Take the Time to Read a Book in One Sitting

If you opened this post, good on you. When I am frantically busy, and who isn’t these days, I am angered by anyone who has the temerity to suggest that I read a book in one sitting. While I readily accept that immersing in the world of a book is a wonderful form of self-care, who has the time?

I’ve done some ‘woman-on-the-street’ surveying and a bit of experimenting to find out when people tend to read a book this way. Here’s what I found:

  • Most people plan to read a book in one sitting during a holiday or when they are on vacation.
  • The unplanned version of nonstop reading happens when a book is so good that ‘one more chapter’ turns into a night without sleep.
  • Nonstop reading is often weather-dependent. Snow days and rain downpours are favourites.
  • When you set an annual goal on Goodreads to read 150 books and you have 35 books still to read in the final 39 days of the year. (Okay, yes, I surveyed myself.)

My Reading Experiment

book cover of The Girl She Used to Be girl sitting on suitcase staring at dusty road extending into the distanceThere’s one other time to read a book in one sitting, and that is when you absolutely, positively do not have the time to do so! The theory is that when you step away from the madness for a while, you will return fresh, renewed, and super productive.

I had one of those days last week and I’m behind on Goodreads, so I stopped everything and read a book for a few hours. I read The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano. Here’s an excerpt from the back cover blurb:

When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed a brutal act of violence–and then were lured into the Witness Protection Program. And so Melody lost her identity, her home, her family, and ultimately her innocence….Now, twenty years later and still on the run, she’s stunned when a man calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to find her, knows her, the real her. It’s a thrill Melody can’t resist, and she goes with him willingly, defying the feds.

The New York Times Book Review calls it “something special.” Publishers Weekly gives it a starred review and says that its “mad love scenario sizzles like garlic in hot olive oil.” Doesn’t that sound like the perfect book for some nonstop reading? I thought so too, and I loved every minute of it.

How Fast Do You Read?

I love long books. There’s time in a long book for the author to develop the plot, and for us to care about the characters. But long books aren’t great for nonstop reading when you have limited time.

The average reading speed of the average adult is between 200 and 400 words per minute. Here’s a nifty little test if you’d like to calculate your reading speed. However, do remember that reading speed is dependent on both text and context. You will read faster if writing is logically structured and, in the case of nonfiction, if you already understand the topic.

120 Books Under 300 Pages

Cristofano’s book was a mere 241 pages. I had the benefit of feeling renewed and, indeed, more productive without having to give up an entire day or night to reading. A book under 300 pages is a sweet spot for a book to read in one sitting.

In an effort to encourage you to practice some self-care with a book of your choice sometime soon, I’ve gone through my Goodreads records and found 120 short books that I’ve read or reread in the last three years. This isn’t a ‘best of’ list. I make no promises that you will love every book, I certainly didn’t. It’s also a list with some unusual entries and some gaping holes. For example, there’s no horror and almost no science fiction. I don’t enjoy those genres.

Sixty-eight of the books are in this infographic. Titles and authors are repeated here along with 52 more books.
infographic of 68 covers of books to read in one sitting

Share this Image On Your Site

If you need more enticement to take some time for reading, take a look at the art of women reading, the comfortable reading nooks, and the great cartoons and quotes on my Pinterest board.

When was the last time you read a book in one sitting? Any plans for a time in the near future? Have you a favourite book under 300 pages you’d like to recommend? We’d love to hear your suggestions. And if you’re curious about my rating of specific titles from my list of 120, let me know. I’m happy to share my very subjective opinions.

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  1. Hi Karen, yes I would love to read some books in one sitting. Lately I have been picking up great tomes and no I don’t know why I just seem to gravitate towards those. I plan on picking some books out of your list of 120 and getting through some of them before going back to big heavy door-stopper books. I think our local librarian would be pleased too since I have had to renew these big books so I can have them in my possession for 6 weeks to get them finished. LOL. =)

    I have some suggestions for under 300 page books:
    Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg 284 pages
    No More Dying Then by Ruth Rendell 192 pages
    Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie 221 pages
    The Night Church by Whitley Strieber 279 pages

    In the horror genre I found some that are slightly longer than 300 pages that I like:
    Carrie by Stephen King 199 pages (the only one UNDER 300 pages)
    Cujo by Stephen King 304 pages
    Thinner by Stephen King Writing As Richard Bachman 318 pages
    Night Shift by Stephen King 326 pages
    Misery by Stephen King 338 pages

    Good luck with your Goodreads book goal! =)

  2. Thanks for the book suggestions, Susan. I have read Talk Before Sleep. I love Elizabeth Berg’s writing. And I have read Stephen King’s Misery. But I haven’t read any of the other titles on your list. I’ll be sure to add them to my ‘to read’ list and, since the mysteries are short, may use a few to chew away at my Goodreads goal. The desire to read lengthy tomes is exactly what has put me behind on my goal. These 700 page books really should count for a couple!

