Best Quick Reads to Catch Up on Your Reading Goals

If you’re a reading over-achiever, you may have set a lofty goal for yourself when it comes to your personal reading challenge for the year. 

How many books did you plan on reading? 10, 25? One for every week of the year? 

If the months are ticking by and your to-be-read pile continues to tower over you, that’s okay!
We’ve compiled a list of the best quick reads—breathtaking books you can finish in a sitting or two with a steaming cup of tea. 

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

Could you tell a story to save your life? How about the life of your true love?

Cherry and her maid, Hero, are truly in love. When a scheming man threatens their happy ending, Hero distracts him with retellings of fabled curses, hauntings, and fairytales to prevent Cherry’s demise. 

A modern spin on an ancient classic, The One Hundred Nights of Hero spins an enchanting but dark tale of love and sacrifice. Over the course of 100 nights, Hero’s stories get woven together in surprising and meaningful ways.

The beautifully illustrated novel is addictive, magical, and full of whimsy—all while challenging how patriarchy defines “happily ever after.” It’s also a must-read for the Joseph Campbell Foundation’s Literati book club, Myth and Meaning.

Why this novel is the perfect catch-up read:

  • Brimming in feminist fairytales and fables
  • Whimsical artwork that’s just as engaging as the tales being told
  • Deeply moving and sure to bring a tear to your eye
  • It’s only 224 pages (and the pictures make it go by so fast!) 

Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri

In a ghostly tale that’ll haunt your mind long after you set the book down, the past and present collide within Tokyo’s bustling metropolis.

Kazu, burdened by a life of poverty and loss, is now dead. He haunts the park near Ueno Station, where he spent his last years homeless and resentful of life’s many tragedies: a lost family, a dead son, a disastrous tsunami… it’s too much for Kazu to bear. Instead, he acts as an astute observer of all that passes by. 

Through the eyes of Kazu, Miri scrutinizes the unfairness of poverty and the lives it affects. The story is mournful, harsh, and bitter—but it’s beautiful, too. 

Why this novel is the perfect catch-up read:

  • Elegant, poetic prose that captivates until the last page
  • A present-meets-past peek into Japan’s pervasive imperial state
  • The novella’s persistent presence of empathy
  • It’s only 192 pages, so about 3 and a half cups of tea with a snack break in between

French Exit by Patrick DeWitt

In this absurd comedy, a bourgeois widow and her childish son are bankrupt—monetarily, but perhaps a bit emotionally as well.

With only a few pennies to their much-snubbed name, the ridiculous duo embarks from New York to Paris. They meet an abundance of silly characters—from sheepish detectives to questionable doctors—though the most sophisticated of the bunch is a cat who goes by the name of Small Frank.

To be frank, the comedy of manners is as unruly as high society itself—and that’s precisely the fun of it.

Why this novel is the perfect catch-up read:

  • The cast of incredible characters, including a very unusual cat
  • DeWitt’s wit and humor (befittingly so)
  • An inventive, unbelievable, and satirical storyline that has you sprinting to its conclusion

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

“Once upon a time” is turned on its head in this collection of frightful bedtime stories. 

Ortberg reinvents a slew of beloved fairy tales and children’s stories, from The Frog Prince to The Velveteen Rabbit. Each tale is more eerie, horrific, and disturbing than the next. What remains the same is the classic folkloric tropes, including the evil stepmother and the greedy king.

Bedtime readers are in for delightfully disturbing stories that’ll have even the most devoted lovers of psychological horror shaking in their seats. Plus, these short stories can be devoured as quickly as a bucket of buttery popcorn. 

Why this novel is the perfect catch-up read:

  • Gender-fluid characters and thoughtful feminist critiques
  • Mischievous and ambitious reimaginings
  • Reveals how twisted classic fairy tales really are

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This transportive fantasy will have your head spinning—in more directions than one. 

Nancy Whitman, an eerie and mysterious teen, is the newest attendant of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Each student, unbeknownst to their parents, has traveled to mystical worlds prior to their stay at the boarding school—and each wishes desperately to return.

Nothing is quite as it should be—the novel plays with time, space, and place akin to the storytellings of Alice in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia. If you want to travel to new worlds in a short amount of pages, Seanan McGuire’s book will have you here, there, and back again in no time. 

Why this novel is the perfect catch-up read:

  • Murder mystery meets portal fantasy 
  • The eccentric and darkly fantastic characterization that carries the story
  • Mind-bending, time-twisting storytelling

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys revisits Jane Eyre in a prequel of Victorian-era entertainment. This time, the reader walks alongside the madwoman in the attic, Antoinette Cosway.

Despite its heavy premise, the novella is a perfect light read for those looking to curl up tea-side and enter the compelling life of Mr. Rochester’s mysterious first wife.

Why this novel is the perfect catch-up read:

  • Short and sweet—though you can’t say the same for the novel’s antagonist
  • A modern and mesmerizing retelling of a classic novel
  • Has a feminist, anti-colonial twist

Reach Your Goals with Literati

Despite their meager word count, the pages in these novels and novellas are abundant in their storytelling. 

Catch up on the best quick reads alongside Literati. Our expert-curated picks will take you beyond your literary finish line. 

On Key

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