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If you're busy with the demands of young children, a career, or both, it can feel like you never have time to read. And when you finally do have time to read, it's difficult to find a book that you can pick up and put down frequently when you get interrupted. Don't worry, your problems are solved! Here as a busy mom myself, I'm recommending these books which I have read that do not have too many complicated things to keep track of. Nor do they have confusing timelines, nor do they have too many characters. They won't hop from character to character confusingly where you have to figure out whose head you're in.
I hear you. You need books that can be picked up and put down at a moment's notice yet are still exciting and well-written. These books can all be put down in the middle of a sentence and picked back up minutes, hours, or days later without getting lost.
All of the books I recommend here are beautifully written and hold together well.
These books are clear proof that a straightforward plot that is stunningly executed will be more exciting AND easier to read for you than all the twists and turns of a gimmicky plot in the hands of a lesser author.
Fun and exciting books for women who don't have time to read
Let's get right to it. I'm listing these books by genre, so if you don't like a particular genre keep scrolling down, you'll find something you'll want to read! There are no spoilers - after introducing the book I have mentioned my take on it and why it's suited to busy people, but any info about the plot goes no further than what you'd see on the blurb. You can tap or click on any of the images if you want to look at the book on Amazon.
While there are many books total in this popular genre, I've found that comparatively few domestic suspense novels manage to work with the schedules of super-busy people. Here are some wonderful ones that do work if you're busy - there's no mysterious backstory that we have no idea whose it is, and we're not in some mysterious entity's head where we then have to guess which actual character it corresponds too. So grab one of these, and enjoy! (Until you have to put it down again!)
Would I Lie to You? by Aliya Ali-Afzal
This is my absolute favorite book I've read recently - an exciting and relatable plot for moms yet super-easy to follow. In this book, Faiza, a wife and mother of three kids, fits in well with the other moms around her by copying their styles and their parties - but at the cost of her secretly depleting the emergency fund that she and her husband set up years ago.
Her loving husband earns well, so she figures they don't really need the emergency fund, right?! Wrong. Her husband loses his job. He's not too worried because the emergency fund can kick in to pay expenses until he finds a new job. Now Faiza either has to find a way to tell him she spent it all, knowing that this may cost her the marriage. Or... if she can come up with the $100,000 herself, then she won't have to tell him. With the clock ticking and the ongoing demands of her kids and parents, how can Faiza accomplish this?
I did not want to put this book down! It was super-easy to read and to stop and start as needed. The book follows Faiza's character the whole time so you always know what's going on at any moment.
A word about the writing - this author is absolutely top-notch! I initially felt very unsympathetic towards Faiza for what I saw as her deceitful and fiscally imprudent behavior towards her family and did not see how I could ever feel positively towards her. Yet, the plot was so gripping that I avidly kept reading, and I soon found myself cheering her on while simultaneously being kept on the edge of my seat by all the things that went badly for her. Many unexpected and often negative ramifications of each of her decisions occurred, yet Faiza's warm and loving demeanor won me over. I also appreciated that the author used this exciting plot to also sensitively portray issues of race in a realistic and non-preachy way.
If you don't have time to scroll further for more book suggestions, get this one - you simply can't go wrong with it! You can get it here on Amazon
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Fake by Erica Katz
If as a mom you prefer to read domestic suspense outside of the mom world, then Fake by Erica Katz is the book for you. Set in the world of trendy art galleries, talented artist Emma Caan is struggling to make a living.
Emma works for a company making near-perfect replicas of art, labeled as such, for wealthy collectors who own the original but who prefer to display the copy in their homes. This way the owner can keep the original safely elsewhere in a fireproof, humidity- and temperature-controlled safekeeping environment.
When a billionaire art collector approaches her with a new and higher paying job offer in the art milieu, Emma is thrilled at the prospect of no longer living paycheck to paycheck. With this new job, Emma gains access to fancy parties, art fairs, auctions, and more. But Emma finds herself under obligations with the new job, and she soon discovers that things are not what they seem.
I found this book captivating and fast-paced - and I loved that it had nothing to do with babies, kids, playdates and all of the logistics of being a busy mom. This novel is well thought out and superbly paced, and I loved the escapism it offered - the ability to be part of a completely different world while I was reading it.
