Six Short Books To Read Before the End of the Year

Six Short Books To Read Before the End of the Year

Photo by Nong V on Unsplash

In this episode, Gayle, on a solo episode, recommends six books under 300 pages. They will surely help you reach your reading goals for the year. Listen to get ideas to smash your reading challenge!

As always you can find below the whole booklist they run through during the episode:

News of the World by Paulette Jiles | Amazon | Bookshop

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill | Amazon | Bookshop

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf | Amazon | Bookshop

French Braid by Anne Tyler | Amazon | Bookshop

Vladimir by Julie May Jonas | Amazon | Bookshop

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro | Amazon | Bookshop

*Books linked above are our affiliate links through Amazon. There’s no additional expense to you, but if you make a purchase through us a small portion of that contributes to the costs associated with making our podcast. Thanks so much for listening and for your support.


Hey everybody, this is Gayle. This is one of those weeks where Nicole and I couldn’t coordinate to find a time to record. I was traveling for work and so I’m doing a solo episode. So you’ve got me for the next, I don’t know, 20 minutes or so. Not sure how long this will take, but today I wanna talk to you about something that becomes especially relevant at this time of year, and that is finding.

Books so. If you are doing a reading challenge or you have set goals for yourself, or you just, you know, wanted to get through a certain number of books before the end of the year, I’m recording this, the middle of November, there’s only a month and a half left, and you may be wondering, you know, how am I gonna get to my goal?

If I’ve got all these long books ahead of me. So I’m gonna share six books today that are under 300 pages that are relatively quick reads that I think you could get through you know, in a short amount of time, which might help you cram in more books by the end of the year. So I had a goal of 70 books by the end of this year, which would’ve been more books than I’ve ever read, and I am not going to reach.

By any stretch of the imagination, but I’m somewhere around like 52, so I’m hoping to get to 62, which is like a number that I often hit. And so if I can get to 62, I, I think I’d be pretty happy. But even that, that’s 10 books by the end of the year and like I do not read fast. And it’s the end of the year with all that craziness and work and holidays and all of that.

Who knows. But anyway, if you wanna get some short reads in, I’m gonna share six. Some of them are new, some of them are old, but all of them are good. And you know, hopefully, This will be helpful for you as you try to figure out what you might be able to complete by the end of the year. Okay. The first one is one of my all time favorite books.

It is called Department of Speculation. It is by Jenny Awful. And that’s spelled O F F I L. And it is, I’m looking up to see exactly how many pages, 192 pages. So this is one of those ones that if you really wanted to, you could knock this book out in an afternoon. It’s a great book though, and I would not recommend racing through it because it’s one of those that you’re gonna wanna like soak in every page.

So this is a book about a couple. They live in New York. They move out of the city because there’s lots of pressures on this couple living in New York. There’s infidelity, there is financial pressure, there is strain of having young kids. All of the things that can put a lot of pressure on a relationship.

And so they decide to move. They move someplace. I forgot where it is. Some like upstate or something, smaller town. And the book is told from the perspective of the wife, and she has a lot of anger at her husband. She has anger at the situation. She’s in anger for having to move anger for all the things in her life that are making her really stressed out.

Jenny awful is like just one of my all time favorite writers. She’s. Not stream of consciousness. Exactly. Cuz it’s definitely linear and it follows, you know, a story and a plot. But she throws in a lot of like meandering thoughts and kind of random references, but they’re just so good. She just nails it.

It’s poignant. It’s funny, it’s dark. It’s just, you know, you’ll, it’s one of those books where you’ll like dog ear every page cuz there’s just stuff in there you wanna remember. I just think she’s fantastic. I’m a huge fan. This was my first book that I read by Jenny Awful. She’s also. Written a book about climate change which came out much more recently than Department of Speculation.

I think it was called Weather. And I think I prefer this one. This one came out in 2014, so it’s been around for a while. But um, I don’t know. All time favorite, you know, top 10 read for me, department of Speculation. So if you haven’t read this one yet and you need a short one, definitely pick this. Okay.

My next book on the list is called News of the World. It’s by Paul Giles. I think I read this last year when I needed a short book. Actually, no, I read it last year because I needed a book to movie adaptation and it helped that it was a short book. So that was for my, my. Every day I write the book Reading Challenge and one of the categories was a book to film or book to TV adaptation.

And it had recently been adapted into a movie with Tom Hanks. And so the fact that it was short really helped me cuz it was like one of my last categories to cram in by the end of the year. So News of the World is about a a guy who travels around after the Civil War. Reading from the newspaper to people who, you know, maybe can’t get a newspaper or they can’t read.

So it’s their way of learning about the news of the world, and he agrees to, he takes some money to transport a young girl. Who is captured by the Kyowa Indians and bring her back to her family. And so, and this takes place in Texas. And so you follow the journey with this older man and this younger girl.

