Includes both books that actually pulled me out of one and books that I think would work well for that. Instead of a top 10, this will be a top 18, because I can.
One of my favorite ways to get out of a reading slump is to choose the shortest book I have on my TBR. Here are some very short novellas that I read very quickly.
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (96 pages) – a Sherlock Holmes retelling in which Holmes is a woman and Watson is a sentient spaceship, set in a Vietnamese space empire. It’s very good, for something that you can read in one morning, and it was unlike everything I had read before. I loved the characters and I really like the Xuya universe/companion series.
A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw (96 pages) – this is the second book in the Persons Non Grata novella series, but it can be read independently from the first. It’s short, it’s a story about grief and monsters, it’s Lovecraftian Southern Gothic written by a Malaysian author, and I have never seen another novella written so well. It almost reads like poetry.
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (110 pages) – alternate history with steampunk aspects, set in New Orleans. The main character is a black girl who has been granted visions (…and maybe something more) by Oya, the Orisha of storms; this story also features a black bisexual airship captain and awesome nuns.
I love books with a mystery aspect because I read them quickly – I want to know what happens.
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (288 pages) – this is a very weird book, definitely polarizing, but I finished it in one day and couldn’t put it down. The first half is a dark, slice-of-life contemporary following a Chinese-American lesbian who gets caught up in an unhealthy f/f/f love triangle, the second half turns into a murder mystery (no dead lesbians!), and unlike the first, it’s told in third person. I love books that explore unhealthy relationships and stories about messy teenagers, especially if there are mysteries involved.
The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé (320 pages) – a f/f horror book I didn’t want to put down, with a mystery element, great symbolism and a main character I love. It’s a story about emptiness and lack of control and drowning. I loved the representation of mental illness, and I thought I would never say that about a horror book.
People Like Us by Dana Mele (384 pages) – just like A Line in the Dark, this is a mystery about queer girls being somewhat terrible, but in a compelling way. It’s a murder mystery with blackmail involved set in a boarding school, and while I found parts of it kind of trashy and predictable, I can say that I didn’t want to stop reading it.
Here are some sci-fi books that I didn’t want to put down while reading.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (336 pages) – I need to reread this book, but the one thing I remember about it is that it’s so much fun. To this day it’s one of the most entertaining adult sci-fi books I know. Also, it’s on the lighter side of adult sci-fi, so you do not have to endure very weird worldbuilding (I love very weird worldbuilding, but I don’t need every book to be that way).
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (376 pages) – Near-future sci-fi with gay and bisexual latinx main characters. I was surprised by how hopeful and not that sad I found this book, just as I was surprised by how fast I read it. The fact that it follows only a day in the main characters’ lives helped. If you do not mind somewhat sad books, this is a really good choice for something to read quickly.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (386 pages) – I think the best word to describe this book, or the Imperial Radch series as a whole, is “effortless”. I was thrown into a very complex world, and yet I was never confused, I never wanted to stop reading it, and it’s not even that fast-paced or suspenseful. It’s just very compelling and I love it. [I recommend this as a book against reading slumps only to those who like complex worldbuilding done well. Those who are in a slump and don’t care about worldbuilding probably won’t care about the fact that it’s done really well and will find it boring anyway].
Books that break the stereotype that adult fantasy is intimidating and slow.
Witchmark by C.L. Polk (272 pages) – this book is short for an adult fantasy novel, but there are so many things happening that I didn’t want to put it down and it didn’t lack depth. It’s a m/m murder mystery with paranormal and steampunk aspects, but it reads just like a romance book. A trope-y one, but that didn’t make the story any less enjoyable or the themes of agency and privilege any less interesting to read.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (402 pages) – Dominion of the Fallen is a genre-bending historical paranormal series set in post-apocalyptic Paris, featuring feuding Houses of fallen angels and a kingdom of Vietnamese Dragons in the Seine, with many queer characters. I really liked the first book – it’s the kind of story I read quickly because of the pacing and the mystery aspect – but the second book is even better and has a cast of characters I love.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin (427 pages) – the first book in a series about polyamorous gods, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is one of the best adult fantasy books I’ve read, with the right balance of court intrigue and romance. I read it because it had been recommended “for people who liked Shadow and Bone and want to get into adult fantasy” and I can say that it is accurate. I didn’t want to stop reading it, and it’s not even short.
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (279 pages) – I read this book almost two years ago and it’s still one of my favorite romances. It’s a f/f story in which the main character is realizing she’s a lesbian, and yet this is not framed as a coming out story. I loved it, it’s short and it’s the perfect YA/NA crossover.
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (336 pages) – a cute contemporary romance that felt unlike every other I had read before, because Clara is not your typical YA protagonist. Reading about a main character who was a prankster was new to me, as much as reading a contemporary book that was mostly about friendship and family while still having a romance. Also, the main character’s dad is possibly the best dad in YA and owns a Korean-Brazilian food truck (…the best food descriptions).
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (355 pages) – everyone is talking about this book recently because of the adaptation, and I can say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read in its genre: even if I didn’t think the sequels were necessary, I devoured them, because they are addicting and I love the Song girls.
Miscellaneous Slump Killers
Some books that got me out of reading slumps.
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda (192 pages) – the only graphic novel I’ve ever really liked. Complex worldbuilding, beautiful art I want to stare at for hours, and compelling plot. Also, gay steampunk Asian matriarchy!
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (305 pages) – this is a very short, very weird book. If reading weird things helps you get out of slumps (it helps me), I do recommend this one. Also, it’s a m/m/f (polyamorous) story that focuses on the m/m side of the relationship.
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (469 pages) – this book got me out of the worst reading slump I’ve had since I started reviewing. It’s urban fantasy/paranormal with a dystopian twist, and a story about being human (or not). It’s very fast-paced, and I loved the main characters and their friendship (no romance!).
Have you read any of these?