20 Short Books To Read During Lent

Everyone loves a short book. They're non-threatening, densely-packed, and it won't break your back to throw a couple of them in your purse for your commute. But when I saw that The Christian Science Monitor had offered up a challenge to give up new books for Lent, my first thought was, Wow, those 40-odd days would be a great time to read a really long book!

Then I thought, why not use Lent to knock a bunch of little books off of my TBR, instead of one gargantuan tome? That would definitely be a better use of someone's time, especially a book nerd like me whose TBR is likely to outlive her.

So here's my challenge to you, folks. Starting today, try to read one book every day during Lent. It's OK if you don't manage it every day. You'll probably still read more than you normally would, just by virtue of having a ~challenge~. And don't stress if you only find out about this five days before the end of Lent, because that's still a chance to read five books — more than the average American reads in a year — in five days!

I've got 20 books here to help you get started. My selections are under 200 pages long, which means you'll probably be able to knock them out in three hours or less. So scour your bookshelves for the shortest books you can find and crack those spines. We're giving up new books to read short books for Lent!

1. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

This winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry revisits the racially-motivated aggressions the author and her friends experience on a daily basis, examining how racism continues to function in a "post-racial" society.

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2. Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

After a resistance movement member is taken prisoner while trying to help a family escape execution, she has only herself to rely on as she struggles to make it out alive.

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3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

After all but three members of the Blackwood family are poisoned, Constance Blackwood finds herself charged with, then acquitted of, the murders. She returns to her old home, where her 18-year-old sister, Merricat, still lives. But a visit from a stranger might put murder back on the dinner plate...

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4. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation centers on a husband and wife who face mounting frustrations and deepening potholes in their marriage. Told in a series of notes and letters, it's a fast and engaging read.

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5. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin's classic 1899 novella follows a New Orleans woman in a stagnant, unfulfilling marriage as she sets out on the path to self-discovery.

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6. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Think the workplace is a battlefield and feel like you need all the help you can get? Check out Sun Tzu's The Art of War for all your military-strategy needs.

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7. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf asks: what would happen to the world if women had their own spaces and fortunes, and could pursue the work they wanted to do?

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8. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A doctor rents an old country house for his frail wife's recovery, and confines her in an upstairs room to rest. She isn't alone in her new quarters, however. There's something in the wallpaper.

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9. Slade House by David Mitchell

Bearing a striking similarity to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, David Mitchell's Slade House centers on a pair of siblings who have found the secret to immortality.

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10. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

George Orr has a problem, or maybe it's a talent: his dreams come true, even the bad ones. When he searches for help, however, he finds others who want to use his problem to solve their own.

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11. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe's scathing criticism of colonialism is still on a lot of people's TBRs, mine included. Devote a day during this Lent to reading Okonkwo's story in Things Fall Apart.

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12. Passing by Nella Larsen

As a black woman who "passes" for white, Clare Kendry has a secret identity that threatens her marriage and friendships in Nella Larsen's novella, Passing.

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13. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

This short story from Annie Proulx follows two lovers who reconnect through covert outings during the 20 years that follow their initial encounter as shepherds on an isolated Wyoming mountain.

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14. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

A Pakistani-American scholar finds that his relationships with others change in the days following September 11 in this short novel from Mohsin Hamid.

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15. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Told in a series of vignettes, The House on Mango Street is a Bildungsroman about a young girl named Esperanza Cordero, who dreams of one day leaving behind the rough neighborhood of her childhood.

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16. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri's short-story collection won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000. The tales that make up Interpreter of Maladies examine the lives of ordinary people navigating societal expectations and their own mistakes.

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17. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea is Jean Rhys' prequel to Jane Eyre. This is the story of Rochester's first wife, the woman he demanded answer to "Bertha," whom he locked away in an attic.

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18. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

The American narrator of Giovanni's Room recounts his love affair with a young Parisian man — the titular Giovanni — in Baldwin's short, tragic novel.

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19. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's take on her own TEDx Talk, We Should All Be Feminists, explores the place of the feminist movement in the 21st century.

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20. The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman

This tragic play from Lillian Hellman follows the trajectory and aftermath of a vicious rumor that overtakes a girls' school like wildfire.

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Image: kaboompics/Pixabay