10 books for time-pressured readers
Some occasions cry out for a short (ish) book. You may have just finished a 600 pager and want a change of pace. Or you might be about to head off for a weekend break and really don’t want to lug that heavy tome with you. Speaking of weight, the measly baggage allowances set by low cost airlines almost force you down the path of lighter (ie shorter) reading material.
So for those occasions here are some short reading options – I’m reluctant to call them quick reads because that implies lightweight content. In fact these are all novels that should get you thinking…
All the links take you to my reviews.
Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata: An enigmatic, rather bleak, tale of a love affair between Shimamura, a wealthy intellectual from Tokyo and Komako, a young geisha.
The Many by Wyl Menmuir: Another enigmatic story, this time set in a fishing village in Cornwall, UK that is contending with heavy pollution by “biological agents and contaminants” that has impacted its fishing grounds.
Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan: This is a touching novella about a young couple of newlyweds who arrive at a coastal hotel. They want their wedding night to be perfect but a problem arises which threatens their future.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: How is it possible for a book of little more than 100 pages to contain so much depth? Yet Steinbeck does it with this parable about people who are life’s losers yet never relinquish their hopes and ambitions for a better life.
The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul: From Denmark comes a crime story that confounds most of the conventions of that genre. Yes it has a murder and a detective but the discovery of the killer’s identity isn’t really the point of this novel. It’s more about the sense of loss and feelings of regret about failed relationships triggered by the murder.
White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen: In a harsh Finnish winter, a mother and her two children try to walk to St Petersburg in search of bread. It’s their only hope of avoiding death through starvation.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa: An odd little tale of a friendship between a Professor of mathematics who has severe memory problems, the woman sent to look after him and her son.
Disgrace by J, M Coetzee: A Booker-award winner set in post-apartheid South Africa that raises questions about sexual predatory behaviour, denouncement and reconciliation.
Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb: A young translator from Belgium falls foul of cultural expectations when she begins working for Yumimoto, a prestigious international corporation run on strictly hierarchical lines.
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thierault: This is a lightly plotted story of a postman who falls in love with a young teacher in Guadeloupe, a woman he knows only via her letters and poems.
29 thoughts on “10 books for time-pressured readers”
well. looks like I did hear about The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, I realize it’s on my Goodreads TBR!
that happens to me all the time – I forget even what I have bought so often end up with two copies
I really enjoyed a lot The Housekeeper and the Professor. I have never heard of the last one, am going to check
I’m a fan of novellas and short novels, so loved this list. I particularly love On Chesil Beach and Disgrace. Of mice and men is a great read too. I have The housekeeper and the professor in my sights. A couple of great short Aussie novels are David Malouf’s Fly away Peter, Elizabeth Jolley’s The newspaper of Claremont Street, and Carrie Tiffany’s Everyman’s rules for scientific living.
I have Remembering Babylon by David Malouf on my TBR shelves but i’ve not heard of the other two writers. My knowledge of Aussie writers is sadly lacking…..
I guess I’m not surprised, Karen. Elizabeth Jolley was a late bloomer who came to Australia from England when she was in her mid 30s but her first book wasn’t published until she was 60 in 1983. She became one of our literary luminaries until she died in the mid 2000s. She’s well worth checking out. Carrie Tiffany, who has a background in agricultural journalism, has only published two novels and both were critically well received. BUT our writers tend not to be well known overseas.
I’m going to have to make a special effort to read more Aussie authors Sue. Your reviews do make them sound well worth the effort .
I’m loving all these lists for short books! “The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” is a good one!
The story wasn’t that brilliant but I did enjoy the idea of teaching oneself to write haiku poems
A lot of novellas can be a bit dark, which detracts from their appeal as a ‘break’ or a change of pace. For something light and short, I like Nancy Mitford.
Some of them can be dark for sure but then there’s the bunch that are so ultra light I wonder why they ever got published
I’m definitely one of those readers often pressed for time – some lovely ideas there, one of which I already own! :))
You are time pressured —- um, how do you square that with your thoughts of reading Proust??
I’ll wait the the summer holidays (I work in an educational setting….!)
I do love a good novella.When done well, they can be so memorable. I love Of Mice and Men, and On Chesil Beach. Some other favorites are The Sense of an Ending and The Turn of the Screw.
I love a good novella. I appreciate the variety of your list: all different countries and all different kinds of stories. McEwan, Steinbeck and Menmuir are the only ones I’ve read. I agree that while they might be ‘quick reads’ in that it doesn’t take all that much time to get through the pages, they aren’t necessary ‘easy reads’ — short books can have heavy themes that you’re left thinking about for a long time.
Pereine Press does a fantastic job of producing thought-provoking novellas. I could easily have added a few more of those.
I noticed you’d only included 1 (2?) Peirene books. That was very restrained of you — their titles could have easily filled the whole list!
I had another two in the list originally…
Have read a few reviews of Peculiar Postman – all good. Sounds like one to add to my list.
It’s not as ‘deep’ as some of the others but I enjoyed the sections about Haiku poems
Lovely to see The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman on your list. Such an eccentric yet involving book with an ending to make you think.
I regularly collect books under 200. I just prefer shorter novels.
I posted a lust once, I’ll have to do it again. It’s not surprising I’ve read more than one on your list.
SO many books to add to the TBR. I loved The House keeper and the Professor. It had less of a plot but the characters were so well crafted. I love the rapport between the Prof with short term memory and the housekeeper and son, who were his only friends
I’ve read several of those….On Chesil Beach very recently. I think you can add The Alchemist (Paolo Coelho), Old Man and the Sea (E. Hemingway ), and Einstein’s Dreams (Alan Lightman) to name a few.
I enjoyed Chesil Beach…and I’m curious about The Housekeeper and the Professor. Thanks for sharing.
I often love shorter novels and novellas so I love this post. I have read four from your list and have two more tbr. There are so many I could nominate but the one that immediately springs to mind is a Persephone novella I spent the evening reviewing (on the blog tomorrow) Every Eye by Isobel English. I would also suggest Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey another Persephone and Up at the Villa by Somerset Maugham.
Great post idea. My nomination would be J.L.Carr’s exquisite ‘A Month in the Country’ – only about 80 pages, but feels like a full blown novel, such is its impact.
I really enjoyed Of Mice and Men. For such a short work there are so many layers to it and it does make you think. I read Disgrace for bookclub and didn’t particularly care for it. The others I’ve not heard of but seem interesting.