During the mad finals rush at Oxford, I roped in a couple of other friendly, book-loving bloggers to help me out with some guest posts. This article was first published in May 2017 but has now been updated. First up, we’ve got Laura from Women In Progress with a list of short books for busy people:
Thanks so much to Laura for letting me guest blog this week. I’ve pulled together a list of books to read when you have no time to immerse yourself in the Booker prize list.
In selecting these short books I focused on a few criteria: pace (no endless descriptions or meandering moments), the time it takes to get hooked (short), the need for short chapters (so you can consume in small doses), and nothing that requires high levels of concentration (I’m looking at you Cloud Atlas). They’re also books I’ve read myself during particularly manic periods, often when reading seems like the last thing I should actually be doing. These books work in those times, but they’re equally suited to the interrupted reading of a commute, or when you want to be distracted and Grazia just won’t cut it.
Not just because of the recent TV series, but Margaret Atwood’s incredible novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, is top of my list for quality reading that can be read in small doses. The story is of Offred, a handmaid in a not-too-distant future Christian fundamentalist republic. Do not let this sentence put you off. These are compelling characters in a fascinating world, it ticks the short chapters and easy-to-get-into boxes, and Margaret Atwood is a genius.
I read The Rosie Project in the first few weeks after my third child was born – which tells you she was a) a pretty good baby (hallelujah) but also b) it’s a fantastic read. It tells the story of a socially-awkward genetics professor who wants, but has been unable to find, a serious relationship. As a result he decides to write a questionnaire to evaluate potential wives and in the process runs into Rosie, who isn’t exactly going to pass his test with flying colours. The Rosie Project is funny, heartwarming – all the things you get from watching a great romantic comedy but in book form. I think Laura also loved it too (see review here).
Ever appropriate in a blog post about a list, Nick Hornby’s hilarious novel, High Fidelity, is also about lists. The main character, Rob, has just broken up with his ex Laura, and is sure that she wouldn’t make it on to his “desert-island, all time, top five most memorable split-ups”. He decides that what would help him move on would be to catch up with those top five girls. Funny, insightful and gorgeously written. I’ve read this several times.
I never used to read historical fiction, frankly being a bit of a snob about the whole genre. But on holiday last year I read this on my mum’s recommendation, and since then I’ve devoured the whole series and am now working through C.J.Sansom’s Shardlake books (also great). I was wrong (it does happen). In many ways reading historical fiction feels like multi-tasking: I’m reading but I’m also learning about history that I know very little about. Stormbird is the first in a trilogy on the Wars of the Roses: it’s dramatic, interesting and well written – and there are swords!
My final choice isn’t fiction, but Chris Evans’, the Radio 2 / TFI Friday presenter’s autobiography, It’s Not What You Think. The first part of his autobiography anyway. This tells the story of his childhood, through to his controversial exit from Radio 1 and making millions from taking over Virgin Radio. It’s very well written, and Evans is honest about being a bit of a twat in those days whilst giving an insight into the crazy life he led at the time. “A good read even if you don’t like him” said my Father-in-law. Can’t say fairer than that.
Thanks Laura for having me. I’m off to speed read a chapter of something – if anyone has any recommendations do let me know.
Thanks ever so much to Laura for whipping up a guest post for me whilst I floundered in a pile of books. I’m going to try and see if I can squeeze one of these short reads in during this busy time! The Handmaid’s Tale is top of my list for post-finals reading and I imagine a lot of other people feel the same. Check out even more of Laura’s content here:
Do you often find you have no time to read? Which of these 5 short book suggestions are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments below!
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