Fantastic short reads – the diverse edition

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 Read In One Sitting Theme: ten of the shortest books I’ve read, top ten books I read in one sitting, ten books to read when you are short on time, top ten books that will make you read the whole day away, etc.

I am tempted to just put comics. Because comics are quick reads and for the most part, entertaining! I’ve instead put together a list of short books/novellas that are easily read in one sitting. I’ve deliberately not included short story collections as I tend to read short story collections over a number of days.

Also, I am defining ‘short books’ as those that are under or just slightly above 200 pages.

Quesadillas – Juan Pablo Villas (158 pages)

It feels wrong to say that this story about a poor family living in a town where there are more cows than people is funny. But it is. It’s weird and clever and absurd.

When the Emperor was Divine – Julie Otsuka (144 pages)

A moving story about a family sent to the Japanese-American internment camps. Heartbreaking.

Binti – Nnedi Okorafor (96 pages)

Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor (176 pages)

I already enjoyed reading speculative fiction before reading these books, but I do think it would be a good starting point for anyone looking to dip their toe into this genre, as Okorafor is a brilliant writer and creates wonderful worlds with strong characters that may be a bit more accessible. Highly recommended!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  – Sherman Alexie (230 pages)

230 pages may be pushing it a bit, you think. But this book does include some illustrations so that takes up some space. Also it is written in the voice of a teenaged boy (i.e. easy to read). However, a lot of it is very sad.

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (49 pages)

It packs a mighty punch in just a few pages. A must-read for everyone.

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow –  Faïza Guène, Sarah Adams (Translator) (179 pages)

Published in 1999, this story features a teenager of Moroccan descent living in France. Her father has returned to Morocco, her mother is illiterate and working at a rat-trap of a motel. And Doria is struggling with her studies and all the usual teenager problems.

The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yōko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (Translator) (180 pages)

It’s been a while since I’ve read this but I remember it as being a very brilliant and moving story about a young woman who looks after a math professor with a very short-term memory.

The Diving Pool: Three Novellas – Yōko Ogawa, Stephen Snyder (Translation)

What can I say, Ogawa writes so beautifully I have to include another of her books!

Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (183 pages)

Desai writes such gorgeous (and sad) stories about families, this time about a family that has grown apart.

The Lake – Banana Yoshimoto (188 pages)

“But sometimes we encounter people like Nakajima who compel us to remember it all. He doesn’t have to say or do anything in particular; just looking at him, you find yourself face-to-face with the enormousness of the world as a whole. Because he doesn’t try to live in just a part of it. Because he doesn’t avert his gaze.

He makes me feel like I’ve suddenly awakened, and I want to go on watching him forever. That, I think, is what it is. I’m awed by his terrible depths.”

Sad and beautiful. Also, Yoshimoto has written a few other books that are under or around 200 pages like N.P. and Lizard.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid (184 pages)

I recently reread this book and it once again blew me away. To write a story that is pretty much like reading one side of a conversation was unusual and may not work for everyone but I really liked it. The narrator is a Pakistani man speaking to an unidentified American stranger.

The Vegetarian – Han Kang, Deborah Smith (translator) (192 pages)

I know lots of people really liked this book but perhaps because of all the hype I felt a bit disappointed by it. Instead, I preferred her other book, released in English this year, Human Acts, which comes in at 218 pages.

Some diverse books I have yet to read that seem like short reads

(Synopses from Goodreads)

Confession of the Lioness – Mia Couto, David Brookshaw (Translation) (192 pages)

Told through two haunting, interwoven diaries, Mia Couto’s Confession of the Lioness reveals the mysterious world of Kulumani, an isolated village in Mozambique whose traditions and beliefs are threatened when ghostlike lionesses begin hunting the women who live there.

Some Prefer Nettles – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Edward G. Seidensticker (Translator) (202 pages)

Esi decides to divorce after enduring yet another morning’s marital rape. Though her friends and family remain baffled by her decision (after all, he doesn’t beat her!), Esi holds fast. When she falls in love with a married man—wealthy, and able to arrange a polygamous marriage—the modern woman finds herself trapped in a new set of problems. Witty and compelling, Aidoo’s novel, “inaugurates a new realist style in African literature.”

Changes: A Love Story – Ama Ata Aidoo (208 pages)

Esi decides to divorce after enduring yet another morning’s marital rape. Though her friends and family remain baffled by her decision (after all, he doesn’t beat her!), Esi holds fast. When she falls in love with a married man—wealthy, and able to arrange a polygamous marriage—the modern woman finds herself trapped in a new set of problems. Witty and compelling, Aidoo’s novel, “inaugurates a new realist style in African literature.

Season of Migration to the North – Tayeb Salih, Denys Johnson-Davies (Translator) (176 pages)

After years of study in Europe, the young narrator of Season of Migration to the North returns to his village along the Nile in the Sudan. It is the 1960s, and he is eager to make a contribution to the new postcolonial life of his country. Back home, he discovers a stranger among the familiar faces of childhood—the enigmatic Mustafa Sa’eed. Mustafa takes the young man into his confidence, telling him the story of his own years in London, of his brilliant career as an economist, and of the series of fraught and deadly relationships with European women that led to a terrible public reckoning and his return to his native land.

Please leave a comment if you have any recommendations for short reads by POC authors!

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10 thoughts on “Fantastic short reads – the diverse edition

  1. What a fun theme! I just picked up Julie Otsuka’s second book while on my lunch break, The Buddha in the Attic – have you read it before?

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