Read in a Sitting

If the idea of blowing through a 500-lb book is as appealing as running a marathon in a parrot costume, read on. Maybe it’s all the heavy slogging we’ve done this past year, but I find myself shying away from longer reads. I reach for thinner books, and I often have success browsing the library for leaner literature.

Quick reads or fast reads are generally 200 pages or less, and it’s gratifying to knock out a couple in an afternoon. I can still read a meaningful book–whether it’s being “well read” with a short classic, or tackling more contemporary novels, generally considered to be titles published 1970 and after.

Try your hand at a fast read. I’ve collected a pile of quick read suggestions to assist in your slide to the shorter side, available from the Everett Public Library! Ask a librarian for even more suggestions.

God-level Knowledge Darts : Life Lessons from the Bronx By Desus Nice & The Kid Mero. Nonfiction. Full of irreverent, witty humor writing, this book is a bright light. 

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Fiction. Uncommonly funny, this little fable offers pleasures no book lover should forego. Starring Queen Elizabeth II!

A Month in the Country by  J. L. Carr. Fiction. A divorced, WWI veteran’s own reconstructing of his faith in life coincides with his restoration of a mural.

We Love Anderson Cooper by R. L. Maizes. Fiction. The characters in this humorous and deeply human short story collection remind us that even in our most isolated moments, we are never truly alone.

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada, Translated by David Boyd. Fiction. Asa moves with her new husband to a rural area close to where his family lived. On an errand for her mother-in-law one day, she came upon a hole perfect for her. This is the first of many bizarre happenings, and she begins to wonder if she is losing her mind. 

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada. Fiction. The story follows three workers at a sprawling industrial factory. With hints of Kafka and unexpected moments of creeping humor, it casts a vivid–and sometimes surreal–portrait of the absurdity and meaninglessness of the modern workplace.

The Vegetarian: a Novel by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith. It is “An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing… In her first novel to be published in English, South Korean writer Han divides a story about strange obsessions and metamorphosis into three parts, each with a distinct voice.” –Kirkus Reviews

Ethan Fromme by Edith Wharton. Fiction. Published in 1911, “Ethan Frome” is a perfect example of the way in which Wharton’s painstakingly detailed portrait of a community and its landscape proves that the environment decides an individual’s behavior, personality, and ultimate fate. 

The All of It by Jeanette Haien. Fiction. A priest stands fishing in a salmon stream, pondering the dark secret that “the death of a parishioner has revealed, and the astonishing tale the woman who survives the deceased has told him.” –“Publishers Weekly.” “The only book I know in which innocence follows experience. A truly amazing thing.”  – – Poet Mark Strand 

Train Dreams By Denis Johnson. Fiction. “The story of a turn-of-the-century logger and railroad laborer who loses his family to a wildfire and retreats deep into the woods of the Idaho panhandle as the country modernizes around him. Johnson’s spare, strange, elegiac prose conjures a world that feels both ancient and ephemeral, full of beauty and menace and deep sorrow. . . . A haunted and haunting reverie.” — LitHub 

Passing by Nella Larsen. Fiction. An upper middle-class woman reconnects with a lighter-skinned friend who has left the black community to pass as white.

The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill. Fiction. A bookseller is plagued by nightmares after stumbling across a derelict Edwardian house in this suspenseful quick read. 

The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald. Fiction. On the heels of “The Blue Flower” (1997), here’s a slighter, equally charming, half as deep little novel—about snobbery and meanness in the provinces—that the immensely gifted Fitzgerald published in England in 1978. –Kirkus Reviews  

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. Mystery. Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady. Pure fun and irreverent as all get out.

We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Jackson’s beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family’s dark secret.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Comedy science fiction. In this, the first book in the series, we meet bemused human protagonist, Arthur Dent, who wanders the Universe after the destruction of Earth with alien travel writer Ford Prefect. The broadcast from which the book comes is so gleefully silly, I was immediately smitten. 

The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday. Nonfiction. This engaging special collection contains six demonstration lectures Faraday gave to young people at the Royal Institute in London in 1860. This mastermind could write simply and clearly and is best known for his contributions to our understanding of electricity.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Fiction. It has no spies, no world crises, no acts of Congress—only love, betrayal, and heartbreak, set against a Washington backdrop. Ephron’s first and only novel chronicles her marriage to real life Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, who, along with Bob Woodward, won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of articles exposing President Nixon and the GOP staffers who broke into the Watergate. Ephron wrote many essays and screenplays, including the rom com hit, “When Harry Met Sally.”

Night by Elie Wiesel. Nonfiction. Hungary, 1944: a Jewish boy manages to survive the worst that man can do to man, only to wonder what in this life could be worth the cost of survival. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Fiction. Okonkwo’s greatest fear is not the forest, not savage beasts, not black magic, not even the white men who are taking over Nigeria. More than these, he fears himself. 

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. Fiction. Set in postwar Japan after the country’s defeat in World War II, the debut novel of Ishiguro explores the country’s move towards Western ideals, and follows a family in the thick of it through various characters–conservative and liberal alike. The focus is largely on the oppression of women in traditional Japanese society.

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam. Fiction. Orphaned by the Sri Lankan civil war, a young man hopes an arranged marriage might make his last days in a refugee camp more meaningful.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Nonfiction. An exchange of letters, all through the ’40’s and ’50’s, between Miss Hanff and Marks & Co., Booksellers, 84 Charing Cross Road (London, of course). “No volume conveys the enduring and serendipitous charm of books as happily as this one.” — James Mustich, former editor of “A Common Reader”

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Mark your calendar! Tune in May 25th. Everett Public Library librarians will chat about books that made them drool with anticipation of their arrival as well as books that have been a source of pleasure–or pain. Book Bites is back this Month, May 25th from 12 to 12:30. Bring your lunch and let us know what you’re reading or looking forward to in the chat the day of the discussion. Register beforehand, and then join us on Crowdcast. It’s easy! See you at lunchtime! 

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