Quick reads for fast de-stressing

Aqilah Rahman

As we go about our lives, it’s important to take a step back every now and then and slow down a bit to recharge ourselves. Reading is just one of the many things that can help us de-stress.

That said, while I love reading long stories as much as the next person, there’s a time and place for an epic saga trilogy with walls of text that span across over 800 pages. Sometimes, a short read is all we want.

The definition of a short book depends on who you ask, but in this case, we’ll keep it to less than 300 pages. Here’s a list of short books that you may be interested in, each of a different genre.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Published in 2013, The Rosie Project tells the story of no-nonsense genetics professor Don Tillman who embarks on ‘The Wife Project’ to find a wife through a 16-page questionnaire.

Logical to a fault, he describes the questionnaire as “a purpose-built, scientifically valid instrument incorporating current best practices” to filter out the unwanted candidates. Along the way, he meets Rosie, who pretty much fails the questionnaire from the get-go.

As their relationship develops, Don helps Rosie find her biological father by carrying out DNA tests and collecting samples from the potentials candidate by any and all means – going so far as to swab a used cup and write a fake 371-page proposal.

Coupled with Don’s unconventional narrative that hooks the reader in effortlessly, The Rosie Project is a hilarious page-turner and it’s hard not to cheer for Don as he meticulously works his way through his problems.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

First printed in 1939, And Then There Were None is hailed as one of the greatest mystery novels of all time.

In this classic murder mystery, 10 strangers gather together on a private island, invited by an unknown host. What these strangers have in common is that each of them has committed a murder in the past, as revealed by a tape recording one evening after dinner.

Shortly after the recording ends, one of the guests chokes on a poisoned drink and dies. Tension and suspicions arise, and horror unfolds as the guests are murdered one by one, in accordance to the nursery rhyme Ten Little Soldier Boys.

The book is arguably Agatha Christie’s most well-known work, with over 100 million copies sold. In 2015, fans from over 100 countries voted the book as their favourite of the author’s novels to mark the 125th anniversary since her birth.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

Known for its highly acclaimed movie adaptation Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? explores the distinction between humans and androids.

First published in 1968, the story takes place in post-apocalyptic San Francisco in 1992 (later revised to 2021 in the newer edition). The whole world is covered in radioactive dust and most of the Earth residents have moved to Mars.

With such a hazardous living environment, animals are a rarity and have become a symbol of social status, costing a fortune.

Bounty hunter Rick Deckard dreams of owning a sheep, and he gets the chance to do so when he is assigned to kill six androids of the latest and highly intelligent Nexus 6 model, who have escaped from Mars and are almost indistinguishable from humans.

As the plot progresses, readers may find the android antagonists to be more human than the human protagonist himself. Philip’s novel is a chilling must-read for sci-fi fans.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

Written by neurologist Oliver Sacks, the book tells the case histories of some of Oliver’s patients. The book’s title is a reference to one of his patients called Dr P who has a neurological condition that disables him from recognising faces and common objects.

Because of his condition, Dr P “might pat the heads of water hydrants and parking metres, taking these to be the heads of children” and “amiably address carved knobs on the furniture and be astounded when they did not reply”.

The book contains 24 case histories of Oliver’s patients, split into four sections – Losses, Excesses, Transports and The World of the Simple – each dealing with a particular aspect of brain function.

Sombre yet absorbing, Oliver’s book is a compelling introduction to neurological disorders that allows readers to glimpse into the world of the neurologically impaired.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Most of us grew up reading fairy tales, and while Leigh’s book is indeed a collection of fairy tales, they aren’t exactly the kind that we used to read when we were little.

The Language of Thorns contains six stories altogether, and each story is based on a much beloved fairy tale such as The Little Mermaid, with a twist. Disney’s Ariel may not have the power to summon deadly storms and transform into a human herself but her counterpart in this book certainly does.

Beautifully illustrated by Sara Kipin, this book is a gem for fans of dark and magical fairy tales.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Why do we sometimes find ourselves excitedly buying things we don’t really need? Why doesn’t a one-cent aspirin work on our headache but a fifty-cent aspirin does? Why do we take free things even if we don’t need them?

These are just some of the questions addressed by Dan Ariely in Predictably Irrational. We like to think we’re all rational, but how rational are we, really?

Predictably Irrational is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in behavioural economics.