I remember exactly when I got spoiled by books with short chapters. It was Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, book one in the Miriam Black series. Then, of course, the rest of the books in the series followed suit; those short, buzzy, chapters transformed an average reading experience into something fast-paced and exhilarating.
Related: If I Only Knew What I Know Now: 7 Books You Need to Re-Read Immediately
Why are short chapters great, Sadie? I’m glad someone asked that question. There are really two reasons why they work for me. The first reason is that they keep me engaged in the story. The pages fly by. The end of the chapter comes up and my mind moves right on to the next, simply because it’s a numbers game. What are two more pages? Five more? And so on and so on until before you know it, you’re halfway into the book.
The second reason is the option to tap out at the beginning of a new chapter quickly. I want to be able to finish a chapter and then drop that bookmark in at the beginning of the next one. If I’m in bed pushing myself to finish the chapter I’m in and it just keeps going and going, I will look ahead to see when the next available tapping out point will be. Sometimes it’s ten more pages and there’s just no way, my eyes are feeling heavy and I have to quit for the night. It drives me bananas to put a bookmark in the middle of a chapter. I feel like when I return to where I left off, I need to find my footing in the story again instead of just a fresh chapter. It’s a real problem! Book nerds understand.
So if you’re feeling what I’m putting down here, I have some book recommendations for readers who enjoy short chapters.
Abbott sets up the atmosphere surrounding this prestigious, private ballet school owned by twin sisters. The sisters are quirky and strange in their fastidious, obsessive dedication to perfection; unified in just about every way on the surface. A contractor shows up to start remodeling and repairing their deteriorating ballet school becoming the catalyst for exposing fissures in their relationship.
Yummy, scrummy, delicious chapters. I just kept reading and reading and reading.
In the Valley of the Sun
This story is dark. Pitch-black. It’s one of those tales that reach far back enough into everyone’s past that nobody is a villain—and yet, there are villainous acts. There is wickedness. Blood is shed. There are terrifying scenes.
There’s enough meat on the bones of this story to satisfy any fan of any genre; not just appealing to horror fans—this book would appeal to readers who love the chase between detective and fugitive; the chase between a man and a woman; and, especially, the chase between good and evil. The page-turning is fast and feverish. I couldn’t get enough.
48 Hours to Kill
A likable guy who has become hardened by prison life. Upon his return home, things go as expected: He has an awkward visit with his mother, a tense run-in with old co-workers at the club, and his initial face-off with his former boss, Shark doesn’t go well. Bourelle takes his time with these scenes and yet the chapters get right to the point in just a few pages. Nothing about the narrative feels ‘phoned-in’. The dialog is authentic. Each character is fully formed and fleshed out. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the main character, Ethan, and get helplessly invested in his cause.
As the hours wind down to mere minutes, the pages fly by.
The Bright Lands
This book is almost five hundred pages but it doesn’t feel like it. It takes a good hundred pages before I felt settled with the quick pace and the large cast of characters. But once I did, the story became quite compelling and engaging. Fram introduces some unexpected elements that lift this book beyond stereotypical, YA genre labeling and into a fresh, contemporary horror novel with thoughtful, social commentary on bullying and homophobia. It’s an emotional story with unique twists and original characters. The chapters are short and labeled with a character’s name, so readers know where they are in the story and whose POV we’re following. I’m looking forward to more from John Fram.
The Between is a supernatural horror story seamlessly blending together important themes of marriage/relationships, mental illness, racism, grief/loss, and identity.
Hilton James isn’t supposed to be alive. He was rescued from drowning when he was a child by his grandmother. But he’s here and he loves his family and his job as the director of a drug rehab center. He begins to have feverish, vivid dreams. At the same time, his wife starts receiving racially charged death threats. Hilton is coming apart at the seams but he’s trying to keep it together. The chapters are short and sweet. I especially enjoyed the fever dreams. This book keeps readers on their toes and makes a fast grab for your emotions. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read.