  3. You’re welcome Karen! You have read Stephen King’s Misery? I am curious as to what you thought of it; the movie was absolutely shudder worthy. I totally agree with you that the 700 page books should count as two. LOL 😉

  4. My introduction to Stephen King was through his movies. Of the King movies I’ve watched, Misery was the only one I sort of liked because it had actors I like. So that’s why I read the book… and definitely appreciated it much more than the movie.

    Although Stephen King doesn’t write in a genre that I enjoy, I was blown away by his book ‘On Writing’. I had no idea that he’s a writer with a capital ‘W’. The man has serious writing chops. If you can recommend something of his that isn’t too horrific, I’d be happy to give it a try. Thanks.

    1. Sorry for the late reply Karen, this is a terrifically busy time of the year and I am way behind on what seems like everything. =) Books are ALWAYS better than movies for me since my imagination can make things even more vibrant than anything I could watch on a screen.

      Stephen King happens to be my favorite writer and I guess it is my good fortune that I like the genre he writes in. Hmm, something of his that isn’t too horrific that I could recommend would be his books; Lisey’s Story, The Green Mile or Revival. Those would be on the tamer end of his published works.

        1. The Stand is a good one as well. I have a copy on my bookshelf..of course , I just keep collecting. 😉

          Oh, an update of sorts. I have finished The Fireman (yes, I know, FINALLY) lol, and went to the library tonight to return it. I checked out three books that looked interesting. Every one of them is under 300 pages!

          The titles are:
          Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng 292 pages
          seeing me naked by Liza Palmer 296 pages
          The Body in the Boudoir by Katherine Hall Page 255 pages and this one is a Faith Fairchild Mystery!

          The Fireman was good up until the end which I felt wrapped up too quickly after all the buildup over the 747 pages. It left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Blech! :p So I am looking forward to these three.

  5. I envy you Karen, that you can actually read a book in one sitting; I fall asleep after just a few pages! It isn’t that I don’t like to read – I do – and I thoroughly enjoy going to the library and browsing through the books; rather like going to a chocolate shop and choosing delicious-looking chocolates – then getting them home and finding I can’t possibly eat them all. Perhaps the secret is to read very early in the morning – and play John Phillip Sousa at the same time!


    1. Books as tranquilizers. That’s not quite what any author is going for, but you have lots of good company in people who have trouble staying awake while reading. I think you’re right – early morning reading and John Phillip Sousa should do the trick! That and a short book so that you don’t have to tax your eyes for too many days in a row.

    2. Anna, that is one of the great ways I find to fall asleep. When I lay down at night and can’t seem to shut my brain off from all the stresses and plans and sheer busyness of life, I read. Every night I read before bed, usually with my glasses off, to make my eyes tired faster. That way, too, I don’t fall asleep with my glasses on. 😉

      There is a thought….have you had your eyes checked lately? Maybe it is too big of a strain to do much reading. Just wondering if that would help?

      During the daytime, I am like Karen and can finish a book in one sitting if it is short enough. I find no problem reading for hours (with my glasses on) but then I love getting lost in a story and as long as I am sitting up I don’t usually fall asleep.

      I love the way you use the metaphor of browsing through the library like selecting delicious chocolates in a chocolate shop. That imagery will stay with me the next time I go to the library I am sure! =)

  6. Hi Karen,
    I am not a fan of the genre Stephen King usually writes in. I did read and enjoy The Stand- classic good vs evil and 11/22/63 – time travel back to JFK assassination.

    1. Hi Brenda,
      Thanks for the recommendation. I like the sound of the plot of The Stand. It sounds as if it’s not Stephen King’s usual fare, and I’m good with that! I’ll add it to my to-read list.
      Thanks for writing, Brenda.

      1. Hi Brenda,
        I wasn’t reading carefully. I like the plot of 11/22/63 – that’s the one I’m going to try. An unusual title for a book, but then it sounds like a very unusual book.

    2. Hi Brenda, welcome to Profound Journey. So nice to see you in the comments. I love this site and look forward to reading your thoughts across the various postings. =)

      The Stand is a great book of Stephen King’s too. I just finished reading 11/22/63 myself. I enjoyed both but then I like pretty much everything King writes. =)

  7. Hi Karen, I haven’t read a book from cover to end for a very long time. Used to read all the time. A friend gave me his favourite mystery author Louise Penny’s first in a series novel, Still Life. He has been going on about how much he loves her books. It has been sitting on my night table. Reading this has inspired me to make a goal to read this book from beginning to end soon. Now I just have to find time to set the goal..😉..Might be a one sitting book, maybe!!
    Thank you for inspiring me to set a goal..

    1. Hi Donna,
      Thanks for mentioning Still Life. I just looked it up and it sounds really interesting. I love any novel that involves an artist, even a dead one! And apparently there are eight more books in the series. Who knows? If you love Still Life, you may have a number of one-sitting books in your immediate to near future.
      Make your favourite beverage, curl up in your most comfortable chair, throw a cozy afghan over your legs, and sink into your book. Enjoy the gift of great self-care.

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