Five short reads for the student schedule

A list of books with fewer than two hundred pages, but just as much to offer

Squeezing in some light reading in between classes.
Squeezing in some light reading in between classes.
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The busy months of student life aren’t an optimal time to immerse yourself in a good book.

Novels are replaced with stacks of assigned textbook readings. Piles of essays and reports can turn you off of reading for fun, pushing you into a reading slump that can last for months.

So, what’s the best solution for student book-lovers who are crunched for time? Shorter novels with just as much action and emotion as longer works, but packed into fewer pages.

Here’s a list for those who still want to plunge into a great story, without sacrificing the lengthy hours that, let’s face it, students just don’t have.

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1. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

If there’s anything acclaimed Latin American author Sandra Cisneros is good at, it’s conveying an array of stories and emotions in just a few words.

Coming in just above a hundred pages, The House on Mango Street is told through a series of vignettes. Together, they tell the story of Esperanza, a young Latina girl, growing up in Chicago and finding herself in the complicated world that surrounds her.

Each vignette considers a different event or aspect of Esperanza’s life. While each stands on its own to portray her growth from a girl into a young woman, they’re all linked together.

The book recounts Esperanza’s efforts to fit in with classmates at the local school, her fascination with the local pawnshop and her family’s house on Mango Street. Although light on the surface, the book also addresses how girls like Esperanza fit into the larger framework of American society, with ruminations on race, class and gender.

2. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Most know this story from 1983 film featuring a young Tom Cruise. However, the film is based on the novel of the same name written by renowned young-adult author Susan Eloise Hinton.

The Outsiders, like most of Hinton’s novels, is a young boy’s coming-of-age story. Hinton herself was a freshman in high school when she wrote the book.

The novel tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis, a greaser living in ’80s Oklahoma. Youth culture at the time is divided heavily between greasers and “socs”. Greasers, the lower-class kids, often fall into delinquency while the socs live on the richer end of town and carry themselves with arrogance.

For Ponyboy, the system seems to work — that is until one of his friends kills a soc. The novel, written using simple language but heavy with emotion, follows Ponyboy as he struggles to cope with a fiercely divided culture and realizes that pain is pain regardless of class.

3. Tinkers by Paul Harding

Pulitzer Prize winner Tinkers is a thin book, but it explores themes you’d expect from literature’s heaviest reads. The author Paul Harding writes about a man gliding in and out of consciousness just hours before his death.

George Washington Crosby, a clock-repairer, begins the novel propped up on a bed sitting in his living room while surrounded by his family. The story follows Crosby’s thoughts and memories prior to his death, as he thinks of his impoverished and troubled childhood.

As time runs out, his memories become entangled with those of his father, an epileptic peddler, and his grandfather, a preacher taken by insanity.

In 190 pages packed with fiercely vivid imagery, Harding explores death as a slow ascension rather than a quick fall.

4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is more than just a producer, actress, playwright and comedian. She’s also the bestselling author of this memoir, which hilariously follows her path from her childhood to her life as the professional powerhouse we know today.

This book provides readers with snippets of Kaling’s life mixed in with her passionate observations on everything from romance to her career to Beyoncé. 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me keeps you laughing from start to finish for, providing the perfect entertainment for that one night you’re free of readings.

5. Tent by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood, internationally acclaimed Canadian author of novels, poetry and prose, turns the strange into something beautiful in this collection of experimental prose.

Standing just 159 pages, the book is a compilation of short stories and fictional essays, which are accompanied by Atwood’s own spirited illustrations.

Tent ranges from chilling to witty as it traverses a variety of topics. Atwood writes a mischievous pep talk to ambitious youth, describes the feeling of finding old photographs of oneself and takes the perspective of Horatio dispensing his real views on Hamlet.

With individual pieces anywhere between a handful of paragraphs to a few pages in length, Atwood’s collection is perfect for reading on the way to class or before going to bed.

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