And she doesn’t really speak English because she’s been living for many years with the Kwa tribe. So she speaks a different language. She can’t, they can’t converse in English. But he agrees Toran to transport her back to her family or her parents have died, but it’s to her, so she’s an orphan, but transfer her back to her aunt and uncle.

So along the way they meet, you know, various challenges and risks and dangers. There’s people who wanna. Kidnap her and people who wanna kill them. There’s just various dangers in towns as they go to, and they look sort of suspect. There’s this older man with this younger girl, so people are like suspicious of them, but he, you know, he has committed that he’s gonna do this and he has taken money and he feels a great obligation to keep her safe and protect her.

And it’s really about the relationship that develops between the two of them. And then what happens when he gets to their destination and drops her off and, you know, does he leave her? What are the circumstances under which she’s left her? And, you know, I don’t wanna spoil anything, so I’m not gonna talk about that.

His name is Captain Kidd. He was played by Tom Hanks in the movie Who, and I thought he did a great job. I thought it was a really good adaptation. But the book itself is only 240 pages. It can be read pretty quickly. It’s good historical fiction. And, you know, if you haven’t read this one, I recommend it.

It came out in 2017, or at least that’s when the paperback came out. I’m not sure when the book itself came out, but it I dunno, I think that’s, I think it only came out in paperback, so, well actually, let’s see. Wait, all formats in addition. So I’m just looking on Amazon right now. It looks like it came out, it came out in 2017 or maybe 2016, so it’s already been, you know, five years.

But I really like this one. And then when you finish it, you can curl up and watch. Okay, so that’s two so far News of the World by Paulette Giles and Department of Speculation. The next one that I wanna mention is a 2016 release called Our Souls at Night by one of my favorite authors, Kent Har Roof.

This is the first cat her roof book that I have ever. I’ve read two more since then, but this was the first one. It’s 192 pages. So again, a quick read. And this is set in Holt, Colorado, which is the same town that Har sent has sent the trilogy that I really also really enjoyed, which is plain song.

I’m blanking on the names of the, the other three. The first one is Plain Song, which is a book I absolutely adored. And then there’s two books that come after it. I’m gonna, I’m just, for some reason I’m just blanking on it. And of course, at the very minute I go to record this episode, my blog is down, so I can’t even go in and look at all my books on on my blog.

But anyway, This book, our Souls At Night, also made into a movie is about two older people living in Holt, this small town of Colorado, which is fictional, I think, and they are both alone. They are widow and widower and they’ve kind of, you know, known each other over the years. They don’t live far from each other.

and they’re both for their own reasons, kind of living in their own world and you know, living these kind of lonely exists until one of them reaches out to the other and says, Hey, would you like to come over and sleep in my bed? Not a sexual invitation, but really a, we are two lonely souls with lots of lonely nights ahead of us.

Let’s make our nights less lonely. And so they. Start this relationship and you know, it eventually deepens into something that’s a little more meaningful than that. But it’s about this relationship and the pressures of living in this small town and people talking and their kids being judgmental about it, and how are they gonna handle.

What people think versus what they are actually getting out of this relationship. It’s a really bittersweet story. It’s so well done. I absolutely love the way Kent, her roof writes. It’s the most spare. On adorned language, and it’s so powerful and it’s simplicity and the way he talks about emotions.

It’s just, it’s perfect. I’m a huge fan of Kent, her roof. I, this again, this was the first one. I also watched the movie. I think it has Jane Fonda, was it Robert Redford? I’m trying to remember who played the. Who played the guy, it was definitely Jane Fonda. But I just really, really, really enjoy them.

And so I heartily recommend this one. And if you fall in love with Ken Roof reading this one, then I recommend the trilogy. So that’s plain song benediction, and again, I can’t figure out what the. What the third one was, but it’s a trilogy of books, also not terribly long, that take place in Holt and track kind of a range of characters across this small town over the course of years.

And they’re just, they’re just beautiful books. Oh, even Tide, okay. Plain song. Even Tide Benediction, that’s the, the order of the trilogy and then our souls at night, which takes place in the same place but is not part of the. Okay, so that’s Our Souls At Night by Kenter Roof, and that’s H A R U F. Okay. And then the remaining three books are ones that I actually read this year, so much more recent, but also short.

And the first one is a book called Vladimir, and this one is about. Woman. The book is by Julia May, Jon Vladimir, and it’s about a woman living. She’s a professor at a school, kind of a, a New England, small New England College. She’s an English professor. Her husband is also a professor in the same department, and he is facing accusations that he had inappropriate relationships with former.

So their marriage is under strain. Even though she knew about the relationships and it’s not like she felt the betrayal necessarily about the relationships, but she’s dealing with the fallout and how it’s going to impact him professionally, how it impacts her professionally, cuz they live in the same, you know, small town and teach at the same college in the same department.

