The Canterbury Tales. The Aeneid. The Sound and the Fury. Great books these are, but they aren’t exactly reads you can knock off quickly. And sometimes “quick read” is exactly what the soul craves. Ahead, 15 amazing books you can read in a day if not a sitting. Some are new, some are classics, but all will be ready for 5 o’clock cocktail chatter if you pick ‘em up in the morning.
1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
You didn’t think you’d make it through a list of the best books you can read in a day without this one, now did you? Good. So let’s share our position loud and clear: If you haven’t read this 1952 classic already, do it now. And if you’ve read it before, it’s high time to read it again. An inimitable novella about an older fisherman and his sojourns at sea, you can easily read this book in one sitting—and be better for it. P.S. If you can make it through these 128 pages without shedding a tear, we’re impressed.
2. Naked at the Knife-Edge: What Everest Taught Me About Leadership and the Power of Vulnerability by Vivian James Rigney
It may only be 192 pages, but you’ll be taken on quite the adventure as you follow along on Rigney’s journey to make it to the summit of Everest. Here, the leadership expert and executive coach shares unique learnings from the experience along with hard-won lessons on success and its very definition. If you liked Into Thin Air and How to Win Friends and Influence People, this March 2022 release is for you.
3. Life Without Children by Roddy Doyle
A newcomer for February 22nd, this short story collection clocks in at 192 pages. A moving portrayal of our lives amid the ongoing pandemic lives, it’s penned by the Booker Prize-winning author of Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. While the book centers on loss and struggle, there are plenty of laughs and inspiring moments too in tales of emotionally drained nurses, a middle-aged man unable to attend his mom’s funeral, and the unforgettable Alan, a “sixty-two-year old bachelor. With a wife,” in Newcastle, England, in the title story “Life Without Children.”
4. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
This gripping and grim 208-page memoir centers around the death of Didion’s daughter in 2005 at the age of 39. Published in 2011, it’s Didion prose at her finest, and a reminder that when life is at its darkest, there’s always a window for learning and love. Though a bit longer, at 242 pages, Didion’s 2007 The Year of Magical Thinking is also worth reading.
5. A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin
Originally published in 1951, this slim volume of 117 pages chronicles the author’s strolls through New York City during his childhood. Kazin grew up in a working-class Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s evocative, melodic, and a potent reminder that every generation undergoes strife.
6. Don’y Worry: 48 Lessons on Relieving Anxiety from a Zen Buddhist Monk by Shunmyo Masuno
The title says it all. Penned by the bestselling author of The Art of Simple Living, this practical guide educates readers on basic Zen principles to help you feel more at ease and attuned to the present moment. Debuting on April 5, there’s much to learn in this compact manual. Our personal favorite lesson in this 224-page book? #24: Act instead of worrying—things will definitely work out better.
7. The Art of Whisky: The Vanishing Spirits of Single Malt Scotch by Ernie Button
Whisky aficionado? Pick up a copy of this 176-page book that takes you on a photographic journey of the beloved spirit. The origins of the work occurred when award-winning photographer Ernie Button noticed the unique patterns formed in the residue at the bottoms of (almost) empty whisky glasses and decided to chronicle them with special lighting techniques. Needless to say, palm a dram of whiskey while you make your way through this book, which will be unveiled May 2022.
8. Takaya: Lone Wolf by Cheryl Alexander
In 192 pages, Alexander draws you in to the captivating world of a solitary, island-dwelling wolf in British Columbia’s Salish Sea, with incredible photography, journal entries, and interviews. You’ll never look at wild animals the same way after completing this stellar 2020 tome from Rocky Mountain Books.
9. The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint by Paul Greenberg
Good look putting this 176-page book down. Within, an acclaimed sustainability and food writer shares advice on how to live to protect this Pale Blue Dot. Whether you incorporate one or all 50 tips from this book into your life, you’ll feel good about knowing you’re doing something to leave the world a better place. (Pro tip: This is best enjoyed in a tent by flashlight.)
10. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
We consider this 2019 #1 New York Times bestseller a companion read to The Climate Diet. In 160 pages, this page-turner introduces (or re-familiarizes) you to the 19-year-old Swedish climate activist. Along with her historic address to the United Nations in 2019, and her famous “And change is coming, whether you like it or not” line, you’ll come away from reading this with countless pieces of wisdom to ponder and carry into your daily life.
11. Steal Like an Artist 10th Anniversary Gift Edition by Austin Kleon
On sale March 2022, New York Times bestseller and Goodreads Choice award Austin Kleon will captivate you from start to finish. Within, you’ll learn how to harness your creativity in 10 straightforward principles. The book originated as a commencement speech on advice Kleon wishes he could share with his 19-year-old self for the graduating class of SUNY Broome Community College. It moved countless people who came across it, and it became an online sensation. If you like this book, check out Kleon’s “Read Like an Artist” book club on monthly subscription service for bookworms, Literati.
12. How TV Can Make You Smarter by Allison Shoemaker
This book was published in 2020, and we’re going to go ahead and guess you’ve been watching more TV than normal in these pandemic times. In a tightly written 112 pages, Shoemaker—an author and TV critic—makes the case that TV has many emotional and intellectual benefits. We knew all that Billions and The Morning Show binge-watching wasn’t in vain.
13. Passing by Nella Larsen
This Penguin Classics book (and recent Netflix movie) is a moving tale about racial identity. Though the novel was first published in 1929, Larsen’s words ring true to this day. Since it’s 160 pages, it’s the kind of book you can start and finish in a day, but will linger in your mind long after you finish.
14. Congratulations, by the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders
How’s a 60-page book sound? It’ll sound even better once you know what’s inside: words of lasting interest from Saunders’ graduation address at Syracuse University. Published in 2014, the book also makes for a great gift for any kind of milestone.
15. For Esmé with Love and Squalor and Other Stories by J.D. Salinger
Don’t let this slim 175-page edition fool you. It’s packed with stories that will imprint themselves into your brain for years to come. Take these lines from “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes,” one of the book’s nine short stories (FYI: This book is also known as Nine Stories): “Honest to God, I think it’s this goddamn New York. What I think maybe we’ll do, if everything goes along all right, we’ll get ourselves a little place in Connecticut maybe. Not too far out, necessarily, but far enough that we can lead a normal goddam life…I mean—except you—who do we know in New York except a bunch of neurotics. It’s bound to undermine even a normal person sooner or later.” Does Salinger get any better than that? Okay, maybe that’s what re-reading The Catcher in the Rye in tomorrow’s marathon reading session is for, too.