I love a short book. I appreciate it when writers get to the point and don’t spend pages telling readers something they could say in a paragraph. Short books can be especially appealing toward the beginning of the year if you’re trying to start strong to meet a reading goal.
A few years ago, I shared eight of my favorite short books. I’ve read a lot since then, so I’m sharing eight more great books that are less than 250 pages. I hope you find at least one title you can’t wait to read.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
If you’re a devoted book lover, chances are you like books about books. 84, Charing Cross Road is one of my favorite bookish books. It’s a collection of letters between Helene Hanff and a bookseller in London who specializes in used and hard-to-find titles. This book is a sweet read and a reminder that literature can bring people together and help them form deep friendships.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
I’m always delighted when I find a book focused on a complicated woman. Well-written female characters are such a treat, and Andrea, the protagonist of All Grown Up, is no exception. She’s a single, childless New Yorker who hasn’t entirely lived up to her family’s expectations. So when her niece is born with a scary medical condition, Andrea navigates the situation alongside her family, who are just as complicated as she is. All Grown Up is a witty delight.
Assembly by Natasha Brown
Assembly is one of the shortest books on this list, but its story is one of the most memorable. The book focuses on an unnamed Black woman who lives in London. She’s doing everything right: she has a good job, a loving boyfriend, and she carefully weighs her choices. But she wonders if her life is enough, if all the rules, responsibilities, and pressures to perform are worth it. Assembly is a beautifully written book that will stay with you long after you finish it.
Diary of a Void by Emily Yagi
I read Diary of a Void last month, but I know it’s a story that I’ll keep thinking about for a while. The novel follows a woman named Ms. Shibata, who works in a male-dominated office. Because of her gender, her coworkers expect her to clean up after them and perform other chores no one else wants to do. Finally, one day, Shibata has enough and announces that she’s pregnant. Her coworkers finally start treating her with the respect she deserves. The only problem is she isn’t actually pregnant. Diary of a Void raises important questions about motherhood and a woman’s worth. It’s also just a fun and funny book.
Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson
The unnamed narrator of Mouth to Mouth runs into Jeff, a former classmate, at the airport. The two head to the lounge to enjoy a few drinks, and Jeff starts telling a story about how he once saved a man from drowning. What follows is how that act changed the course of his life. This page-turner keeps readers wondering how all the pieces of Jeff’s story fit together and whether or not what he’s saying is true. Antoine Wilson fits so much story into so few pages, which makes Mouth to Mouth a quick but memorable read.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong might be best known as a poet, which seems evident as you read his debut novel. The story is told through letters from a son to his mother, a Vietnamese immigrant who can’t read. Vuong addresses many vital issues in this book, including race, family history, sexuality, addiction, and trauma. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a must-read for lovers of literary fiction who enjoy an up-close look at complex families.
Recitatif by Toni Morrison
Recitatif is a short story by Toni Morrison, the only one she ever wrote. It follows Roberta and Twyla, women who meet as little girls in an orphanage and remain tethered for years. One girl is Black, and the other is white, but Morrison doesn’t reveal who is who. As they grow up, the two women keep running into each other. The only thing they have in common is the time in the orphanage, but they can’t deny that bond and how trauma brought them together. Morrison’s choice not to reveal the characters’ races makes this a story to be read over and over again, exploring the question of how our skin color affects our lives. This story would pair beautifully with Passing by Nella Larsen.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is a collection of short stories about women of various ages and different places in their lives. What unites them is their thoughtfulness about who a woman should be, especially when she has her roots in the church. Short story fans will find much to love in this book since Deesha Philyaw writes complex characters so well in so few pages. If you enjoy Recitatif, pick up this book next.
What are some of your favorite short books? I’d love some recommendations!