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7 Short Books To Remind You How Much You Love Reading

Because not everyone wants War and Peace.

By Laura Brading

Was ‘read more’ on your list of goals for this year? Are those two words now mocking you? Is it a case of just-one-more-episode-of-Poker-Face but then Netflix recommends the series Natasha Lyonne did in 2019 and gosh TV is good these days?

We’ve all been there. The last few years, especially, have made lapsed readers of even the most bookish among us.

The secret to getting back into a reading ritual is starting small. Just as you wouldn’t opt for a greasy cheeseburger after a juice cleanse, nor would you necessarily reach for a Russian classic after a reading hiatus. Here are seven short books to remind you how good it feels to finish a book and return you to your bibliophilic ways.

Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow (254 pages)

Tracing three generations of women from a Southern Black family, this brief and beautiful read has all the depth of a multigenerational epic. With themes of inheritance, forgiveness, sacrifice and love, Memphis is very definition of engrossing. You will wish it went for longer! Just long-listed for the Women’s Prize for fiction too.

Fox 8 by George Saunders (64 pages)

With the most delightful blend of humour and pathos, George Saunders has created a cautionary tale disguised as a childlike fable in this very short novella. Concerned with the unintended consequences unleashed by man’s quest to tame the natural world, the story follows a sweetly naive fox who has learnt to speak “yuman” by hiding in the bushes outside a house and listening to children’s stories. Come for the playful language and hilarious malapropisms, and stay for the whip-smart satire.

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman (224 pages) 

I’m serious when I say that this book is both the funniest I’ve read in a long time and also a book set in a hospice. The New York Times review said it belongs to a category called “really too sad for my taste, but so good I couldn’t put it down, and now I have to tell everyone I know they have to read it”. As well as being heartbreaking, We All Want Impossible Things is a joyful, generous and whip-smart story of female friendship. As well getting you back into reading, it may induce hysterical laughing followed by guttural sobbing. You’ve been warned.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (192 pages)

An honest, unsentimental and amusing portrait of modern marriage and the minutiae of everyday life with children. As deeply introspective as it is precise, and as painful as it is laugh-out-loud hilarious. You will be amazed by what you learn about love, intimacy, trust, faith and knowledge in this brief but brilliant novel.

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (208 pages)

Reminiscent of Normal People but with more of a philosophical and political edge, this moving and lyrical novella is about two Black British artists falling in and out of love. At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. Coming in at just over 200 pages, this is the kind of book you want to read in a single sitting.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (209 pages)
A beautifully evocative debut that, despite being only 200-odd pages in length, reads like a multigenerational saga. Of Women and Salt follows a collection of mothers and daughters across five generations through Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Miami, and explores ideas around immigration, addiction, memory, the mother-daughter bond and the tenacity it takes to tell a story that others wish to silence. Garcia’s women are the beating heart of this novel, and I’m still thinking about them.

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett (210 pages)

A poignant and masterfully told novel from the Miles Franklin-shortlisted author Favel Parrett. Moving between Melbourne and Prague over a period of 50-odd years, the story is an ode to grandparents, specifically grandmothers, and their capacity to bind families together despite dislocation and distance. Understated and yet able to capture deep sentiments, this is a gentle and truly beautiful read.

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BY Laura Brading

Laura is part of the PRIMER team. She also runs Well Read, a book subscription service.

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