Five short books to get you out of a reading slump

Are you in a reading slump? Are you looking for short books to reach your reading goal or just take a break from big books?

Short books are a great way to help get yourself out of a reading slump. Similar to reading short stories, short novels are easy to finish and give you that feeling of accomplishment that makes you want to keep reading.

I love reading short novels. They can act as a palate cleanser in between big books, or help you ramp up into reading other books. Sometimes you just want to read a book that you can finish quickly.

Whatever the reason, I’ve put together a list of five short books. Each of these could easily be finished in a weekend, or maybe a day if you’ve got lots of time to read.

They’re all relatively easy to read and a good way to jump back into reading if you’re in a slump. I tried to include a bit of variation from classics up to some recently released books, hopefully, with a book that might interest anyone.

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Five short books

Here’s a list of five short books to get you out of a reading slump or just finish quickly.

  1. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (1886)
  2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
  3. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (2015)
  4. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Murderbot Series – 2017)
  5. Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor (2021)

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve order them from the oldest published to the newest.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886)

by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Anthony Briggs

  • Year Published: 1886
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, literary, dark, reflective, sad, medium-paced

By the time he dies, Ivan Ilych has come to understand the worthlessness of his life. Paradoxically, this elevates him above the common man, who avoids the reality of death and the effort it takes to make life worthwhile. In Tolstoy’s own words, “Ivan Ilyich’s life had been . . . most ordinary and therefore most terrible.”


The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

by Ernest Hemingway

  • Year Published: 1952
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, literary, adventurous, reflective, slow-paced

This short novel, already a modern classic, is the superbly told, tragic story of a Cuban fisherman in the Gulf Stream and the giant Marlin he kills and loses—specifically referred to in the citation accompanying the author’s Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.


Before the Coffee Gets Cold (2015)

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot

  • Year Published: 2015 (English version in 2019)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, literary, magical realism, emotional, hopeful, reflective, medium-paced

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?


All Systems Red (Murderbot Series – 2017)

by Martha Wells

  • Year Published: 2017
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, science fiction, adventurous, funny, fast-paced
  • This won both the Hugo and Nebula Award.

“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

In a corporate-dominated space-faring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. For their own safety, exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists is conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid–a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, Murderbot wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is, but when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and Murderbot to get to the truth.


Remote Control (2021)

by Nnedi Okorafor

  • Year Published: 2021
  • Storygraph Categories:
  • fiction, science fiction, adventurous, dark, mysterious, fast-paced
  • The author is a Nebula and Hugo Award winner

The new book by Nebula and Hugo Award-winner, Nnedi Okorafor.

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?


Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which short books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.