The 14 Best Short Books to Binge-Read in One Day
If we can (and have) binge-watched an entire Netflix series in a day, we can (and should) do the same for books. But don’t worry; we’re not asking you to tackle all 976 pages of The Goldfinch over the course of 24 hours. Let us suggest 14 quick reads that you can start with your morning coffee and finish with a midnight pint of ice cream.
1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Lahiri’s first novel (after her Pulitzer-winning story collection, Interpreter of Maladies) follows the Ganguli family from Calcutta to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they attempt—with varying degrees of success—to assimilate to American culture while holding on to their roots. You can read this one quickly, but the story will stay with you for way longer.
2. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
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.
3. Of Love and Other Demons by GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ
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.
4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
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*
5. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
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.)
6. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
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.
7. All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
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.
8. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
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.
10. Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin
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.
11. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
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.
12. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
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 people).
13. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
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.
14. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
Obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale? For some lighter Atwood fare, we suggest her first novel, about a young woman who becomes unstable when she gets engaged. Another comment on gender and society, for sure, but one that you can read just a touch more quickly.