Books to read when you're short on time
Ah time. I remember it well. Once you feel like you never have any of it, you bitterly resent your younger-self for wasting so much of it. Time to yourself is something which, during the school holidays, is very difficult to get hold of. And occasionally I feel guilty that I no longer read as much as I used to. I used to read at every opportunity - now - well, I read social media far too much. I thought it might be nice though to get myself back in the reading habit - but to do so requires books that you can read even if you are short on time.
My top five books to read when you're short on time
In selecting these I focused on a few criteria: pace (no endless descriptions or meandering moments), the time it takes to get hooked (short), the need for short chapters (so you can consume in small doses), and nothing that requires high levels of concentration (I’m looking at you Cloud Atlas). They’re also books I’ve read myself during particularly manic periods, often when reading seems like the last thing I should actually be doing. These books work in those times, but they’re equally suited to the interrupted reading of a commute, or when you want to be distracted and Grazia just won’t cut it.
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Not just because of the recent TV series, but Margaret Atwood’s incredible novel is top of my list for quality reading that can be read in small doses. The story is of Offred, a handmaid in a not-too-distant future Christian fundamentalist republic. Do not let this sentence put you off. These are compelling characters in a fascinating world, it ticks the short chapters and easy-to-get-into boxes, and Margaret Atwood is a genius.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
I read this in the first few weeks after my third child was born – which tells you she was a) a pretty good baby (hallelujah) but also b) it’s a fantastic read. It tells the story of a socially-awkward genetics professor who wants, but has been unable to find, a serious relationship. As a result he decides to write a questionnaire to evaluate potential wives and in the process runs into Rosie, who isn’t exactly going to pass his test with flying colours. It’s funny, heartwarming – all the things you get from watching a great romantic comedy but in book form.
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
Ever appropriate in a blog post about a list, Nick Hornby’s hilarious novel is also about lists. The main character, Rob, has just broken up with his ex Laura, and is sure that she wouldn’t make it on to his “desert-island, all time, top five most memorable split-ups”. He decides that what would help him move on would be to catch up with those top five girls. Funny, insightful and gorgeously written. I’ve read this several times.
Stormbird, Wars of the Roses, Conn Iggulden
I never used to read historical fiction, frankly being a bit of a snob about the whole genre. But on holiday last year I read this on my mum’s recommendation, and since then I’ve devoured the whole series and am now working through C.J.Sansom’s Shardlake books (also great). I was wrong (it does happen). In many ways reading historical fiction feels like multi-tasking: I’m reading but I’m also learning about history that I know very little about. Stormbird is the first in a trilogy on the Wars of the Roses: it’s dramatic, interesting and well written – and there are swords!
It’s Not What You Think, Chris Evans
My final choice isn’t fiction, but Chris Evans’, the Radio 2 / TFI Friday presenter’s autobiography. The first part of his autobiography anyway. This tells the story of his childhood, through to his controversial exit from Radio 1 and making millions from taking over Virgin Radio. It’s very well written, and Evans is honest about being a bit of a twat in those days whilst giving an insight into the crazy life he led at the time. “A good read even if you don’t like him” said my Father-in-law. Can’t say fairer than that.
Right, I’m off to speed read a chapter of something – if anyone has any recommendations do let me know.