I know not everyone likes to read. The act itself is slow and requires a lot of concentration 一 not to mention sitting still. It requires imagination. It demands that you devote all your energy into doing this one task. There’s a reason why people immediately reach for their TV remote the second they get home (I definitely do). When you’re exhausted from a long day of adulting and working out, movies and TV shows serve as the perfect escape for tired minds. They require almost no concentration and do the imagining for you, presenting you with the images you need to complement the plot.
As an English major, I’m a bit biased when I say absolutely nothing 一 not even a well-written television show (*cough Breaking Bad) 一 can replace a good book. Because your mind gets so invested in a novel, I feel like you become immersed in a way you can’t experience with movies. You paint your own landscape and create the characters in your head, playing it out scene by scene until you’re actively and emotionally invested … at least, that’s what a good book should do.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the sort of concentration to read long novels, even if they love the story itself. And if it’s Monday? Forget about it. So, rather than force my favorite lengthy literature on you, I want to present a few books that are short and easy to read without sacrificing a good story.
You might notice that these are all young adult novels, but don’t scoff 一 these are excellent reads. (I can’t even tell you how many times I read The Westing Game.) Almost all of them are still sitting on my bookshelf at home. So whether you hate reading and want an easy-to-follow (but fantastically well-written) book or just want to relive your youth by reading these again, this list will give you the literary satisfaction you need 一 and it’ll give you something to look forward to even on the dreariest of Mondays.
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is a not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
The Westing Game was one of my absolute favorite books growing up. Basically, if you like a solid, well-written mystery novel with vibrant characters, this one’s for you. This mysterious tale opens with Barney Northrup, a real estate agent who has just finished selling off apartments to 16 different tenants. It all seems fairly normal until we discover that all 16 people have been named heirs to the fortune of Sam Westing, a now-deceased self-made millionaire. Even more compelling, none are close to him, yet they’re all connected to Westing in some way 一 some more than others. But even more surprising is Westing’s will. Rather than splitting up the fortune between them, Westing structured his will like a puzzle, leaving baffling clues and challenging the heirs to decipher his riddles. The first person to solve the mystery would win control of his $200 million fortune as well as his entire company. The 16 heirs, who come from all different cultures and walks of life, are then paired off 一 seemingly at random 一 and left to solve the confusing puzzles. As the tenants work to decode Westing’s will, they discover the best and worst parts of themselves and learn more about each other with every twist and turn … and they soon uncover secrets that will change them forever.
This dystopian tale centers on a boy named Jonas, a 12-year-old living in what appears to be a utopian community where suffering, war, pain, differences, and choice do not exist. Everyone has a role that they’re assigned when they come of age at the Ceremony of Twelve, and if everyone performs their role, there is peace and order. At Jonas’s Ceremony, to his surprise, he learns he is to become the next Receiver of Memory 一 a highly important role tasked to only one person in the community. As Jonas begins his training with the current Receiver of Memory 一 who calls himself the Giver 一 he comes to learn wonderful, terrible things about his community and the history of humanity itself. When his views on society, joy, and suffering are challenged, he must define freedom for himself and make the most difficult decision of his life.
If you’re outdoorsy and always dreamed of what it might be like to survive in the woods, this novel is for you. It follows 15-year-old Sam Gribley, a young boy who lives with his 11-person family in a cramped New York apartment. Sick of his life, he runs away to the Catskill Mountains and begins to live on his own, armed with nothing but knowledge from a wilderness survival book and a penknife, a ball of cord, $40, an ax, and flint and steel. He even picks up a couple of animal friends to keep him company: Frightful, a peregrine falcon, and Baron, his new pet weasel. Over the next year, he learns how to hunt, make the perfect shelter, smoke meat, tan hides, and make jam, among other skills. He comes across different characters (human and non-human) and dangers (natural and anthropogenic) along the way and learns countless lessons about survival, independence, and courage. Eventually, he must decide on what kind of life he values more 一 one filled with companionship and family or one of adventure and solitude.
(Adventure, Mystery, Comedy)
This novel is near and dear to my heart, mostly because I’ve read it so many times 一 y’all know I’m a sucker for a good mystery/adventure/comedy novel. The story centers on Stanley Yelnats, a 14-year-old boy who is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of shoes that once belonged to a famous baseball player. Stanley’s not surprised though 一 his family has always insisted that they’ve been “cursed” with bad luck, thanks to his “no-good-dirty-rotten pig-stealing great-great-grandfather.” As a result of his crime, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, a correctional camp for juvenile delinquents. There, they spend their days digging holes exactly five feet deep and five feet across “to build character.” Soon, he befriends a boy called Zero, who is so named because he never speaks. As Stanley (nicknamed Caveman by his fellow inmates) spends more time at the camp, he learns more about Zero and the camp’s compelling history. He eventually discovers that he might have more strength than he realizes 一 and perhaps a way to break his family’s curse.
This Holocaust-era novel is told from the point of view of Annemarie Johansen, a 10-year-old Danish girl who resides in 1943 Copenhagen with her parents. It is the third year of the Nazis’ occupation of Denmark, and the Germans have just begun to “relocate” all the Danish Jews. As people in town slowly begin to disappear and shops close unexpectedly, Annemarie slowly grasps the Jews’ hopeless plight, which is made even more complicated by the fact that her best friend, Ellen Rosen, is Jewish. As the Johansens and several other Danish families work to help their Jewish friends escape to Sweden, they encounter more German soldiers and even more obstacles. As Annemarie becomes cognizant of just how much danger they’re in, she must summon up her courage in order to protect her friend. In the process, she learns about the meaning of family, true friendship, and what she’s willing to sacrifice to do what’s right.
Immortality is the overarching theme in this short novel. The plot centers on Winnie Foster, a 10-year-old girl who is unhappy with her life and is contemplating running away from home. One day, as she wanders in the woods, she happens upon 17-year-old Jesse Tuck, who is sipping water from a spring. Strangely, he doesn’t let her drink. She protests, but Jesse’s brother, mother, and father appear and eventually explain that the water has some sort of magic that has given them immortality. Unbeknownst to them, a mysterious man in a yellow suit overhears their conversation, and what follows is a war to save the family, the spring, and the precious secret. As Winnie and the Tucks battle the man in the yellow suit and fight to protect the spring, Winnie wrestles with her own decision of whether to drink or not drink, struggling with the every-present question: Is immortality worth it?
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies … The man who never reads lives only one.”
一George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
Here’s to living a thousand lives, and having a thousand adventures.