In today’s world people have less and less time for reading. That’s why we observe the growing popularity of short reads: novellas, short stories, or flash fiction.
Short reads promise you’ll dive into a new world, and experience the same emotions, as when reading a novel – but in a shorter time.
The revival of short books is possible thanks to digital publishing. Unlike in print, a 20-page short story can be easily published as an ebook. Its price is less than a cup of coffee.
There is a growing number of projects that focus on publishing and promoting short-form reading. A great example: Kindle Singles. Curated by Amazon, it’s a collection of quality reads between 5,000 and 30,000 words. You can find here books by previously unpublished authors, but also from big names, such as Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, or Chuck Palahniuk.
On average, an adult person reads 300 words per minute, or 18k words per hour. The average paperback has about 250 words per page. This means an average reader should be able to finish in less than an hour any book that is up to 70 pages long.
To compare, the average novel is between 80k and 100k words. You’ll need five to six hours to finish it. For some people this becomes an excuse: “I don’t have time for reading books.”
In our new infographic, you’ll find 24 best short reads. Each book comes with the info about the estimated reading time, based on the number of pages.
In theory, you should be able to read all these books in just one day.
I don’t mean to force you to break the world record in speed reading. I don’t mean to persuade you to fill almost a half of 52-books-per-year challenge in one day.
Just imagine a plenty of worlds you can travel, characters you can meet, and emotions you can feel, if you decide to pick up a few good short reads.
Read also: 50 short books for busy people
Best short books you can read in less than three hours. Novels and novellas you can't miss, short stories, and most interesting non-fiction books.
24 books to read in under one hour – infographic
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12 books to read in under one hour – list
Philip K. Dick
A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the West has reduced much of the world to a barren wasteland. The war continues however among the scattered remains of humanity.
The Western forces have developed “claws”, which are autonomous self-replicating robots to fight on their side.
T. S. Miller of Strange Horizons called the story one of “Dick’s most compelling works.”
Estimated reading time: 42 minutes. Number of pages: 50.
Rachel married Ted because he was uncomplicated and loyal. But he was also devoted to his wretched house and his first love, an old, flatulent cat named Belinda Carlisle.
Once Rachel becomes pregnant, Ted reluctantly agrees to move and give up the cat. But the house doesn’t sell.
When the house burns to the ground in a freak conflagration and the couple’s daughter, April, is born blind soon thereafter, the marriage is never the same again.
Estimated reading time: 23 minutes. Number of pages: 28.
In a pulls-no-punches essay intended to provoke rational discussion, Stephen King sets down his thoughts about gun violence in America.
Anger and grief in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are palpable in this urgent piece of writing, but no less remarkable are King’s keen thoughtfulness and composure as he explores the contours of the gun-control issue and constructs his argument for what can and should be done.
“I think the issue of an America awash in guns is one every citizen has to think about,” said King. “If this helps provoke constructive debate, I’ve done my job.”
Estimated reading time: 21 minutes. Number of pages: 25.
Next Day of the Condor
Award-winning short story author and novelist James Grady delivers a bullet-paced, savage journey with the iconic character he created and that Robert Redford made an international sensation in the movie “Three Days of the Condor.”
Love, sex, loyalty, honor and savagery loosed in our modern world electrify this novella, a portrait of heroism and horror and America beyond 9/11. It is an espionage adventure unlike anything you’ve ever read.
This short story is an explosive teaser of the upcoming novel Last Days of the Condor.
Estimated reading time: 38 minutes. Number of pages: 46.
The Great Wall of China
A short story written by Franz Kafka in 1917. Contained within the story is a parable that was separately published as “A Message from the Emperor.”
Some sub-themes of the story include why the wall was built piecemeal (in small sections in many different places), the relationship of the Chinese with the past and the present and the emperor’s imperceptible presence. The story is told in first person by an older man from a southern province.
Estimated reading time: 22 minutes. Number of pages: 27.
A 5,000-word short story from Hugh C. Howey, a bestselling American writer, known best for the science fiction series Wool.
Main characters, Samantha and her husband Peter, create robots for a living. The robots take part in fighting competition called the Gladiator Nationals.
When a robot defies his programming, is he broken? Or is he something else?
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes. Number of pages: 15.
Safety Tips for Living Alone
Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading Book #133.
In Safety Tips for Living Alone, Jim Shepard weaves the stories of four families whose lives are upended when the men go to work on a dangerous and isolated surveillance platform off the coast of Long Island.
Among the team of military personnel and civilians joining Phelan aboard the platform are Roy Bakke, Wilbur Kovarick and Louie Laino, three strong and dutiful men trying to ensure better lives for their families.
When a powerful storm approaches the Tower, the four men — and everyone on board — must face their increasingly probable deaths.
Estimated reading time: 23 minutes. Number of pages: 27.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Edgar Allan Poe
Roderick Usher’s fate is inextricably intertwined with that of his sister, Madeline, and that of their estate. As one falls, so do they all.
The Fall of the House of Usher is considered Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest work, and a masterpiece of Gothic horror.
A pioneer of the short story genre, Poe’s stories typically captured themes of the macabre and included elements of the mysterious.
Estimated reading time: 21 minutes. Number of pages: 25.
Everyone’s Reading Bastard
In this short story Nick Hornby paints a wincingly comic picture of just how messy modern relationships can become, as his characters hit delightful new lows of cruelty, misery, and pettiness.
Only a storyteller like Hornby — who’s given us so many unforgettable novels of comedy and heartbreak — could conceive of an average guy trying to survive an ex’s wrath gone viral.
Estimated reading time: 29 minutes. Number of pages: 35.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson
An intriguing combination of fantasy thriller and moral allegory, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, depicts the gripping struggle of two opposing personalities — one essentially good, the other evil — for the soul of one man.
Its tingling suspense and intelligent and sensitive portrayal of man’s dual nature reveals Stevenson as a writer of great skill and originality, whose power to terrify and move us remains, over a century later, undiminished.
Estimated reading time: 53 minutes. Number of pages: 64.
Lifeboat No. 8: An Untold Tale of Love, Loss, and Surviving the Titanic
When the Titanic started sinking, who would make it off alive? The two cousins who had been so eager to see their first iceberg? The maid who desperately tried to escape with the baby in her care? The young newlyweds who’d booked passage despite warnings not to?
One hundred years after that disastrous and emblematic voyage, Elizabeth Kaye reveals the extraordinary, little-known story behind one of the first lifeboats to leave the doomed ship.
Estimated reading time: 56 minutes. Number of pages: 67.
The Rose of Fire
Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Set at the time of the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century, Rose of Fire tells the story of the origins of the mysterious labyrinthine library, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, which lies at the heart of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novels The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and now The Prisoner of Heaven.
This free e short story includes an excerpt from Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s latest book, The Prisoner of Heaven.
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes. Number of pages: 36.
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More to explore:
- The best 2016 infographics about books, libraries, and reading
- 9 gift ideas for the Kindle addict in your life
- Best Kindle books of 2016, based on sales
- Here are the winners of Goodreads Choice Awards 2016
- 10 protective cases for your Amazon Fire HD 8 (2016)
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