If you’re on Spring Break like I am this week, you might be looking for some shorter books or lighter reads that you can finish in one sitting. The ten books I’ve selected below would be perfect beach reads, rainy day reads, or stuck-in-traffic-because-the-interstate-collapsed reads. Most adults read around 300 words per minute, which means if you have three and a half to four hours to spare, you can easily knock one of these out. Just be sure you schedule yourself some snack breaks.
1. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
Length: 336 pages
If you’ve been looking for a book where Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters meet the modern world, look no further. I absolutely devoured this book and couldn’t stop turning the pages! Plus, this work of faith-based fiction has a great message in addition to appealing to book lovers everywhere.
2. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Length: 224 pages
This is the book that inspired this post, mainly because I read it yesterday in one sitting. Recommended to me by my fiction writing professor, News of the World is a touching work of historical fiction that describes a man named Jefferson Kyle Kidd who travels around the American West reading newspaper articles to people. One day he is asked to deliver a young girl named Johanna home to her family. Johanna was kidnapped by the Kiowa Indians at age six, and her entire life was turned upside down by this event. This story was touching and I’m already looking to reread it and study the prose more closely. I’d also love to write more about it because there are some great lines and scenes to share.
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Length: 249 pages
If you want to tackle a shorter classic, you can’t go wrong with Fahrenheit 451. This novel is only around 50,000 words long, which makes it very manageable. It’s also suspenseful and crammed full of interesting philosophical ideas.
4. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Length: 176 pages
Looking for even more classics in your life? Try Romeo and Juliet–Shakespeare’s tragedy of star-crossed lovers is relatively short and easy to understand. Plus, most of us are already familiar with the tragic plot of this play. If you get stuck, grab an edition that has helpful footnotes like the Pelican Shakespeare pictured above or page-by-page notes like the Folger Shakespeare editions have.
5. The Storied life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Length: 288 pages
I read this book back in 2014 or 2015, and it was another great read for book lovers. The main character owns a bookshop and analyzes fiction throughout the novel. It is a tearjerker, though, so be sure you have tissues nearby!
6. The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan
Length: 160 pages
I’ve mentioned this book several times on the blog, but it’s a great collection of short stories if you’re looking for some lighthearted stories about the fleeting nature of childhood. This is also the shortest book on this list, so no need to feel intimidated!
7. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Length: 272 Pages
This children’s book is so much more than that. It’s a lesson in courage, overcoming, and true love. If you’ve never read a book by Kate DiCamillo, I’d recommend starting with this one. You can’t go wrong with such a classic story for young readers!
8. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Length: 78 pages
The next two books on this list aren’t your typical beach reads, but they are short enough to manage in one sitting! Heart of Darkness is actually more like a novella, with only four chapters. That doesn’t lessen the impact of everything that’s happening in this book. I love Conrad’s style of writing and how he creates a narrator that we can’t trust. Even if it’s not your go-to genre, reading this will help you check one more classic book off your list. The horror!
9. Night by Elie Wiesel
Length: 120 pages
This sobering memoir about Elie Wiesel’s experiences during the holocaust will certainly make for a memorable Spring Break read. It’s nonfiction, which makes the already chilling events seem more intense, but Wiesel tells his story with grace and compassion.
10. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Length: 208 pages
Lighthearted, touching, and funny, this book tells the story of a fictional town whose residents are required to stop using letters of the alphabet as they fall off a statue in the town square. As the letters fall, they also disappear from the book, which makes the spelling zany and so much fun to read.
I’m sure there are lots of other one-sitting reads out there, but these are my top ten! Let me know in the comments below which books you’ve eaten up in one sitting, and maybe I’ll add them to my list!