Being a parent doesn't give you a lot of down time. Most days, you will get 10 minutes here, or maybe an hour during nap time if you're lucky. If you're a reader, this can be a struggle. Just when you're getting to a good part, the baby's cry shrieks through the monitor, and you find you're forced to use a baby sock as a bookmark. There is a simple solution to this dilemma — find books you can read in short bursts. Books with shorter chapters are ideal for parents and just busy people in general.
It seems like longer chapters have been rising in popularity in some genre fiction in the past 10 or 15 years. George R.R. Martin and Stephen King tend toward long, dense chapters filled with a ton of information. There was a point in King's 11/22/63 that I thought I must have read more than one chapter as it was so filled with historical backstory, but nope. I'd only made it through one. Thankfully, authors like Kate Atkinson and Rainbow Rowell offer books that can be sipped rather than gulped.
Perhaps I'm going out on a limb, but Atkinson and Rowell are both moms, and it makes me wonder if that's why their books are designed this way. Either way, I am grateful. I have personally read each book on this list, so trust me, they're all amazing.
1. 'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson
This wonderful book is about a girl named Ursula Todd who is either the luckiest or unluckiest person on the planet. In the story, Ursula dies and is reborn over and over again, and these are her stories. Throughout the narrative we learn about her family, life in the early 20th century, and what it means to truly find yourself.
2. 'Trail of Lightning' by Rebecca Roanhorse
I am legitimately obsessed with this book. 300 pages over 38 chapters makes it the perfect tale to read in short bursts. This book follows Maggie Hoskie, a Dinétah (Navajo Nation) monster hunter, as she sets out to find out who has been slaying innocent people on their land. Naturally a loner, Maggie reluctantly joins forces with a dear friend's grandson on her quest full of deadly challenges to find the killer, all the while not knowing who to trust.
3. 'The Martian' by Andy Weir
I don't care if you've seen the movie, the book is amazing. An astronaut on a Mars mission, a trained botanist, is stranded on Mars without his crew after a violent storm. He begins to grow his own food, make his own water, and harvest his own oxygen to survive. Through it all, he keeps a running diary, and his humor is transcendent.
4. 'The Crown' by Nancy Bilyeau
In this rich historical novel, Joanna, then a nun, finds out that her favorite cousin and childhood BFF is about to be murdered by Henry VIII. She leaves her convent, a prisonable offense, and takes off to stand by his side. She is eventually captured and thrown in the tower with her father. It is there that the evil Bishop of Winchester blackmails Joanna to leave in search of an ancient relic told to have enough power to reshape England. None of the chapters are more than a few pages long, and it's the fastest read.
5. 'Landline' by Rainbow Rowell
Georgie's marriage is crumbling. She works too much, her husband is distant, her children are busy. When she can't travel with her family over Christmas, she thinks it might finally be over for her and her husband, until she finds a phone that allows her to talk to her husband from years ago, when their love was still fresh. Could this be the key to save their marriage? You can find out in about 10 pages per chapter.
6. 'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Got a baby with colic? This is the book for you. Not only is it the heartwarming tale of two boys with seemingly nothing in common figuring out their paths in life, and that they have more in common than they thought, it's also told in two or three-page bursts.
7. 'With the Fire on High' by Elizabeth Acevedo
I have forced everyone I've spoken to in the past month to listen to me wax poetic about this book. It's about a woman, Emoni Santiago, who had a child in her freshman year of high school. While her parenting steers her story, it's not the crux of her tale. That is her self-determination and her drive to fight back against racism, against oppressive poverty, and against her own negative thoughts. It's stunning. It also has some of the shortest chapters I've ever seen.
8. 'The Mere Wife' by Maria Dahvana Headly
A modern retelling of the Beowulf story set in the idyllic suburbs and told through the voice of Grendel (Gren's) mother, it sounds like a strange premise for a novel. But I assure you, 'The Mere Wife' is beautiful and brutal in a way that will tear your heart out, but you will keep on reading because it is just that fantastic. Plus, chapters are only about eight to 10 pages long.