Now that I’ve completed (read: survived) yet another first month of school, my state of denial has begun to waver. The increasingly weighty burden of eighty-some teens and their futures weighs heavily on my shoulders, which have already taken on their fall-semester slump. School is in session! — and my time for pleasure-reading will be reduced to nothing in just a few quick weeks.
Since reading time is limited, I’ve realized that attempting to read long novels with great complexity and depth is futile; usually, I don’t have the opportunity to read the same book every single day, and often I go days at a time without cracking a book. (I know. It’s a crime.) As such, I try to look for books with simpler structures and characters. Below is a list of novels that teachers (and other busy folks) can safely tackle during the (school) year.
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Genre: Thriller. I read this book a few months after it came out, and I’ve been disappointed ever since. Seriously. The novel was gripping, characters were enjoyably despicable, and I didn’t see a single twist coming — right up to the end. This novel is a quick, suspenseful read — you may or may not stay up all night to finish — and the plot is limited to a few integral characters, so readers with limited time don’t have to worry about keeping track of multiple storylines. I’ve been hunting for a similarly gripping thriller ever since . . . and have yet to be satisfied.
- The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. Genre: Fiction/Romance. Don’t be fooled by the genre — this page-turner isn’t a gooey Sparks novel. This novel tells the story of Sophie Lefevre, a 20-something French woman in German-occupied France during World War I. Sophie, her sister, and her sister’s kids must struggle to survive their occupied town; but beyond the normal terrors the villagers face, Sophie’s family must also feed the German officers in their family-owned hotel each night. Intertwined with this early-1900s tale of survival: a modern widow’s struggle to overcome grief and move forward with her life. At the heart of both stories, a common feature exists: an original painting of a beautiful woman. Moyes’ novel satisfied my love of historical fiction stories and featured a strong female lead to boot. The book itself is almost 500 pages, but Moyes’ prose is strong and the story so well-conceived, you’ll fly through the book — and wish there were more.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Genre: Fiction. This novel is a standout in the realm of Holocaust-fiction works. The story is told from the perspective of Death — lending itself to some rather interesting revelations along the way. It’s been a few years since I picked the novel up, but I remember the story touched me at my core, a unique and shattering piece of Holocaust fiction unlike any other. Perk: the film version is excellent, as well.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Genre: Fiction. This short read is quite simple in its message, but it packs a powerful punch. The novel is actually almost 30 years old, but I only recently became aware of its existence. A narrator follows the travels of Santiago, a shepherd boy who is determined to find treasure after meeting with a fortune teller who has promised great things at the pyramids of Egypt. The fable-esque tale centers on the idea that we all know our “Personal Legends” (or greatest dreams/destinies) when we’re younger, but lose sight of those Personal Legends as we become adults. Coelho, though, reinforces throughout the novel: “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” This read is excellent for high school/college students and those adults who have forgotten what it means to chase their dreams.
What are your favorite quick reads? Comment below!