9 Short Books for the Shortest Day of the Year
Here we are, bookish folks in the Northern hemisphere, staring into the fire (or what passes for a fire on my television) while we ponder our book spreadsheets. I never seem to be as far along in my reading as I would like, and there isn’t much time left in 2021. So how can we increase our reading numbers with so little time left? Short books of course!
Now, maybe you really don’t care about reading lists, spreadsheets or charts, but you still want a small book to tuck away in a pocket somewhere as you hide from being asked what on earth you’ve finally decided to do with your life. (I’m over 30. You can stop asking that now, Aunt Jan!) Earlier this year, I stashed a poetry collection in my bag and had annotated the entire thing by the time I was done waiting for my turn for the COVID vaccine — one can never be too prepared!
For shorter books, I typically reach for poetry, but maybe you prefer essays or transcripts of commencement addresses. Whatever the case, here is a list of excellent short books just waiting to help you increase your reading number or avoid awkward family encounters this holiday season.
Intimations by Zadie Smith
Intimations came into my life before any other pandemic writing fell into my hands. Zadie Smith’s observations about even the smallest of details cover each page. Each of the short essays in this slim book ponder the new reality of a world forever changed by COVID-19. And for audiobook fans, Zadie Smith reads — and sings! — the audiobook version.
Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward
As a huge Jesmyn Ward fan, I adored every bit of this book. Adapted from her 2018 commencement speech at Tulane University, Navigate Yours Stars encourages young people to work hard and respect others. There’s a sense that those listening are ending one chapter and heading into the next. This little book is perfect for winter graduates or readers looking for some encouragement heading into the new year.
The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri
Granted, I would read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri (even if it was just a shopping list, to be honest), but this tiny book struck me as something special. In just 80 pages, Lahiri discusses the role of a book jacket for a text. What does the style of the book’s clothing say about its content? This thought-provoking essay is a love letter to book design and the impact a great design can have on the reader.
Heating Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelley
Before reading, Heating and Cooling, I had never read a micro-memoir. But former Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelley brings all of her poetry skills to each and everyone of these tiny essays. The prose reads as lyrical little snippets, giving us a brief glimpse into the author’s life.
This Wound Is a World by Billy-Ray Belcourt
Part poetry, part memoir, This Wound Is a World gives us poem after poem on what it’s like for Belcourt to create art from his place as a queer Indigenous poet. From interracial love to the continuing devastation of colonialism, this collection challenges common assumptions about love, culture, and spirituality.
Two Or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison
Appalachian author Dorothy Allison might be more well known for her novel Bastard Out of Carolina, but Two or Three Things I Know for Sure shows Allison’s talent for nonfiction. Allison fills this slim volume with her memories of growing up in a family and watching the women around her run the household while often defending themselves from violent men.
Black Under by Ashanti Anderson
Winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition, Black Under shows us a poet who is fully coming into her own. Each poem shines when read on its own or in succession with the other poems in this collection. I often found myself lost in the text, ponding over a line of poetry or turn of phrase. I can’t wait to read what Anderson writes next.
Reparations Now! By Ashley M. Jones
Alabama’s first Black Poet Laureate, Ashley M. Jones, returns with her third incredible poetry collection with Reparations Now! These poems address the trauma and devastation, both past and present, while also celebrating Black culture and embracing Black joy.
The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus
Deaf Jamaican British poet Raymond Antrobus examines the d/Deaf experience in a world designed for the hearing. After his father’s death, the author embarks on a journey to make sense of his place in the world, never quite fitting in no matter where he goes.
Book lovers can find themselves in a wide range of situations where they don’t have as much time to read as they like. So whether you love poetry collections or micro-memoirs, there’s a short book out there just waiting for you to pick it up. These books may be slim, but they definitely aren’t short on great content.