Every once in a while in my reading life, I want a book that can be classified as a “light read.” Sometimes it’s because I just finished an emotionally intense novel (looking at you, A Little Life) or sometimes it’s because I have a lot going on personally and don’t feel capable of digging into a heavy book.
The problem is – I have a hard time finding something light that I actually care to read. This was true before I became a parent, but it became even more true afterward. If I pick up a book and start reading, and I realize the arch of this book is going to be “girl works in bookshop and finds true love with a customer,” then I quickly lose interest. I need mystery or intensity to keep me engaged – especially when I’m a mom reader who is picking up the book for the ten free minutes she has in the day.
That balance – a book that’s intriguing and engaging, but not too intricate or heavy – is, in my experience, tricky to find. Typically, a book that’s recommended as a beach read doesn’t work for me. I’ve sometimes satisfied this need with a funny memoir/book of essays like Phoebe Robinson’s Everything’s Trash But It’s Okay or Amber Ruffin’s You’ll Never Believe What Happened To Lacey. (Both amazing, highly recommend.) These two books and others like them are perfect for me because the writer’s talent for humor keeps them light(ish), but the essays are discussing topics that are serious – race, gender, feminism, social justice, etc – and that keeps me engaged and reading.
I have also satisfied this need for a lighter read with, surprisingly, a murder mystery novel. Yes, murder is serious and intense – but often, this genre is not as heavy, and will focus more on the central detective/sleuth than on death, grief, and the aftermath of loss. A good mystery can be a page-turner without being gut-wrenching or terrifying.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes an easy read every once in a while, so I figured I would share my short list of titles that have worked for me. Enjoy!
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This is my number one recommendation anytime someone is looking for a light read. Super intriguing mystery but book never gets too heavy.
Boomsday, No Way To Treat A First Lady, and Supreme Courtship, all by Christopher Buckley. Buckley is a favorite of mine. His books are funny and interesting and his writing is easy to enjoy. He writes funny, light books about serious topics, usually somehow related to politics.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. This book is about Thursday Next, a literary detective who solves book crimes. THIS IS A BOOK NERD’S DREAM COME TRUE. I loved this entire series, but none so much as the first.
Anxious People by Fredrik Bakman. This book is masterful – super compelling and deals with a lot of drama and intensity (the central event in the book is a hostage crisis), but it somehow ends up being light and comical and inspiring.
The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald; and, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. I am listing these two together because here’s the thing – I loved both of these, and I cannot remember why these two didn’t fall flat for me. The Guernsey book involves a bit of mystery and historical fiction. The Broken Wheel book – on paper, it looks like exactly the kind of book I would lose interest in. Yet I loved them both. So if your tastes are similar to mine, they are worth a try!
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. A super easy read involving a mystery, overnight celebrity, and commentary on society. So good.
Confessions Of A Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. I often recommend this book (as well as Bridget Jones’ Diary, see below) to friends who insist that they are not readers at all. I find this book to be so easy to read. It kept my attention because of the (spoiler alert) financial stress the narrator experiences, but it
Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. I often gift this book to people who say they aren’t readers – such a funny, enjoyable read. The book is told entirely via brief and hilarious diary entries, making it super easy to read.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. This book has mystery, suspense, and lots of food for book lovers. But I think the reason why it works for me is simply that Zevin is a great writer, especially for this category of reading. (See Young Jane Young above!)
About A Boy by Nick Hornby. Hornby is another writer who just works for me in this category. There are other books he’s written – including, but not limited to, Juliet Naked, How To Be Good, and A Long Way Down – that have been easy reads that kept my attention. While About A Boy was my favorite, everything I’ve read by him has been great and fits the category of “light read.”
A Wizard’s Guide To Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher. This is the first book I finished in 2021, and it was the inspiration for this post. There is magic, a murder mystery, and battle – but it all involves a 14-year-old wizard whose main magic is related to baking. The book is light, easy to read, but keeps you reading because the plot (murder! kingdom under siege!) keeps you wanting to know what happens next.