Over the weekend, I stumbled upon a somewhat disturbing statistic - last year, 25% of Americans didn’t read a single book. No Harry Potter, no Lisbeth Salander, and not one of James Patterson or Danielle Steel’s dozens upon dozens of books. It’s a statistic that surprised me - I get not reading much, but not a single book? - and bummed me out quite a bit. While I love video games, movies, television and all kinds of entertainment, nothing moves me quite as much as a good book. How could someone not even read one?
The answer from most people is, of course, time. Who has time to read a book? Books are looong. Books take time to read. Books require a bit of concentration. And books are long.
Putting aside the “lack of time” argument for a minute, I can sympathize with people occasionally decrying the length of books. I’ve had a run of 600+ page monster books this year, and it can be exhausting. But who says that a book is to be judged by it’s breadth and weight, rather than by it’s content?
There are scores of great books out there that are svelte, slender and shrimpy. I’ll exercise a bit of rare brevity and get right to it - here’s a bunch of books that even the most indolent reader could get through in a year. Don’t be a statistic! Read at least one of these sub-200 page books in 2010! Even though it’s already August, you still have time. Hell, if you’re a fast reader you can get through any of these in less time than it takes to watch King Kong.
Active Liberty by Stephen Breyer
Page-itude: 176 pages
In one of my favorite books on jurisprudence, Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer writes about his judicial philosophy. Active Liberty is a great look at Breyer’s belief in the “right of the citizenry of the country to participate in government”, and a good companion to Scalia’s A Matter of Interpretation, which is also a) worth reading and b) only 176 pages.
Clandestine in Chile by Gabriel García Márquez
Page-iness: 160 pages
One of my favorite books in recent memory, Clandestine in Chile is a memoir of Miguel Littin’s six weeks filming a clandestine documentary in Pinochet’s Chile. A breathtaking and suspenseful book, and a fantastic true story of civil disobedience.
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Page-tacularity: 192 pages
The most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Tinkers hardly needs my endorsement to push people to pick it up. Harding’s masterful writing packs more punch into this book than most writers get in twice as many pages. If you do in fact need more convincing, Michele Filgate’s review of Tinkers should be more than enough to add the book to your to-be-read pile.
It’s really a shame how often school can turn us off to the classics. There are books by Dickens and Dostoevsky that I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy, not because they are bad but because of when I was forced to read them. Adulthood and leisure reading is a great chance to catch up on the classics - and many of them can be read in an afternoon. The Old Man and the Sea, Of Mice and Men, Of Empire, Eichmann and the Holocaust, The Great Gatsby, The Symposium, virtually all of Arthur Miller and Shakespeare … there’s no lack of books. If you need a starting point, check out the Penguin Books Great Ideas series and Beowulf on the Beach by Jack Murnighan.
Need more ideas? I solicited a few suggestions from my Twitter followers.
Recommendations from the Tweet-Nut Gallery
@IrishEyz77 - The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin
@nelizadrew - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
@ragesinggoddess - Persuasion by Jane Austen and The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
@JoeBFoster - Pieta by William Zink
@rurugby - A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
@dogearedcopy - The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi
@HarvF - The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
@BookishJulia - The Last American by John Ames Mitchell
What about you? What books have had the greatest impact on you with the fewest pages?