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10 Short, Fast-Paced Books to Kickstart Your Yearly Reading Goal

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Susie Dumond

Senior Contributor

Susie (she/her) is a queer writer originally from Little Rock, now living in Washington, DC. She is the author of QUEERLY BELOVED and the forthcoming LOOKING FOR A SIGN from Dial Press/Random House. You can find her on Instagram @susiedoom.

If you’re like me, nothing exhilarates you like the feeling of a clean reading tracker, a shelf full of new books, and a new reading goal. Each January, I eagerly scan my TBR, deciding what first page will best start my new year. Which story will give me the push I need to embrace the opportunities ahead? I’ve found that the best way to start my annual reading goal with a bang is by beginning with short, fast-paced books. I’m bound to finish any book quickly if I can’t put it down and it comes in at 300 pages or less. And getting ahead of schedule on my reading tracker gives me all the confidence I need to ride the reading wave through December. That’s why I’ve created this list of 10 short, fast-paced books to help you kickstart your 2022 reading goal.

A helpful resource for meeting any kind of reading goal is using a reading tracker. It’s a great way to make note of each book you read and make sure you’re keeping pace. But reading trackers also offer a way for you to learn more about your reading habits and preferences. I love a detailed reading tracker like this one designed for Book Riot by Tirzah Price. It can help you learn how long it takes you to read different books and compare that against things like genre, length, format, and more. If you find yourself behind schedule on your reading goal, you can figure out what kind of books you tend to blow right through and focus on those until you’re caught up. My reading tracker is always open on my computer browser, and I look at it almost daily. And of course, if you’re looking for a reading challenge that focuses on broadening your horizons instead of just increasing your number of books read, participate in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge!

Short, Fast-Paced Books to Read in 2022

The Easy Life in Kamusari by MIura

The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura, Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

206 pages

This is the perfect novel to read if you plan to reconnect with nature this year and stop spending so much time staring at screens. When teenager Yuki Hirano’s parents send him to a forestry training program far from the city (or even cell signal), it feels like a punishment. But as he learns his way around the forest, gets to know the trees, and discovers mountain legends, he finds much to love about Mt. Kamusari.

Holi Papi by John Paul Brammer book cover

​​¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

214 pages

Starting a new year can be tough. Do you need a laugh? If so, this memoir is for you! LGBTQ advice columnist John Pual Brammer is accustomed to mixing his personal life, sense of humor, and heartfelt thoughts into his writing. In this memoir, his ability to laugh at what once made him cry really shines. From growing up as a gay biracial kid in rural Oklahoma to career woes to learning to use his writing to help people, Hola Papi is an earnest and uplifting book about finding your place in the world.

Cackle by Rachel Harrison book cover

Cackle by Rachel Harrison

293 pages

If your hopes for the new year include leaning into your witchy side and caring less what straight men think of you, then you simply must read Cackle! After an unexpected breakup, Annie moves to a small town in upstate New York in search of a new life. She quickly falls in love with the new town — and with a charming new friend, Sophie. Sophie takes Annie under her wing and helps her find a fresh start. But Annie soon notices that everyone in town seems a bit afraid of Sophie. Could it be she’s more powerful than she seems?

Book cover for Just Pursuit

Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor’s Fight for Fairness by Laura Coates

272 pages

This antiracist memoir is well crafted, accessible, and perfect if your New Year’s resolutions include reading more nonfiction and/or educating yourself on systemic racism and what you can do to fight it. Laura Coates became a lawyer because she felt called to fight for vulnerable populations. But her legal career taught her something very different: “The pursuit of justice creates injustice.” In this memoir, she explores the many flaws in our legal system and some of the many cases she’s witnessed where the law harmed those who most needed its protection.

Book cover for Joan Is Okay

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

224 pages

If you like slice-of-life fiction, dry humor, and books that acknowledge the current cultural moment, this new novel is for you! Chinese American ICU doctor Joan has always been a straightforward person who enjoys the simple things in life. This makes her relationship with her materialistic brother challenging, and makes her feel like she can’t meet her mother’s high expectations. But when her father dies and her mother is determined to grow closer to her children, Joan is pushed from her comfort zone. And then there’s a global pandemic that will completely change every aspect of Joan’s life.

The Stars Are Not Yet Bells by Hannah Lillith Assadi book cover

The Stars are Not Yet Bells by Hannah Lillith Assadi

240 pages

This lyrical historical fiction novel throws you right into the thick of its mystery, romance, and heartbreak. In the midst of WWII, a young couple moves to an island called Lyra off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. Simon, the son of an industrialist, is tasked with finding the strange glowing blue lights that have fascinated onlookers for decades. His wife Elle was young and impressionable when she settled down in Lyra to start a family. Fifty years later, Elle’s memory is fading, but she still feels compelled to answer the lingering questions about why her husband’s mission was never completed.

You Better be Lightning by Andrea Gibson book cover

You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson

115 pages

I personally think poetry collections are a fabulous way to start your reading year. For one, they’re often quick to read. But they can also spark your creativity, and a feminist, queer, fiery collection like this one can help get you in the right headspace to go fiercely into the new year with confidence and passion. Andrea Gibson’s poetry always makes me think about how I relate to the world around me, and this new collection with poems about climate change, space, and so much more has my favorite writing of Gibson’s yet.

None but the Righteous by Chantal James book cover

None But the Righteous by Chantal James

208 pages

This literary psychological thriller with a fascinating concept will grab you from page one. Just after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans teenager Ham is on a Greyhound bus trying to figure out what happens now. Making things even more confusing is his necklace containing a tiny bone fragment of a saint, given to him by his foster mother. While wearing the necklace, the saint has some control over Ham’s thoughts and actions. As Ham decides to return to New Orleans, can he free his body and mind from the saint’s control?

cover of Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor

224 pages

There’s no better time to read sci-fi than January when you’re already envisioning the future, right? And this new book by the incredible Nnedi Okorafor is the perfect pick to read right now. Anwuli Okwudili was born with a disability and later experienced a terrible car crash. As a result, she lives with a variety of biotechnological enhancements. After being attacked in a market, she finds herself villainized by the public and goes on the run, where she meets a man with a similar story and unique abilities who joins her on her search for a safe place.

The How by Yrsa Daley-Ward book cover

The How: Notes on the Great Work of Meeting Yourself by Yrsa Daley-Ward

155 pages

We could all start the year with a little self-care and self-love, right? This short book by poet and writer Yrsa Daley-Ward has beautiful writing and useful exercises to bring your best self into 2022. Through a combination of lyrical prose and poetry, Daley-Ward encourages readers to peel back the layers we’ve built up based on societal expectations and get to know the real, unique, hidden person beneath. Although this is difficult work, Daley-Ward’s beautiful writing shows how important and inspiring it can be as well.

Happy New Year, and good luck with your reading goals! I know you’re going to crush them. You may also enjoy:

How to Read More Diversely

11 Ideas to Tackle as 2021 Reading Goals

20 Ways to Read More Books in 2020