Medium attention span reading
February 15, 2017 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations sought for medium attention span reading, please.

So, like a lot of folks, I'm really distracted right now, because Life (both political and not), but I have to make some time to read for pleasure, because it's good for my brain. But I can't stick to novels right now; I just keep losing interest a few chapters in. Conversely, I've never been great with short stories - about the time I get to know the characters, it's done.

Which brings us to novellas, or novellettes, or short novels, or whatever you want to call them. I love love love novellas, but most novellas are written as between books in already existing series - and I'm not getting sunk into a new series right now, because No Attention Span. I'm hoping that someone on the green has recommendations for novellas or other medium length works that are not part of a series (or if they are, that's the entirety of the series)

I'll read almost anything that's on the page. Right now, my favorites are Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant (who excels at novellas, but I've read nearly everything she's written, if you haven't read Every Heart a Doorway, please do yourself a favorite and do so sooner than later), Gail Carringer, Patricia Briggs, and Deanna Rayborn, but honestly, I'll read anything from romance (contemporary and historical) to cyberpunk. YA is welcome. Non-fiction is welcome, especially about geography or aspects of history that people don't typically know about (I love Mary Roach). Longform articles are great. Fanfiction is lovely.

Works featuring queer people, POC, trans folks and gender noncomforming folks, and poly people are particularly welcome, but I'll take whatever. If it's good, recommend it; even if it doesn't stick for me, someone else will like it.

Thank you, thank you.
posted by joycehealy to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
My first thought were the Mr Mulliner collections from PG Wodehouse. Light comedy, each chapter is a different short story basically, with a frame of an old guy telling stories at a bar ("did I ever tell you about my nephew and his cat?").
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:35 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think of essays/memoirs as fitting this niche for me. If you're interested, I can list some collections I've liked recently.
posted by freezer cake at 9:38 AM on February 15, 2017

I love novellas too and also find them the perfect reading for now. I recommend to you two: J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country and Rebecca West's The Return of the Soldier. Both brief, haunting books about love and loss.
posted by Diomedea at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2017

Henry James wrote a fair number of works that fall somewhere between short story and novel: Washington Square, The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller.
posted by praemunire at 10:06 AM on February 15, 2017

I've been using Sherlock Holmes for this purpose lately and I've found it to answer really well. You could skip the novels and just read the stories - since they all revolve around Holmes and Watson you don't have the problem of different characters in each story.
posted by peacheater at 10:08 AM on February 15, 2017

Here's a nice collection of some classic novellas (full list of titles in 3rd Amazon review).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:14 AM on February 15, 2017

I love Steve Martin's novellas and may have to reread them now. They are not comedic, more contemplative. The Pleasure of My Company, Shopgirl, An Object of Beauty.
posted by Threeve at 11:19 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Junot Diaz' short stories are exquisite. If you like those, he has a whole book of them called This Is How You Lose Her.

Stephen King's short stories are really great. Character driven horror, so easy to read- his style is addictively readable and while his novels are overwritten, his short stories are often real gems. Most take place in Maine and there are some overlapping characters, settings, bad guys, and themes... but they all stand alone, and the parts that do connect are like easter eggs you'll enjoy discovering, rather than anything you need to remember.

Check out King's short story collections called Night Shift, Everything's Eventual, Full Dark No Stars, Skeleton Crew, or Nightmares and Dreamscapes. If you end up liking King's style and want something a little longer, but not as long as one of his bricks, I mean novels, seek out Different Seasons (amazing novellas that became the films Stand By Me, Shawshank Redemption and Apt Pupil), and The Bachman Books (short novels written under a pseudonym). And The Green Mile- it's a single novel serialized in 6 parts that you can read in bites.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:47 AM on February 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have you heard of Serial Reader? You select a book (or several) from a list of open-source "classics," and every day the app releases about 20 minutes worth of reading for each title. It's pretty handy.

I wrote "classics" because some of my favorite titles I've read this way (usually across a few weeks of daily bus trips and the like) have been "classics" in the loosest sense. I got a kick out of reading The Moon Pool this way--I'd never heard of it before and it was kind of... hilariously odd for a modern reader (it's very florid writing about some pretty mansplain-y characters and turn of the century gender/race/etc. politics... with inner-earth aliens and anachronistic magic-tech and sea travel by sail and and and...!).

But I've also gone through Nietzsche and Wilde and even Ben Franklin's 1791 (really quite amazing and relevant today) autobiography.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:26 PM on February 15, 2017

Jim Harrison wrote several brilliant collections of novellas, including:

Legends of the Fall
The Woman Lit by Fireflies
posted by JohnFromGR at 1:06 PM on February 15, 2017

Have you read Zen Cho's short works (I think they're novelettes)? I recently read and loved The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo and The Terracotta Bride.

Peirene Press's novellas might interest you. My favorite of the ones I've read is Hanne ├śrstavik's The Blue Room.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 1:59 PM on February 15, 2017

I really liked Mira Grant's Feed series, and I don't even like zombies. And I thought Every Heart A Doorway was lovely. Two things with a "stars" theme: Lady Astronaut of Mars, by Mary Robinette Kowal, which is a novellete. (Close, right?) And Talk Sweetly To Me, by Courtney Milan, is a period romance novella about an Afro-British young woman who is a mathematician who works with an astronomer.

I also like the Penric novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold. They are set in the same worlds as Curse of Chalion, etc, but theoretically don't require prior knowledge of her books. Same religion and same magic system, but new characters.
posted by puddledork at 3:28 PM on February 15, 2017

J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country

I cannot recommend this highly enough. It's my favorite book.
posted by OmieWise at 9:57 AM on February 16, 2017

And William Maxwell's lyrical (and 144 page) So Long, See You Tomorrow.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2017

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