6 Short Novels to Pull You Out of a Reading Slump

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Elliot Riley

Staff Writer

Emily Butler is a librarian and writer. You can discover more of their literary opinions on their YouTube channel,, and follow them on Twitter @EmilyFButler1.

Reading slumps happen for any number of reasons. Sometimes you’re simply too busy to read. Reading may require more mental energy than you currently have. You may have the misfortune of reading several books in a row that you dislike, making it hard to want to pick up another book.

After a reading slump, I look for something short to read. That way, I can have the satisfaction of finishing a book without reading hundreds and hundreds of pages. Usually, finishing one short book is enough to remind me that I am capable of making the time to read.

The novels on this list are not only short, but highly engrossing. This list contains recent releases as well as a few older titles, in a range of genres. Begin with whichever one sounds most likely to reconnect you to your love of stories.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation By Ottessa Moshfegh

If you’ve been in a reading slump due to low mood, you will likely relate to the main character of My Year of Rest and Relaxation. You’re unlikely to approach the problem quite the way she does, however. Moshfegh’s unnamed narrator has lost her boyfriend, her parents, and her job. She decides that what she really needs is to get a good night’s sleep—for an entire year. This requires the use of powerful drugs, which her humorously incompetent therapist is more than happy to provide. In addition to being short, this book is a straightforward read without too complex a plot. It’s perfect if you want to break your reading slump with a novel on the simpler side.

convenience-store-woman Convenience Store Woman By Sayaka Murata

Keiko Furukura is 36 years old and has been working in a convenience store for nearly two decades. Her family is baffled by her lack of desire to find a new job, as well as her complete lack of romantic relationships. Keiko has always had trouble fitting in. She takes comfort in the Smile Mart’s employee manual which tells her exactly how to act. This is Murata’s first novel to be translated into English. Murata provides humorous and touching commentary on societal demands and expectations—and what happens when we defy them. Her words may ring particularly true due to her own personal experience working in a convenience store for many years.

The Virgin Suicides The Virgin Suicides By Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides tells you how this book ends in the very first paragraph. And yet, his descriptive voice and impeccable dialogue will keep you from putting this one down. Eugenides’s debut novel is the story of five sisters who each die by suicide. In the absence of any suicide notes, the narrative serves as a rumination on the possible reasons for the suicides. The story unfolds from the perspective of a man who used to live in the girls’ neighborhood. Told in hindsight 20 years after the incident, the novel drips with the nostalgia of looking back on one’s adolescence.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle By Shirley Jackson

Years ago, someone poisoned the sugar bowl at the Blackwood house. Now, with only three of the family members remaining, the neighbors will not let them forget the incident. Shirley Jackson’s classic short horror novel is a great introduction into the genre. More creepy than scary, this short novel is ideal for readers who want to be unsettled but do not want to read gory descriptions of violence.

Plant life Annihilation By Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation follows a biologist on her mission into Area X, a sectioned-off landscape into which many have entered but few have returned. Accompanied by a psychologist, surveyor, and anthropologist, she is tasked with finding out as much as she can about the landscape. This is the first book in VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. It could be ideal for pulling you out of a reading slump, particularly if you enjoy unusual science fiction. If you like it, you will already know exactly what to read next.

The Housekeeper and the Professor By Yoko Ogaway

What do the numbers 220 and 284 have in common? What formula could you use to quickly find the sum of the numbers from 1 to 10? These are a few of the mathematical quandaries embedded in Ogawa’s touching short novel. The main character has been a housekeeper for many years, but she has never encountered a client like the professor. His extraordinary passion for mathematics is not the only unusual thing about him. Due to a brain injury, his memory only lasts 80 minutes at a time. In less than 200 pages, Ogawa walks readers through intriguing math problems, as well as the main character’s efforts to connect with the professor through her growing appreciation for numbers.