What are some good books for quicker, disjointed reading sessions?
May 3, 2013 6:14 AM   Subscribe

I commute to and from work, which involves busses and trains transfers and other general distractions, and while I really enjoy reading on this commute, I can't sink my teeth into heavier books that require a ton of concentration to comprehend and follow (I save those for the weekends). I have found that lighter books with shorter chapters and engaging storylines are easiest to read in this atmosphere. What are your recommendations?

Genres aren't too important to me; I've found books that fit the bill in everything from sci-fi to epistolary biographies or non-fiction travel.
posted by wordsmith to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Anything by Mary Roach. You like travel? Here's the Amazon page for Packing for Mars. You can use the Look Inside function to get an idea of her style.
posted by maudlin at 6:21 AM on May 3, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding Mary Roach, and adding Bill Bryson. I'm A Stranger Here Myself is very short essays written after he moved back to America after living in England for 20 years; you could certainly read several of them in one trip, as they're only a few pages long.
posted by SeedStitch at 6:29 AM on May 3, 2013

Short story collections work for me.

If you've no objection to horror, you might try Ramsey Campbell's Alone With The Horrors, which is a great collection of his short fiction - I wouldn't call it light, exactly, but it's not at all difficult to read.
posted by inire at 6:33 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

David Sedaris
posted by Fig at 6:33 AM on May 3, 2013

The Sherlock Holmes stories are perfect for this.
posted by payoto at 6:54 AM on May 3, 2013

The Rob Lowe autobiography. Stunningly good and easy to pick up and put down.
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:03 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dickens was always serialized and I find that while things are thick, that it's easy to pick up and put down.

P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster, Princess of Blandings, etc.

Chuck Klosterman's essays.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:10 AM on May 3, 2013

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. They're super short and absolutely fantastic. Wodehouse is good for this too, yeah.
posted by libraritarian at 7:19 AM on May 3, 2013

Short, vivid stories might fit the bill. Donald Barthelme? Kelly Link? Gene Wolfe? Michael Swanwick?

Also, for some reason I thought of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying." Vivid writing with short chapters. Not a necessarily light read, though.
posted by selfnoise at 7:31 AM on May 3, 2013

I just finished Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and found it to be very light, fluffy, and easy to read in short bursts.
posted by CheeseLouise at 10:14 AM on May 3, 2013

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 10:20 AM on May 3, 2013


Hands down. Checks every box. Light, funny, memorable characters, easy to pick up/put down, etc. (It is short episodes loosely woven into a whole.)

Seriously. You will LOVE this.
posted by Alaska Jack at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I *devoured* the Dresden Files series while on my hour long walk/train/transfer train/walk commute this winter. Quick reads, engaging, can put 'em down and pick 'em back up super easy, not to mention there are 14 books, and so there's a LOT to have to read.
posted by bleachandink at 10:56 AM on May 3, 2013

Classic children's literature works great for this. Even if you read them as a kid, as an adult you can appreciate the layers and nuances that you probably missed when you were younger. Some that have worked for me: A Wrinkle in Time, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Tale of Despereaux (or really any of Kate DiCamillo's novels), Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 101 Dalmatians, Number the Stars, Maniac Magee, Eggs.

The other nice thing about these is you can usually get them in a little tiny paperback that literally doesn't weigh you down.
posted by gubenuj at 12:10 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like Lillian Beckwith for this sort of reading.
posted by Corvid at 1:13 PM on May 3, 2013

Early Andrew Vachss (if you like crime novels) - I had to stop reading him before bed because of the short chapters in his books. I saw one too many sunrises because I kept telling myself, "Just one more. Just one more."

Jesus Son by Denis Johnson. An excellent short story-esque novel. (Don't let the title fool ya. It's not a religious book.)
posted by hoodrich at 2:25 PM on May 3, 2013

If you haven't read A Song of Ice and Fire yet (aka, Game of Thrones), you might want to check it out. The books are long, but each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character, so they're easy to read in bits and pieces. Chapters usually take me between 10 and 15 minutes (I read a bit faster than a page a minute).

Short stories and essays are also great for this. If you're at all into food, I'd recommend M.F.K. Fisher.
posted by therumsgone at 3:40 PM on May 3, 2013

Short story collections are perfect for public transportation. Here are two I've read recently:

Dubliners by James Joyce.

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by oiseau at 6:39 PM on May 3, 2013

Steve Aylett books are epigrammatic and nutty. Highly recommended. Get Slaughtermatic first.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:27 PM on May 3, 2013

Seconding David Sedaris. Me Talk Pretty One Day was an excellent book to read while travelling because it had short chapters and you don't have to keep track of lots of characters or a complex plot.
posted by escapepod at 10:21 PM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Last book I read was Breakfast At Tiffany's which is (surprisingly different to the movie and) very entertaining and an 'easy read'. Our new bookclub (rules: no book longer than ~300 pages, book must be new to everyone, and you must've actually read it when wanting to attend the meeting) picked it as its first book - and all eight or so of us enjoyed reading it.
posted by mrsh at 4:01 PM on September 20, 2013

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