7 Inspiring Books That Are Short Enough to Read in One Sitting

Instant gratification.

By Riley Reed
inspiring books, books to read in one sitting, best books

I’ve always loved to read. So much so that I can remember getting put in time out as a kid, and asking if I could take my Nancy Drew book with me. There is nothing quite like getting immersed in another person’s story.

Sometimes, attempting to digest a heavy read can be daunting when really, I just want to curl up for an hour and read something inspiring, front to back. I love reaching for those little pieces of wonder packed with insights that lead to daydreaming. Scroll on for a list of my favorite short and sweet page turners for when you’re in the mood for instant gratification.

the war of art, good book

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

I read this on a plane ride last year and found myself nodding and highlighting endlessly. It’s one of those books that stays with you. I love referencing it over and over again, especially when I need to be gently nudged towards the pursuit of real art.

Steven Pressfield will remind you that we are all creative. And for that reason, as artists, it can be easy to get entangled in the cobwebs of our minds. With frank language and concise chapters, Pressfield gently nudges you towards action.

“The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration.”

-Steven Pressfield

tuesdays with morrie, good book

Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom

A lovely memoir that depicts a rekindled relationship while illuminating life lessons, Tuesdays with Morrie will leave you all up in your feelings. Laced with generosity and vulnerability, it is a magical chronicle of a deep human connection.

“Don’t cling to things because everything is impermanent.”

-Mitch Albom

where to begin, cleo wade, good book

Where to Begin, Cleo Wade

With her lyrical, electrifying poetry and prose, Cleo Wade’s second anthology of heartfelt affirmations and mantras encourages you to remain optimistic even amidst pain and tragedy. She believes we can all harness hope and and power, on a personal level, in an effort to bring collective, positive change to our society.

Where to Begin is manageable in one sitting or anytime you need to reach for hope.

In her words:

Where to Begin is a collection of the ideas, mantras, and poems I turn to when I feel like I am losing it. I wrote this so that I could put them all in one place when I felt overwhelmed by worry, fear, anxiety, or helplessness.

The words in this book are what stop me from walking away from the problems of the world during tough times. They also help me stay connected to hope during difficult moments and remind me that even on the days that feel the most daunting, I still have the power to show up and do something, somewhere, in some way. 

Change-making comes in all sizes. It doesn’t always have to be one big gesture or nothing. As my friend Jenna often says, “The big stuff is the small stuff.” Your big life is made up of a collection of all of your small moments. Our big world is a made up of a collection of all of our small actions. This book is about where to begin.

“May our broken hearts fuel us to fix our world.”

-Cleo Wade

the writing life

The Writing Life, Annie Dillard

As a writer, it can be tricky to break down the act of writing. For those who don’t write, it can be overwhelming and intimidating to start. Pullitzer prize-winner, Annie Dillard, studies and conveys one of the most illusive acts. I love how she portrays the relationship between writer and writing. She is not afraid to call it like it is and albeit provocative, her prowess on paper makes the task all that more comprehensible.

“You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now. (Are you a woman, or a mouse?)”

-Annie Dillard

letters to a young poet, good book

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke is one of my favorite writers and poets of all time. In this book he’s writing to a young man preparing to enter the German military; and thus, Rilke’s words are filled with empathy, timelessness and realistic optimism. I love how he speaks about life in a way that’s romantic yet tangible. This books sits in reach. I open it whenever I need to find some light.

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

the house on mango street, good book

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

Written in 1984, The House on Mango Street, is a book of short stories about a 12 year old Chicana girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. Though the voice of the narrator is that of a young girl, the writing comes from a prolific, sophisticated writer. Down to earth, cultural and self-revealing, you’ll have a hard time putting this one down.

“To tell one big story, each story contributing to the whole—like beads in a necklace.”

-Sandra Cisneros

a short guide to a happy life

A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anna Quindlen

At this point in the pandemic, many are finding it difficult to find excitement in daily life. Quindlen would tell you to “get a life”, to live from your own authentic self rather than merely existing. We mustn’t live for the future, for some uncertain success that we think we want. We have to learn to love the journey.

“Life is made of moments, small pieces of silver amidst long stretches of tedium. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live . . . to love the journey, not the destination.”

-Anna Quindlen