book cover images in three rows against a light blue background with a dark blue border
Bailey Zelena

Finally, your next long weekend is on the horizon. Maybe it’s Labor Day or Martin Luther King Day or one of the other Monday holidays that pops up throughout the year, or maybe you just decided to take a Friday for yourself. You’re going to do so many things that you don’t usually have time for! Like organize your kitchen or check out that new coffee shop. Or maybe you’ll finally get yourself out of the reading slump you slipped into after being inundated by text on a screen all day.

But when the long weekend comes, I know that I, at least, spend way too much trying to decide what to read. Which book will get me out of my reading slump—and is short and quick enough that I can actually finish before I have to get back into work mode?

Whether you want to dive into a classic or read something more contemporary, The Muse has you covered. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best short books that you can finish in three days or about five hours—taking into account average reading speed and book length, that means about 250 to 300 pages.

Here are our picks:

1.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Page count: 288

After losing his job, tech worker Clay Jannon starts working the night shift in a strange San Francisco bookstore, and realizes that there’s something complex and ancient going on. Clay is convinced that he can use modern computer programming to solve it. This book is a lighter read, but its many twists and turns will keep you hooked as you try to guess where the plot could possibly go next, making it a great choice to dive into for a few days. Plus, the book raises some interesting questions around the implications of technology and the culture surrounding working for startups and tech giants.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


2.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Page count: 256

Caden Sinclair Eastman has always spent her summers with her cousins on the idyllic island that her wealthy grandfather owns. But when she’s fifteen, she gets a serious head injury and forgets most of the season. When she returns to the island two years later, she still doesn’t know how her injury happened—nor does she know why no one in her family will tell her and why they’re acting so strangely. This young adult book is an especially quick read—which is great because you’ll be desperate to get to the end and find out what really happened during “Summer 15.”

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


3.
Agatha of Little Neon by Claire Luchette

Page count: 271

In this novel, Agatha and three of her fellow nuns have lived their entire adult lives in a small convent, but when it goes broke, they’re thrust into the real world of 2005. Agatha forms connections with new people—in a halfway house and in the local school where she suddenly finds herself teaching geometry. And she also learns about the problems with identifying herself solely by her vocation—as well as all the different kinds of community and sisterhood life has to offer. The book is told in short vignettes, making it a fast read for your next short vacation from work.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


4.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Page count: 206 pages

If you’ve never read anything by Toni Morrison, why not start this weekend? The Bluest Eye tells the story of Pecola Breedlove—a young Black girl growing up in an abusive family in the 1940’s—primarily through the eyes of Claudia, Pecola’s temporary foster sister. But you’ll also get flashbacks to moments in her parents’ lives and hear from Pecola herself as she wishes for blue eyes. Though the setup might sound simple, this layered story is anything but. But be warned: While this is a short read, it’s definitely not a light or easy one.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


5.
Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

Page count: 160

Jesus’ Son is a book of interconnected short stories told by the same narrator—only known as “Fuckhead”—about his drug addiction and the crimes he commits and people he interacts with because of that addition. The narration is often disjointed and untrustworthy, but just as often, the book is poignantly surreal and beautifully written. Though each story can be read on its own, reading them all in order over a few days slowly pulls together a coherent narrative from a series of chaotic vignettes.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


6.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura

Page count: 240

You probably don’t have time to jump on a plane to Europe over your three-day weekend, but Katie Kitamura’s beautiful descriptions of Greece and Greek culture will transport you nonetheless. In this impeccably crafted novel, the nameless narrator has legally separated from her husband and they’ve kept it a secret from everyone in their lives. She continues to keep this secret when she hears from her husband’s mother that he’s gone missing in Greece. The narrator agrees to go looking for him—so she can hopefully ask him for a divorce.

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7.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Page count: 240

Ayoola’s last three boyfriends have all ended up stabbed to death, and her sister, Korede, has always come to the rescue to clean up the crime scene and dispose of the bodies. But then, Ayoola turns her affections toward the coworker Korede has been in love with for years. This novel, set in Nigeria, is fast-paced, suspenseful, and above everything else, funny—which makes it perfect to dive into over your next long weekend.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


8.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Page count: 224

Sirens of Titan is a sci-fi novel that incorporates time and space travel, interplanetary wars, and a robot sent from a distant galaxy. It also asks and answers existential questions about destiny and the meaning of life—all while being deeply and darkly comedic. This book is a short but complex and ultimately transformative ride that legitimately changed the way I thought about life.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.


9.
33 ⅓ series by various authors

Page count: varies

Do you wish you could appreciate the music you’re listening to while you work even more? Then you should check out 33 ⅓. This series of short nonfiction books each focuses on an individual album by a different musical artist. And they range from Aretha Franklin to Nas to Arcade Fire, so no matter your music taste, you’ll find something that interests you. (One book even focuses on the Super Mario Brothers soundtrack.) Plus, each entry in the series is written by a different writer with their own creative approach to “writing about” an album.

Buy this series on bookshop.org.


10.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Page count: 280

With Frankenstein, 19-year-old author Mary Shelley created the science fiction genre. This might surprise you if you’ve only encountered the Frankenstein character through movies, TV, and as the Halloween pop culture character. But Frankenstein isn’t a horror book, instead it’s one of the first novels about the limits of science, the consequences of technology, and what it means to be human when technology has advanced enough to do everything humans can. And you read it in just a few sittings.

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11.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Page count: 368

The page count here is a bit deceptive: Daisy Jones & The Six is written as an oral history where the characters all give snippets of the story—so you’re getting way fewer words per page than average. This novel follows the titular ’60s rock supergroup as they recount what it was like to create what’s considered to be the best album of the decade together, tour together, and ultimately fall apart from spending too much time together. You’ll come away with an interesting perspective on how much work can—and should—contribute to your feelings of identity and success in life.

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12.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Page count: 305

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was one of those classic books I always meant to read, but put off. And I’m here to tell you that was a huge mistake on my part. Where other “classics” are often boring or dense, Maya Angelou’s first memoir is lyrical and engaging from page one as she describes her childhood in the segregated South and her teenage years in St. Louis and California. This achingly beautiful firsthand account of racism, sexism, and a society where all that was considered OK can be devoured in just a few days, and your life will be better for it.

Buy this book on bookshop.org.

Updated 8/26/2022