I’m sure you’re a more conscientious reader than I am, but back in late January and February I was really struggling to read. We were back in lockdown, this time in winter with its dark evenings and cold, often wet days. All I wanted was to escape into a good book, and yet the necessary concentration eluded me. I found a solution – to give myself a quick win by reading really short books, so I could get a sense of achievement by finishing something. And of course then the momentum built and I found myself back to reading at my usual pace. In case you’re also struggling with concentration (or time to read), here are some of my favourite books; they all happen to be under 200 pages long.
Agatha by Anne Cathrine Bomann.
A lonely psychiatrist counts the days (and the appointments) until his retirement, barely listening to his patients as he doodles birds in his notebook. During sessions with a new patient in desperate need of his help, he begins to see how narrow his life has become, and to step out of his comfort zone to make meaningful connections with those around him. A subtle and moving, funny and thought-provoking read; a joy and a comfort in (tiny) book form.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Keiko is thirty-six years old, she’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same convenience store for eighteen years. An incredibly sharp and clever novel, with one of the most endearingly odd protagonists I’ve ever read. Keiko’s outsider status highlights with an incisive deadpan humour the inequalities and hypocrisies of the modern world.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Addie and Louis have been neighbours for years. Now they both live alone; bereaved of their spouses. A devastatingly beautiful, simple novel, and a rare portrayal of what I would truly call happiness: pure peaceful contentment. The fact that it was written while the author was dying might be a lesson to us in what really matters, at the end of all things.