So she’s already just pissed off at him and this young. Professor comes to teach at the school. His name is Vladimir, and he’s a new young novelist who’s arrived on campus and he’s also married to another professor and. They, the woman who is you know, the, the main character basically falls for Vladimir and grows obsessed with him, but she’s much older than he is.

And so it’s all about kind of being an older woman, obsessed with a younger man. There’s this kind of notions of sex and power. It’s, it’s, Darkly funny, but also depressing at the same time because of the way she takes on kind of age and aging and mortality and lust and all of it. It’s it’s a very divisive book and some people loved it.

A lot of people really hated it. It has a super divisive cover. It’s got this man with a kind of you know, Like, looks like pajamas on and a provocative pose with those chest open and bare. So a lot of people like really did not like this book. I actually liked it and I thought it was you know, a very like, Propulsive read and there’s suspense in it.

What’s gonna happen with his relationship and what’s happening with her husband and his wife, and this kind of love square that they’re in. It’s all very, you know, scandalous. It’s only 256 pages though. And so it’s a quick one, so I recommend it if the subject matter is interesting to you. I think you know, if anything, it’ll.

Provoke thoughts in your brain, even if you don’t like it. So that’s Vladimir by Julia May Jonas, and it came out in February of this. Okay. The next one I wanna talk about, I also read this year and really enjoyed, and that’s French Braid by Ann Tyler. This came out in March of 2022 and it is also 256 pages.

So quick read this is my favorite type of book. It’s a family drama that tracks Parents and kids over many decades, kind of chapter by chapter, revisiting them, skipping ahead many years. I just love that type of construct. It’s one of my absolute favorites. And you know, it’s just about a family because it’s Ann Tyler, it’s a family from Baltimore.

Three kids, parents growing up, you know, through living through many different, you know, aspects of modern American history. It starts in 1959 and then just tracks these kids. It’s you know, a small story about a small family, but it’s got so much universal. Appeal because they’re all going through the same, you know, the same life rituals and stages and heartbreaks and, you know, dashed hopes and all of it that, that, that we all go through.

So, I loved this one. It’s my first Aunt Tyler in a while, and I kind of picked it up on a whim at the library, and I was so glad that I did. So this one you could probably polish off on a weekend. It’s very good. I believe I listened to this on audio. No, actually, I don’t think I did listen to it on audio, so I don’t know about the audio, but the, the print is very good and highly satisfying.

Okay. And then book number six is, I’ve talked about this recently. It is a five star read for me. It’s one of my favorite books of late, and it is Signal Fires by Danny Shapiro. This is probably gonna be my favorite book of the year, and I just, I just absolutely adored it. It is about A family in the eighties, they have two kids and there’s a car accident involving their kids that have.

The car accident has ramifications for this family going forward. There are some secrets that kind of get buried that night and don’t really get discussed again, and those secrets become kind of part of this family’s history. At the same time, there is a family that moves in across the street many years later.

And these two families become connected in a number of ways, and it’s just an absolutely beautiful, devastating, emotional, touching, poignant book. I love Dan Shapiro’s writing. Best known perhaps for her, her memoir inheritance, but she’s also a novelist. And I just, I could not get enough of this book.

I just really, really adore it. So. It came out in October of this year, and it’s just, just fantastic. And everyone, I would say almost every review I’ve read of this with a few exceptions, has been super positive. And this will probably be my favorite book of the year. So if you need to get in a quick one, this is a wonderful candidate for that.

So there you go. That’s six books. News of the World, department of Speculation, our Souls At Night Signal Fires, French Braid, and Vladimir. , and I just think you can’t go wrong with any of these, and hopefully they’ll get them to get you to your goal before the stroke of midnight on December 31st. So that’s our show today.

Sorry for the short one, but that happens from time to time and Nicole and I will be back next week. We’ve got some good wrap up episodes for before the end of the year, a gift guide, superlatives, and we’ll be back with those. So until next time, happy reading.

Please help support the podcast and take a few minutes to leave a review and/or rating for the podcast on iTunes, a comment on Soundcloud or interact wherever you listen to podcasts and talk about books.

Connect With Us
We’d love to hear from you at any and all places that you love to talk about books. You can find us at the spaces below.

Nicole Bonia: Nicole’s Website | Instagram|Goodreads
Gayle Weiswasser: Everyday I Write The Book Blog | Twitter | FacebookInstagram | Goodreads
The Readerly Report: Facebook |Instagram | Join Our Facebook Group

Feedback. We love it!
If you have any questions or ideas for a podcast,  email us! You can reach Nicole at, and you can reach Gayle at As always, thanks for listening and happy reading

Other episodes you might like.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.