16 Worthwhile Books You Can Read in One Sitting
When people are asked why they don’t read, one of the top excuses is invariably, “I don’t have time”. This, of course, is nonsensical.
Our life is necessarily time limited: we live for a number of years then we die.
If you want to get through more books in your life then you need to think about how you can integrate reading into your daily routine.
Psychologically, it is easier to read a short book than a long one. So if your reading habit has fallen by the wayside, these worthwhile books you can read in one sitting will help get you back on track.
Short but not always sweet
Books, like train journeys, come in all lengths. Each has its purpose, but it is understandable that we may at times be less inclined to embark on a thousand mile (or page) voyage than an hour-long one.
The following is a list of 16 books that can be read in one sitting.
Technically this is possible with any book. But you won’t have such a numb bum after getting through these as you would if you tried to finish Middlemarch in one fell swoop.
They may all be concise, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pack a punch. Each has been picked for the lasting effect it will have on the reader.
There are seven novels or novellas, four plays, two short stories, two poetry collections and an extended essay.
Ready? Let’s go!
16 books that can be read in one sitting
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — A brutal glimpse into the reality of life in a Stalinist labour camp, this classic tale takes the reader through a day in the life of an inmate. Solzhenitsyn was the first writer to put the horrific conditions endured by millions of Russians onto the page.
- Strike Your Heart by Amélie Nothomb — The Belgian writer is a contemporary bestseller. Her concise, cutting style allows the narrative to flow almost unstoppably, which makes it very hard to put her books down. This is one of her best: a deeply moving tale of ambition, betrayal and seeking one’s purpose.
- Autumn by Ali Smith — The first in Ali Smith’s seasonal series is a brilliant tale of an unlikely friendship. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2017, this meditation on loneliness, finding your place and the transience of life is beautiful and tragic in equal measure.
- Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez — Famed for his magical realism, García Márquez creates here a dizzying work of meta fiction. This fake detective story reveals the murder of Santiago Nasar from the first line and then takes the reader on a dizzying journey through time to explore the motives and effects of it.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck — This classic American novella is unlikely to be a new discovery for anyone, but it deserves its place on the list for the profound characterisation that Steinbeck achieves in such a short work. Poignant, authentic and timeless.
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote — Holly Golightly is one of the most memorable heroines in fiction. Quirky and glamorous, yet complex and lonely, her story is one of wit and charm.
- The Stranger by Albert Camus — A French classic that deserves its status as canonical twentieth-century text. From the immortal opening line, Meursault’s cold detachment is chilling and makes for a compelling reading experience.
- The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe — This short story lends its name to the title of a collection of realistic and evocative tales. Sillitoe’s style is highly readable and brilliantly penetrates the mind of a young rebel. This story will hammer home the futility of life but also its small, redeeming qualities.
- We Killed Mangy Dog by Luís Bernardo Honwana — The Mozambican author’s most beloved tale, We Killed Mangy Dog contrasts colonial power relations with the inherent compassion of children. Written in 1964 — ten years before Mozambique gained its independence from Portugal — this is a captivating and important read.
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf — First published in 1929, it is no exaggeration to label this extended essay as life-changing. ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’ declares Woolf. If you are happy in your ignorance about the absence of women from our history books, do not read A Room of One’s Own.
- A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney — This is Delaney’s first play, written when she was just 19. It transports us into the world of Jo, a seventeen-year-old working class girl, and Helen, her crude mother. A compelling ‘kitchen sink’ play.
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare — One of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies and one of his most action-packed, Macbeth is a study of the catastrophic effects of ambition. Featuring witches, prophecies, banquets, walking forests, revenge and ghosts.
- Educating Rita by Willy Russell — This addictive play centres on a working-class woman’s hunger for education. Fast-paced, comical and life-affirming, Willy Russell’s play continues to strike a chord with readers around the world.
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller — Miller’s retelling of witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem was pertinent at the time of McCarthyism, and continues to be as chillingly relevant today. After Elizabeth Proctor is accused of being a witch, a ruthless chain of hysteria and lies shines a light on the destructive power of unchallenged authority and group think.
- Ariel by Sylvia Plath — This was Plath’s unpublished masterpiece, containing many of her best-loved poems: ‘Lady Lazarus’, ‘Medusa’, ‘Death & Co.’, ‘Daddy’. As always with Plath, beauty and despair nestle together on the same page.
- People on a Bridge by Wisława Szymborska — Winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, Szymborska’s poems tend to involve deceptively simple portraits of common scenes. People on a Bridge is one of her first collections and is a beautiful meditation on life.
Other articles on reading:
‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ is the book version of clickbait
You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t resist