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Short books to help jump start your 2021 reading goals

By Kobo • March 10, 2021The Bookish Life

For some avid readers, the pandemic has been a time to set and smash reading goals. But some readers are struggling.

For many readers, (including a lot of us at Kobo) it’s been tough to focus and get to that last page-turn -- even a year into the COVID era.

If you’re struggling, or just looking for a book you can finish quickly, here’s a list of some recommendations for eBooks you can use to get back on track to your 2021 reading goals. Each of the eBooks on this list is short enough to read in about a week -- and we’ve noted the estimated reading time so you can fit them into your schedule.

And just in case you think you can get more reading done while taking care of household chores or knocking out a living room workout, just click through to see if there’s an audiobook edition available.

(If reading is no problem for you, or you’re looking for a book you can spend a long time with, check out our list of long reads for staying in for a long time.)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: they’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force. If that sounds familiar, that’s because this legendary sci-fi novel was the basis for the film Blade Runner. 5 hours to read

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Home by Toni Morrison

An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. 3 hours to read

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Black Diamond Death by Cheryl Bradshaw

At first glance, the death of Charlotte Halliwell appears to be nothing more than an accident, until the medical examiner finds poison coursing through her body. Charlotte’s sister Audrey hires Sloane Monroe, a sassy, headstrong private investigator to find out what really happened to her sister. Then a second body is found. With the killer aware that Sloane will stop at nothing to find him, he tracks her every move. 4 hours to read

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

If your reading goals are looking impossible, this book will help you give yourself permission to change them. Mark Manson makes the argument (backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes) that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. 5 hours to read

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Women Talking by Miriam Toews

The sun rises on a quiet June morning in 2009. August Epp sits alone in the hayloft of a barn, anxiously bent over his notebook. He writes quickly, aware that his solitude will soon be broken. Eight women--ordinary grandmothers, mothers and teenagers; yet to August, each one extraordinary-- will climb the ladder into the loft, and the day's true task will begin. This task will be both simple and subversive: August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation. What follows is a novel unlike any other. It’s a book that made an impression on us. 4 hours to read

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Adam by Chris Keniston

On a barren road in the pre-dawn hours, Adam Farraday, the oldest of seven siblings, happens upon a disabled sports car and an angel in white searching for a disappearing dog. What is it about this secretive redheaded beauty that intrigues him as no woman has before? If this fast-moving love story ends too soon for you, there are many more Farraday Country books to enjoy. 4 hours to read

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The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Yeong-hye and her husband are ordinary people. He is an office worker with moderate ambitions and mild manners; she is an uninspired but dutiful wife. The acceptable flatline of their marriage is interrupted when Yeong-hye, seeking a more 'plant-like' existence, decides to become a vegetarian, prompted by grotesque recurring nightmares. In South Korea, where vegetarianism is almost unheard-of and societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision is a shocking act of subversion. Tensions escalate and find release in cruelty and obsession in this one-of-a-kind novel. 4 hours to read

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Hitched by Kendall Ryan

A NYC playboy turned business mogul has ninety days to win over the woman he's always desired in order to save his father's company. One tiny problem: She hates his guts. This book kicks off a series that delivers heart and heat in equal measure. 3 hours to read

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The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing an evening dress and heavy makeup, which is now smeared across her cheeks. But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry? The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple into their home to investigate. 4 hours to read

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How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he'll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. 3 hours to read

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Brother by David Chariandy

Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991. Read it -- then check out our interview with the author. 3 hours to read

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a young Himba woman of extraordinary engineering abilities who leaves home to attend an elite university, only to have her plans of academic success hijacked, literally, by a hostile race of aliens. 2 hours to read

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Weather by Jenny Offill

Lizzie works in the library of a university where she was once a promising graduate student. Her side hustle is answering the letters that come in to Hell and High Water, the doom-laden podcast hosted by her former mentor. At first it suits her, this chance to practice her other calling as an unofficial shrink—she has always played this role to her divorced mother and brother recovering from addiction—but soon Lizzie finds herself struggling to strike the obligatory note of hope in her responses. 3 hours to read

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The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

This brief book consists of two "letters," written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic American intellectual. 2 hours to read

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The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian's life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on.

Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. But his memory of how he’s lived his life is about to be thrown into doubt by a lawyer's letter. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. 4 hours to read

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I am a Truck by Michelle Winters

Agathe and Réjean Lapointe are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary when Réjean’s beloved Chevy Silverado is found abandoned at the side of the road—with no trace of Réjean. Agathe handles her grief by fondling the shirts in the Big and Tall department at Hickey’s Family Apparel and carrying on a relationship with a cigarette survey. As her hope dwindles, Agathe falls in with her spirited coworker, Debbie, who teaches Agathe about rock and roll, and with Martin Bureau, the one man who might know the truth about Réjean’s fate. This unusual novel reads at times like a fairy tale set in contemporary French Canada. 3 hours to read

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French Exit by Patrick deWitt

Frances Price — tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature — is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Price’s aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband. Putting penury behind them, the family decides to cut their losses and head for the exit. One ocean voyage later, the curious trio land in their beloved Paris, the City of Light serving as a backdrop not for love or romance, but self-destruction and economic ruin — to riotous effect. 4 hours to read

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The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya

Indie musician Neela Devaki has built a career writing the songs she wants to hear but nobody else is singing. When one of Neela’s songs is covered by internet artist RUK-MINI and becomes a viral sensation, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But before long, the systemic pressures that pit women against one another begin to bear down on Neela and RUK-MINI, stirring up self-doubt and jealousy. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, a career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the centre of an internet firestorm. 4 hours to read

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Ex Libris by Ann Fadiman

This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language -- and is perfect for any reader wanting to take a moment to appreciate books even when you can't bring yourself to read them. 3 hours to read

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