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Top 5 Books To Read When Time Is Short


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.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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.

The Handmaid’s Tale is available on Amazon for £3.99 here.

  1. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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).

The Rosie Project is available on Amazon for £5.43 here.

  1. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

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.

High Fidelity is available on Amazon for £6.74 here.

  1. Stormbird, Wars of the Roses by Conn Iggulden

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!

Stormbird is available on Amazon for £6.46 here.

  1. It’s Not What You Think by Chris Evans

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.

It’s Not What You Think is available on Amazon for £9.99 here.

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:

Blog: www.womaninprogress.co.uk
Instagram: @womanin.progress 
Facebook: womaninprogressblog

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!

If you liked this post, check out the following:

7 Reasons You Should Always Carry a Book With You
How to Cut Down Your TBR Pile Once and For All
How to Declutter Your Bookshelves
It’s Time For Book Bloggers to Get Paid.

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Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

Find me on: Web | Twitter



  1. Mummy Times Two
    2nd June 2017 / 2:12 PM

    I haven’t read any of these, which is pretty poor considering I am an English graduate. I need to check them out.

  2. Jenni Grainger
    2nd June 2017 / 2:28 PM

    I haven’t read any of these, will keep an eye out for that one from Nick Hornby

  3. Melanie Williams
    2nd June 2017 / 6:37 PM

    I have not read any books for ages but the High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby looks like a good one 🙂 x

  4. Bex Smith
    2nd June 2017 / 10:57 PM

    I keep meaning to read The Handmaids Tale – heard such great things about it!

  5. Hannah Latoya Bond
    3rd June 2017 / 11:02 AM

    I’ve never read any of these, but they do sound great

  6. 3rd June 2017 / 11:44 AM

    I studied ‘The Handsmaid’s Tale’ in A-Levels and it was such a compelling read. I remember having to write a short story based on it and it was so much fun x

  7. Deborah Nicholas
    3rd June 2017 / 4:00 PM

    oh ive heard good things about The Handmaids Tale so will def check it out – thanks for the list!

  8. 3rd June 2017 / 5:25 PM

    I read the Handmaid Tale at school and loved it, I need to read it again now the show is on x

  9. Hungry_Healthy_Happy
    4th June 2017 / 1:49 PM

    I don’t have much time to read with a 6 month old, so these are perfect. I will add these to my list.

  10. Shannon Ritchie
    4th June 2017 / 4:34 PM

    Now I have finished exams I have time to read, these are some fab suggestions!

  11. 4th June 2017 / 4:43 PM

    I keep meaning to try and get back into reading, now my eyesight is so bad with my glasses and I normally read in bed I’ve fallen out of the pattern. Need to find a new reading time.

  12. Candice Nikeia
    5th June 2017 / 2:17 AM

    I am really interested now in reading “The Rosie Project” sounds like a great book!

  13. 5th June 2017 / 10:09 AM

    ooo the rosie project and high fidelity is something i would read. great that these books are short too!

  14. 5th June 2017 / 11:59 AM

    Some great recommendations here, I’m looking for some new reads for over summer so this is super helpful! xo

  15. 5th June 2017 / 3:51 PM

    I haven’t read any of these book recommendations…yet! I have to say that the Chris Evans one is probably the first I would read x

  16. 6th June 2017 / 7:53 PM

    Ooh this is exactly what I need!
    I’ve been trying to get back into reading, but my life is so busy – will definitely check out those books 🙂

    Dani x

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