As summer rolls around, we all, maybe, hopefully, have a little more time for reading. But if you’re looking for a quick read to enjoy between all of your summer plans–or if you need one to fulfill the library challenge requirement–consider reading one of the following books, all of which are well under 200 pages long and, in most cases, are barely 130 pages in length.)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading historical fiction, it’s that a lot of those books tend to be lengthy. But, believe it or not, some history can be shared in smaller doses!
Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic (2011)
Page count: 129 pages
This slim but critically-praised novel provides a fictionalized account of the lives of Japanese women who come to America as mail-order brides in the early 20th century. Otsuka received a lot of praise not only for her gripping depiction of these women’s lives but also the elegance of her prose. And she manages to do all that in under 130 pages!
Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams (2011)
Total: 116 pages
If you would like another short but well-received work of historical fiction about early 20th century America, consider this book. I previewed one of Johnson’s other books in the post on books over 500 pages long, so I thought it would only be fair to point out that he can also effectively write shorter works, too. This book follows Robert Grainer, a down-on-his-luck migrant railroad worker, who rides the rails and travels across the West in an attempt to cope with his grief over losing his family.
If you’d prefer a more modern historical setting and also want to be unnerved during your summer break, consider the following:
Doris Lessing’s The Fifth Child (1988)
Total: 133 pages
This book tells the story of an unremarkable couple, their young family, and their relatively peaceful existence in 1960s England–until their youngest child is born. His parents quickly realize that he is not like the other kids. Complications ensue.
Want something a little lighter than the previous recommendations?
Steve Martin’s Shopgirl (2000)
Total: 130 pages
Yes, written by that Steve Martin, of movie fame, Shopgirl is the comedic coming-of-age story of Mirabelle, a lonely shop girl, who finds herself stuck in Beverly Hills and also stuck trying to choose between two very different men.
If you prefer young adult fiction and/or graphic novels:
Cory Doctorow’s In Real Life (2014)
Total: 175 pages
This graphic novel explores the world of gaming and specifically the ethics of that subculture. Protagonist Anda is an avid gamer who especially enjoys playing Coarsegold, which not only allows her to have lots of virtual adventures but it also lets her connect with friends across the world. One of those friends, she soon discovers, is breaking the rules of the game by making money off of other players, though she also learns that the issues surrounding his actions are less black-and-white than she had initially assumed.
Lindsay Mattick’s Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear (2015)
Total: 56 pages
Now, you may think it’s cheating to include a children’s picture book among these recommendations, but the entire library staff has been buzzing about this book for a couple of weeks. I checked it out for that reason, and this books, which tells the real-life story of Winnie the Pooh, is fascinating. Some of the details are absolutely insane–and in the best way possible. Like, the real-life Winnie got to ride across Canada and sail across the Atlantic Ocean with the Canadian army during WWI. From what I can tell, there isn’t a book targeting adults that tells this story, which is a shame, because I feel like it almost cries out for an even more in-depth treatment. This book does include some clippings from the real bear’s life, as well as photos, at the end.
If you’re interested in learning more about any of these books, just follow this link to our online library catalog.
Have you read any of these books? What’s your favorite short book? What are you planning on reading this summer?