“I used to read XX books a month, now I can hardly get through one.” If you’re readers like us you’ve probably heard this line more than once in the past year. And as the pandemic drags on, a lot of us are still struggling to climb out of reading slumps and find the concentration to read.
Our advice? Start small. To get you back on the reading wheel, here are six short books you can read in a weekend. (But if it’s a weighty tome you’re looking for, check out our Long Reads blog instead.)
La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, trans. by Lawrence Schimel
(120 pages, Feminist Press, 9781936932238, p/b, £13.99)
Described as a “vital tale of queer rebellion”, La Bastarda is a lesbian coming of age novel that will transport you. Set among the Fang tribes of Equatorial Guinea (and the first of its kind to be translated), it tells the story of sixteen-year-old Okomo who falls in among the other outcast women of her village, drawn into illicit trysts and revelling in her ‘indecency’. Though La Bastarda may seem a world away to many readers, its universal themes of youthful rebellion against rigid social norms shines through. A remarkable work of LGBTQ+ literature, this slim tome is well worth a read.
The Iron Age by Arja Kajermo, illust. by Susanna Kajermo Törner
(128 pages, Tramp Press, 9780993459238, p/b, £8.00)
“It was Finland, it was the 1950s but on our farm it could have been the Iron Age.” So begins Arja Kajermo’s remarkable little book. Shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize back in 2017 (and many others besides), The Iron Age is an alchemic blend of coming-of-age narrative and Finnish folktale, complete with fable-like illustrations from Susanna Kajermo Törner. Deftly depicting post-war poverty and a home broken by trauma, the story is told through the innocent eyes of its four-year-old narrator. A small but perfectly formed story where the atmosphere bursts at the seams.
Coyote by Colin Winnette
(96 pages, No Exit Press, 9781843448426, p/b, £6.99)
If it’s the short and unputdownable you’re looking for then you’ll find it in Coyote. Set in the aftermath of a tragic disappearance. Coyote asks what happens when the search is called off, the camera crews move on, and an unsettling darkness moves in to replace it. Utilising short vignette-style chapters, every word is carefully chosen to draw you deeper into its folds. A dark meditation on the impact of grief, consider this a tense and eerie flashbang to throw into your evening.
Cars on Fire by Mónica Ramón Ríos and trans. by Robin Myers
(140 pages, Open Letter, 9781948830164, p/b, £13.99)
Cars on Fire is Mónica Ramón Ríos’s English-language debut. The story on its 140 pages unfolds through a series of female characters, each messier than the last. The reader catches glimpses of life as a woman and an immigrant, lives lost to violence and authoritarian regimes. Electric and uncompromising, it ultimately focuses on the power of art, love, and women’s desires to counter the xenophobia, neoliberalism and other oppressive forces that shape life in Chile, the United States, and beyond. Beautifully translated, this is a real (short) gem of a book.
Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl
(128 pages, PM Press, 9781629637112, p/b £12.99)
Shawl made waves with their steampunk alternate history of the “Belgian” Congo, Everfair (2016), and hasn’t slowed down since. Talk Like a Man collects three of their short stories, each dealing with themes of race, sex, and gender. Sharp, unapologetic, and imaginative, Shawl’s writing is a must-read for anyone interested in feminist science fiction.
Imaginary Museums by Nicolette Polek
(128 pages, Soft Skull Press, 9781593765866, p/b, £13.99)
Imaginary Museums is a collection of flash fiction about displacement, mystery, and transformation. Everyday objects and people are considered in strange and unsettling ways, giving the book an eerie, surrealist feel. The characters in these stories embody the uncanny and the alien, but are also possessed by a familiar and human longing for connection: to their homes, families, God, and themselves. At once creepy and comforting, this will get under your skin and keep you turning the pages.
As bookshops across the UK re-open, they need your help to stay afloat.