We all wish we could read more. I carry a book with me everywhere, and I can’t tell you how many times a random stranger has stared at me longingly and said, “I should read more.” Even if you read every day, like I do, you probably still wish this too. I set ridiculous reading goals for myself, and at the end of every month, I stare at my TBR pile and feel the waves of judgment rolling off, making me burn with shame. As time goes on, I find myself gravitating towards thin books (sorry, Anna Karenina) because it means I can read more books. So today, on National Read a Book Day, I present you with a list of my favorite short novels, one for each genre, so there’s something for everyone, novels you can read in a day to beef up your TBR list and boost your self-esteem!
Classic: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
If you’re ready to cry, this is the book for you. It’s only 100 pages, easy to read in a few hours, but it will wreck you. It takes place during the Great Depression and centers around two drifters, Lenny and George. The two are outsiders, Lenny especially because he’s simple-minded and sometimes violent. They dream of making enough money to have their own farm someday, but their dreams may be doomed. It’s a sad story, but also a touching one because of the relationship between these two men. It speaks so much about loneliness and friendship, two themes that are particularly poignant right now.
Image Credit: Penguin
Contemporary: Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich
Now, I picked up this novel because I am obsessed with the musical, but you don’t have to know the musical at all to enjoy it. Short and easy to read, I devoured it in a day. The story follows Evan, a socially anxious high schooler who longs to have friends. The first day of school, he has an unfortunate run-in with Connor Murphy, an outcast, and days later, he learns that Connor is dead and the Murphys believe he was Connor’s best friend. Now Evan has a family who loves him and a school of people who finally know his name… but only as long as he keeps up the lie. This novel is a painfully accurate portrayal of someone with anxiety and reads like a John Green novel.
Image Credit: Penguin
Thriller: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus
The lesser known of McManus’s books so far, this one is actually my favorite. The simplicity of two points of view instead of four makes the story easier to follow, and it’s so fast-paced that you can’t help but read it in one sitting. It takes place in Echo Ridge, a small town that looks perfect on the outside but is full of hidden secrets. Ellery is moving there for senior year to live with her grandmother, who she barely knows, and she can’t escape these secrets. Everyone seems to have them—including her grandmother. At age seventeen, her aunt went missing. Five years ago, a girl was killed. And now, another girl has vanished, and it’s up to Ellery to unravel these secrets before it’s too late
Image Credit: Delacorte Press
Historical Fiction: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
I recently reread A Northern Light, and it was even better than I remembered (which I didn’t think was possible). Mattie Gokey lives in the backwoods of New York, the least romantic place in the world, and yet she dreams of moving to the big city and becoming a writer. Her father doesn’t want her to go, because after the death of her mother, he needs her to take care of the farm. Mattie has to decide what she will be loyal to—her family or her dreams. It’s a beautifully written, heartbreaking book, and I couldn’t put it down.
Image Credit: Harcourt
Fantasy: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw
For readers who’ve always been afraid of the woods, Winterwood shows them that their fears may be warranted. The woods are haunted, and Nora Walker, rumored to be a witch, is the only one who understands them. One night, in the middle of a snowstorm, she finds Oliver Huntsman, a boy who disappeared from the nearby Camp for Wayward Boys and has no memory of it. This novel is dark, haunting, beautiful, and so atmospheric, you feel immersed in the world. Big pluses: the romance is adorable and the book is short.
Image Credit: Simon & Schuster
Poetry: Love Her Wild by Atticus
I don’t love poetry, especially not contemporary poetry, but I always make an exception for Atticus. His beautifully crafted poems are able to pack complexity into short sentences. Although the same ideas are often repeated and I don’t love every poem, the few that stand out stick with me. I always feel inspired to write about reading his work. In addition, his books are visually stunning, pairing the poems with beautiful photographs.
Image Credit: Atria Books