Reading can often fall to the wayside after a long week of responsibility and stress. Finding a book that accommodates time and energy is an even more difficult challenge that can off-put students from reading in their down time.
Below is a list of low-commitment works that offer solace from the stressors of daily life. From a collection of short stories by British novelist Helen Oyeyemi to a well-known novella by Albert Camus, there’s something here for every taste and schedule.
“What is Not Yours is Not Yours” by Helen Oyeyemi
One of Oyeyemi’s more recent works, “What is Not Yours is Not Yours,” debuted in 2015 and has since become a fan favorite. Each short story can be read as an independent piece, but you’ll often find characters weaving themselves into each other’s narratives.
Oyeyemi expertly blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality. One moment, you may be entranced by a school of puppeteers and their semi-sentient puppets, and in the next you’ll be placed in the middle of a psychological experiment.
This book will keep you on your toes. Every story is so distinct in its topic that it’s difficult to become bored, yet Oyeyemi’s playful tone is the consistent thread that makes them cohesive as a collection.
“The Stranger” by Albert Camus
Clocking in at a mere 123 pages, this novel is easy to finish in one sitting and is so intriguing that it’ll be hard not to. Translated from French, “The Stranger” is considered a hallmark of existentialism and absurdism.
The story follows the protagonist, Meursault, after the death of his mother. He plummets deeper into an abyss of chaos and violence, and many of his decisions will leave you appalled. The ending is unsettling, somehow leaving the reader both frustrated and liberated.
“The Moon is Always Female” by Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy is a prolific writer, publishing 17 novels and 20 collections of poetry. Her work became extremely influential to feminist thought in the 1980s, and she won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction in 1993.
“The Moon is Always Female” explores a variety of themes from death and platonic intimacy to poems inspired by the lunar cycle. This is a fairly quick read and is a great introduction to poetry for those who may not usually enjoy it.
“The Dialectic” by Zadie Smith
Perhaps the quickest read on this list, “The Dialectic” should not be overlooked. It was recently published in Zadie Smith’s 2019 collection, “Grand Union: Stories,” and is now available on Granta magazine’s website. The story takes less than ten minutes to finish, yet it’s extremely dense with information and symbolism.
On the surface, we witness a nameless mother and her daughter bicker about animal consumption and the state of the beach. Yet Smith’s narration reveals deeper conflicts of abandonment and complicated self-perceptions. This story is well worth the short amount of time invested in it and will leave you wanting more of the intimacy that Smith crafts with ease.