What to Read When You Don’t Have Time to Read

Grad school is kicking my arse at the moment. Juggling work and study is much harder this year because the structure of the course has changed due to COVID, and because the teachers are making up for the lack of face-to-face teaching by giving us extra homework. The end result is that I have very little time to read. A depressing state of affairs for any bookworm.

So, I’ve been thinking about the sort of thing a book lover can realistically read when she’s short of time. There’s not much point getting into a chunky historical novel or epic fantasy series, but here are some ideas for quick reads…

All the poetry! (But especially chapbooks)

Poetry can contain complex events, fully-formed characters or even entire worlds in just a few lines. Being short of time is the perfect excuse to indulge in poetry, particularly chapbooks.

In case you’re not familiar with chapbooks, these are short, pocket-sized poetry collections, often based on a specific theme. If you’re not a poetry afficionado, these are less daunting (and cheaper) than a full-length collection. Dancing Girl Press has some great ones, and they’re going to publish mine later this year. 😊

Short stories

Seriously, why don’t short stories get more love? There are some brilliant collections out there. Three of my faves are The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood, and Grand Union by Zadie Smith.

Middle Grade

MG novels are usually shorter than adult or YA novels, with brisk pacing that encourages a quick read. Trust me, some of them are every bit as good as you remember. Which brings us nicely to…


I’ve always found that re-reading is easy to do in short bursts. You know what’s coming next (unless you read it ages ago) so you’re less likely to read ten chapters at a time because you just have to know what happens.


It’s delicious to lose a whole afternoon to comics – getting lost in the artwork and enjoying the nuances of the story – but it’s just as fun to whiz through them like a nine-year-old who’s eaten too many Haribo.

I’m embarrassingly basic when it comes to comics, and mostly read superhero stuff (Marvel for the heroes, DC for the villains of course). Lately I’ve been loving The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá.


Audiobooks must be the ultimate time saver, which is why it’s very weird that I haven’t listened to any since the 90s, when they were called “books on tape” and my mum played them to stop me complaining on long car journeys.

Now seems like the perfect time to start listening again, but I want to start with a really good one. In particular, I’m looking for something where the narration adds something to the story. Any recommendations?

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