Bookish List · Uncategorized

Books For When You’re Struggling to Focus: A Masterlist

Hi there!  It’s Sabrina today, and I’m here to tell you about some great books –  as usual 😉  This time, the books I’m highlighting are ones that I think are perfect to read when you are having a hard time focusing.

Every now and then, I find that I can’t concentrate very well – it can be for any number of reasons, but most often it’s due to stress or feeling tired – and when that happens, I can find myself wasting the day away scrolling through Twitter or simply drifting around the house doing nothing.  Recently, I was feeling this way, but I was in luck because the book I was reading at the time had captivating little stories that were short enough to keep my attention throughout their entirety, so I discovered that I could keep reading – and therefore, keep doing something I actually enjoyed.  It also helped take my mind off of what was stressing me out.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has trouble with concentrating on a full length novel sometimes but still wants to read so today I offer a solution – a huge list of books that I think are amazing for reading when you are struggling to focus!


There is so much to love about collections – but I particularly love that usually, if you’re not enjoying one story, you can simply skip it.  This makes it great for when you can’t concentrate along with the knowledge that you only have a few pages to read before you can start on a totally new story – you don’t have to stick with the same one all day like you have to with a novel.  Here are some collections that I’ve enjoyed:

People From My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami
adult microfiction, surreal, charming

The Girl Aquarium by Jen Campbell
adult poetry, whimsical, dark

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
adult, surreal, whimsical, unsettling

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
adult horror, atmospheric, mysterious, interconnected

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell
adult, surreal, mysterious, poetic

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
adult, haunting, intense, speculative

Arab, Australian, Other: Stories on Race and Identity edited by Randa Abdel-Fattah and Sara M. Saleh
adult nonfiction, memoir, reflective, emotional

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
YA fantasy, magical, whimsical, dark

Stronger, Faster, And More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
YA sci-fi, interconnected, disturbing, futuristic

Meet Me At The Intersection edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina
YA poetry, fiction + memoir, thought provoking, reflective

Grim edited by Christine Johnson
YA retellings, dark and creepy, fun and lighthearted


I tried to find an actual definition for novellas on Google, but there were none that I liked so for my purposes today, I’m defining novellas as books under 150 pages.  These are great for the purpose of this post because they are typically fast paced and don’t require you to learn and keep track of huge amounts of worldbuilding.  Sometimes, you can even find novellas that are short stories from worlds that you’ve already read the full length novels for, and these can be even better when you can’t focus, because you already know and love the world and characters.  Here’s my top recommendations:

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor
YA fantasy, cute and fun, whimsical

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
YA sci-fi, fast, space-y

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
YA, surreal, scary, emotional

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
classic, seasonal, hopeful

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
adult fantasy, cosy, magical, dark

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
adult fantasy, feminist, whimsical, emotional

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
middle grade fantasy, magical, dark, faeries

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
YA classic, found family, emotional

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold
adult contemporary, emotional, isolation


Typically, these are very quick reads with short sentences and as a bonus, you get some artwork, (ranging from “nice” to “absolutely incredible”), to look at too!  Not all graphic novels are created equally, as I have discovered that I tend to either totally love them or hate them, so keep that in mind when you try them because you might not find the perfect fit for you right away!  With that said, here are some of my favourites:

Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
fantasy, horror, adventurous, gorgeous

The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill
middle grade fantasy, adorable, emotional, hopeful

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell
YA fantasy, retellings, twisty, different

Marvel Masterworks: The Incredible Hulk Volume 1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
classic, ridiculous, fun

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
YA fantasy, magical, fun, emotional

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson and Jared K. Fletcher
YA sci-fi, time travel, found family

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
adult sci-fi, war, fun, adventurous

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
YA, contemporary + fantasy, retellings, scary, hopeful, beautiful

The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Batman, mysterious, action packed

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Jim Kay and Siobhan Dowd
middle grade, illness, emotional, magical


If you think you can handle something a little bit longer, I’ve got you covered with these suggestions.  These books are under, or really close to, 250 pages, but more than 150.  I know sometimes knowing that I’m reading a short book that I can finish relatively quickly helps me keep my attention on it, so these options are great if you are the same.  Here they are:

The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole
adult romance sci-fi, fun, action packed

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole
adult contemporary romance, fun, nerdy

Peter Darling by Austin Chant
adult fantasy romance, atmospheric, retellings, emotional

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
adult, speculative, dark, contemplative

 Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
adult sci-fi, mysterious, creepy

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
adult sci-fi romance, poetic, adventurous

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
adult historical, reflective, slow paced

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
adult historical, reflective, slow paced

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
YA, magical, monsters, hopeful

Lanny by Max Porter
adult retelling, atmospheric, strange, emotional

The Giver by Lois Lowry
middle grade dystopian, thought provoking, hopeful

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
adult horror, unsettling, dark, mysterious

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
YA contemporary, emotional, mysterious

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
classic, atmospheric, dark

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
YA contemporary, emotional, reflective, hopeful

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
adult, mysterious, emotional, atmospheric

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
adult memoir + fiction, poetic, emotional

Persuasion by Jane Austen
classic, romance, reflective, surprising

Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim
YA historical, dual perspective, challenging, emotional

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc
nonfiction, fairytales, memoir, thought provoking

Making Up by Lucy Parker
adult contemporary romance, cute, artsy

What do you think?

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? Do you struggle to concentrate sometimes, but still want to read? Let me know!

8 thoughts on “Books For When You’re Struggling to Focus: A Masterlist

  1. Oh, this is such a fantastic idea, Sabrina!! ❤ And really helpful for when university is taking up too much brain space for me 😄 Novellas are perfect because they are so short and I have been eyeing Silver in the Woods for some time now, it looks intriguing! I also love to dive into graphic novels and really need to continue with Saga 😊


  2. I love a good short novel!! They are what keeps me going between tomes of books, which usually have me tired of reading for a little bit. I think I’ve even read a good chunk of the short novels you’ve mentioned haha there’s definitely fewer I haven’t picked up than the other way around.


  3. Some great suggestions here. I usually go with a novella or anthology if I’m really struggling to focus because sometimes the satisfaction of finishing a book is enough to kick start my reading focus. I didn’t think about graphic novels though. They’re so quick to read and they are always enjoyable. And I didn’t realise some of those books you suggested for a short novel were as short as all that. I mean Piranesi I kind of assumed would be long after the authors previous novel was so long. Maybe that’s another option I should try.


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