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3rd December 2023

The best short books you can read in one sitting

If you’re looking to get back into reading during the busyness of term time, here are some recommendations for brilliant short books you could finish in one sitting
The best short books you can read in one sitting
Credit: Rey Seven @ Unsplash

For many students, getting around to reading will be a constantly present but ever-low-down point on their to-do list. However, reading doesn’t have to be a chore, and there are many short books which you can read to get you out of a reading slump.

All coming in at less than 200 pages, here are The Mancunion‘s suggestions for the best literary gems which can be read in one go. And, with Christmas right around the corner, these novellas could also make excellent stocking fillers and gifts for your more literary friends.

On Chisel Beach, Ian McEwan

Best known for his Booker Prize-winning novel Atonement, Ian McEwan has written numerous acclaimed novels including Amsterdam and the recently-published Lessons. One of his shortest books is On Chisel Beach, first published in 2007 and later adapted into a film starring Saoirse Ronan.

The novella is set in the 1960s, and charts the tumultuous breakdown of the relationship between protagonists Florence and Edward on the night of their wedding. McEwan manages to poignantly portray how sexual taboos negatively impacted relationships in the 20th Century in just 166 pages, and the novel’s close focus on the lives of its two characters makes for an easy-to-digest short read.

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you’re in the mood for some non-fiction, this 64-page feminist manifesto by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the perfect place to start. Written almost ten years ago in 2014, Adiche built on a Ted Talk she gave in the previous year to argue that we must challenge longstanding gender stereotypes to break down inequality between men and women. Really, it is essential reading for anyone wanting to learn more about feminist literature.

Adichie has also written fiction novels, although they may take you longer to read than this short work of non-fiction. However, if you are impressed by Adichie’s prose, consider checking out novels such as Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, or Americanah.

The Stranger, Albert Camus

For fans of more complex literature, The Stranger is a literary classic by French philosopher Albert Camus. The 159-page novella was the first piece of literature published by Camus, and tells follows the protagonist Meursault from his mother’s funeral to his eventual murdering of another man.

The Stranger manages to pack big themes of existentialism, absurdity, and philosophy into a small number of pages, and with relatively simple language. If you’re looking for a quick read which will stay with you long after you’ve finished the final paragraph, you should be able to find a copy of Camus’ novel in most second-hand book shops.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

First published in 1985 and coming in at 176 pages, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-of-age story about a lesbian protagonist who grows up in a Pentecostal community. The novel is partially autobiographical and tackles themes of adolescence, sexuality, and religion in a Northern setting with nuance.

Winterson is currently the Professor of New Writing at the University of Manchester, so this one is a great book to pick up if you want to find out some more about the work of a local literary icon. And, if you’re interested in Winterson’s upcoming novel Night Side of the River, you can read all about her talk at the Manchester Literature Festival here.

Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson

There have been some wonderful short books published in recent years, and Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water is one of the best examples of exciting contemporary writing. His first novel, Open Water is a beautiful exploration of modern love in South East London.

The language often verges on the poetic, and the short chapters combined with a conversational tone make this short book a great choice for getting anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction out of a reading slump. Having published this debut in 2021, fans of Nelson’s work can also read his second novel Small Worlds, published earlier this year to good reviews.

Annabel Benton

Annabel Benton

Co-Culture Managing Editor at The Mancunion // Twitter: @AnnabelBenton_

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