Tasty Bites: Small Books You Can Binge in One Sitting

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At the end of 2018, in a desperate attempt to reach my reading goal for the year, I began checking out novels en masse that were 200 pages or less. But what began as an inglorious attempt to boost my numbers led to some wonderful discoveries: books with all the depth and impact of the heftiest hardbacks, but with half the page count. To me, these literary mouthfuls are almost more affecting because of their ability to draw the reader completely into their fully-realized worlds with just a few chapters to do so. I blazed through book after book, met my reading goal, and discovered some excellent speed-reads that don’t sacrifice length for quality.

I love an epic tome as much as the next person–I’m not trying to slander your Moby-Dicks and Middlemarches–but there’s something so satisfying about a one-sit wonder. The novels on this list all feature twisting plots, rich characters, ambitious ideas, stunning prose, and slender spines. And the best thing? You can read each tasty book-bite in no time at all, then move on to the next one.

Binti

Binti is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs. If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the university itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

His Favorites

After being involved in a violent accident, Jo is sent to a prestigious boarding school to try and start her life anew. Her time at the school is complicated when she attracts the attention of popular teacher Master Aiken, whose mentorship is mixed with cruelty and manipulation. Told from her perspective many years later, the story describes a series of shattering events and the system that failed to protect her.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Since the mysterious death of four family members, the superstitious Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, her ailing uncle Julian, and agoraphobic sister Constance have lived in a bizarre but contented state of isolation. But when cousin Charles arrives in search of the Blackwood fortune, a terrible family secret is revealed.

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Whenever Korede’s younger sister Ayoola kills a man “in self-defense,” Korede is called upon to dispose of the body. But when Ayoola takes an interest in Korede’s longtime crush, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Train Dreams

Robert Grainer is a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century.  Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime.

McGlue

Salem, Massachusetts, 1851: a young sailor named McGlue wakes in a drunken haze to be told that he’s killed a man. As he awaits trial, McGlue terrorizes those around him, unravels the story of his tragic youth, and tries to remember his best friend, the man he’s accused of murdering.

Dept. of Speculation

A woman known simply as “The Wife” confronts an array of common catastrophes–a collicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions. Told in brief fragments, The Wife’s mind wanders in all directions from her everyday domestic struggles to matters of ancient philosophy, lessons of space travel, and the seduction and demands of art.