Books to devour in a day

Al Woodworth on December 19, 2019
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So, did you promise to read a certain number of books this year and are just shy (or very shy) of your goal? Or, maybe you just want to escape the joys of family and holiday togetherness and read a book for a few hours. Been there, done that. This year, we’ve put together a handy dandy list of beloved short books that captivate from page one to one-fiftyish and are perfect for an afternoon’s worth of reading--whether you’re looking for entertainment, inspiration, or to expand your world.


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Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson is a master of the fever dream. Everything he writes lulls me into his bleak and beleaguered worlds that morph from memory and hardship to the West and what was lost. With crisp, staccato-like sentences Train Dreams explores one man’s life as everything changes around him at the turn of the 20th century. Rough and tumble, spare and haunting, a short and captivating story of a menacing world.


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There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce by Morgan Parker

Because let’s face it, there’s nothing like the kick of poetry to open up your eyes, mind, and heart. Morgan Parker's work brilliantly captures what it means to be a woman, black, at times sad at times satisfied, and above all a person who questions. This collection knocked me off my feet and made me feel alive.


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Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Dept. of Speculation is a powerful, sparkling rush of a read - that is perfect for one sitting. Sure it’s about a marriage falling apart, but it’s also about the comfort of a union and family, trust, faith, the self, indecision, and motherhood told through ‘the wife’s’ comically wry and sometimes frazzled narration. It’s terrific – and if you love this, get ready for Jenny Offill’s new novel Weather coming February 2020.


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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s short manifesto is a rallying, illuminating and dare I say, necessary read. Adapted from a TEDx talk, this short book packs a punch. Confronting the stereotypes of feminism, Adichie offers an inclusive and wide-ranging view of experiences that should comprise what it means to be a feminist. Full of personal stories, We Should All Be Feminists is a page-turner, and it might even change the way you look at the world--in just one day.


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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

One of the publishing stories of 2015, one of our best books of the month, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood is a heart-pounding psychological thriller about a woman lured back to a past she's spent a decade trying to escape, a few unstable characters, and a shocking death. It is longer than the novellas on this list, but I read it in a day – utterly consumed and terrified about what was lurking and unfolding in front of me.


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Elevation by Stephen King

A short, heart-lifting parable by the master storyteller, Stephen King, which we also named one of our top picks for the Best Books of 2018. When we first meet Scott Carey, he is aware that he is losing weight every day, even if he does not look any different than he did a year ago. Set in the iconic, fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, his slow disappearance may somehow be the thing that brings the town together.

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Forward: Amazon Original Stories

And for those looking for something a bit shorter – the Amazon Original Stories collection, Forward is a compilation of writers like Veronica Roth, Blake Crouch, Amor Towles, and Andy Weir taking on the theme of the future and spinning unputdownable short stories of our world as only they could imagine. 

Of course this list could go on – want to read a breathless and darkly comic portrait of life in prison? Ryan Chapman’s sizzler Riots I have Known is for you. A meditation on the fragility of life and the beauty of it? Julian Barnes The Sense of Ending. Looking for solitary adventure on the ocean? Hemingway’s classic The Old Man in the Sea. There are so many great books to read in an afternoon - whether you finish them in one sitting or just begin to enter a world different than your own. Happy reading, for however long.


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