as well as some contemporary women and men. In one, the Greek goddess Cassandra receives the gift of prophesy from Apollo only to find that no one believed her visions of the future after she refuses to have sex with him. In another, a man tells a woman to smile, and she responds by revealing a mouthful of fangs, which she uses to bite off the man’s hand. Funny and ferociously feminist.

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28. This Boy We Made: A Memoir of Motherhood, Genetics and Facing the Unknown by Taylor Harris

Pages: 272

One day, out of the blue, Taylor Harris's happy and healthy 22-month-old son, Tophs, wakes up listless, barely lifting his head for water. She rushes him to the doctor, where it’s confirmed that something is wrong—though no one can tell her why. During the search for a diagnosis, Harris spends countless hours trying to navigate health and education systems that can be hostile to Black mothers and children. A crucial examination of the challenges of raising a Black son in America and how the healthcare industry fails people of color, Harris’s debut memoir is so much more than the story of a perplexing medical mystery.

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29. Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

Pages: 288

Fiona Lin and Jane Shen have been best friends since second grade. They’ve been through everything together: Exploring the seedy bars of Los Angeles as teenagers, surviving unfulfilling romantic encounters and reckoning with their families' tumultuous pasts. When Fiona moves to New York, Jane remains in California. Thousands of miles apart, the two float in and out of each other's lives, their friendship serving as a beacon of home and a reminder of all they've lost. Told in each of their voices, this debut centers on the intensity, resentment and love of female friendships.

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30. This Story Will Change: A Memoir by Elizabeth Crane

Pages: 272

One minute, writer Elizabeth Crane (The History of Great Things) and her husband of 15 years are fixing up their old house in upstate New York. The next, he admits he’s not happy and Crane suddenly finds herself separated and in couples’ therapy and living in an apartment in the city with an old friend and his kid. At turns funny and dark, This Story Will Change is a poignant portrait of a woman in transformation and a chronicle of how even the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are bound to change.

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31. Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

Pages: 296

Set in a Native community in Maine, this exciting debut collection tackles what it means to be Penobscot (an Indigenous people in North America) in the 21st century and what it means to live, to survive and to persevere after tragedy. These 12 powerful stories paint a picture of the modern Native community and range from tales of a boy unearthing a jar that holds an old curse to two friends who, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.

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32. Tell Everyone on This Train I Love Them by Maeve Higgins

Pages: 224

Irish comedian and writer Higgins (Maeve in America) knows that the United States is still an experiment. Some parts work and others don't, but that doesn't stop her from loving the place and the people that make it. Her latest essay collection seeks to unearth answers to the questions we all have about this country. During her quest, Higgins attends the 2020 Border Security Expo to better understand the future of our borders, attempts to connect Ireland's revolutionary history with the struggles of Black Americans today and, in a lighter section, mistakes edibles for regular candies and gets high at Paper Source.

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...