Author Erica Katz does a great job of making Emma be a relatable person with plenty of insecurities, dreams, and fears. I love that we meet Emma while she is struggling to make ends meet and, same as any of us, does not know all the unwritten social rules of high society. The book alternates the present day with flash-forwards - and the way it's done here actually helps the reader. This is because it allows us to see forwards in time while we are still reading the present day part of the plot, and this alerts us to potential red flags to watch for (or that Emma should be watching for, I guess). This book was very easy to read and the plot easy to grasp, and it had a momentum of its own that kept me wanting to go back to it every time I had to put it down.
Romantic comedy is a wonderful genre of fiction that leaves everyone feeling good and provides a lighthearted read with plenty of laughs along the way. There's really nothing not to love about this genre!
Of course, for busy moms who have limited time to read, it's important to go for plots with comparatively few main characters. Avoid the ones where there are 4 couples that are all mismatched and you have trouble keeping track of them all before they wind up properly matched at the end.
Here are my recommendations for romantic comedy that you can pick up and put down without getting lost.
The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas
Catalina has a successful career and a wonderful best friend - but there's nothing happening in her love life. Her sister in Spain is getting married and Catalina feels embarrassed about still being single. Not wanting to disappoint her parents, she had made up a lie about having an American boyfriend. But now all her family in Spain wants to meet him at the wedding. The lie takes on a life of its own and Catalina needs to find someone who will be her date and travel to Spain with her for the wedding. Her co-worker Aaron, who she doesn't get along with, offers to do it. If she accepts, can she and Aaron possibly survive the wedding without killing each other?
I love that The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas is a laugh-out-loud read - literally. My son asked me on several occasions while I was reading this book "What are you laughing at, Mom?" The straightforward plot has enough going on to keep you hooked while not being taxing. On a more serious note, the book also touches on the important issues of sexism and racism that women, and especially Latina women, can encounter in the workplace.
This book is ideal for fans of hate to love plots and women who enjoy a strong female main character.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Bea Schumacher is a plus-size fashion and style blogger with one problem - the guy she likes has broken her heart. She escapes into watching a popular reality dating show on TV, but is disappointed by the choice of women who are selected to be on the show. The women are all stick-thin! Bea would love to watch a version of the show with more body diversity - heck, more diversity in general. When she gripes about this issue publicly on her blog, to her surprise she is selected by the producers to actually be on the show. Can Bea find love on this show? And what about the guy who broke her heart?
In One to Watch, the readers follows all of Bea's exciting experiences and emotions in this fun yet totally unpredictable plot.
You'll find this book easy to pick up and put down since you're with Bea the whole time. The plot moves around more than you would think and this is because the producers of the reality dating show keep throwing curve balls at Bea! There are quite a few guys in total in this book but author Kate Stayman-London makes it easy on the reader by making it clear which guys are the main ones and which ones are more minor characters. Even if you lose track of a guy or two in the book as I did, it doesn't matter because it'll be one of the minor characters so it won't make any difference to keeping up with the plot.
In addition to plenty of lighthearted froth, the author presents body image issues (both from the person's and the beholder's point of view) in a relatable and accessible way, but still seriously. This is a book that will make you laugh, cry, and think.
Horror and supernatural
A good spine-chilling read is a great way for busy moms to escape from the pressures of everyday life. Although I read less frequently in this genre, when I find a good book with a clear plot, it really stands out to me. Likewise, even if you're not normally drawn to horror, you may be pleasantly surprised by these ones which will appeal to busy women.
Bird Box and its sequel Malorie by Josh Malerman
You've almost certainly heard of the book Bird Box by Josh Malerman or seen the movie adaptation, but if you haven't yet read its sequel Malorie then you're in for a treat. Both books are set in a near-future world where the only safety is in a blindfold. Unspeakable insanity leading to death is in store for anyone who sees the horrifying creatures who have come to inhabit Earth. In both, Malorie has to keep not only herself safe, but two children also, which is something all moms can relate to.
Both books are easy to read, gripping, and very scary. The plots of both are easy to follow and will resonate with the reader. This is how scary the book is: I refused to watch the movie of Bird Box based on how scary the book already was. It doesn't get any scarier than this! Malorie was great too, for fans who want more after the first book ends (and yes, the creatures exist in the second book also). Since the books are so scary, even the busiest person will keep wanting to come back to it. You won't be bored!
Crossroads by Laurel Hightower
If the unthinkable happened and your child passed away, what would you do to bring them back if you could? This is the premise of Crossroads by Laurel Hightower. The main character Chris is full of grief after her son dies in a car accident. Then while at his roadside memorial, a drop of her blood falls. Later on, she thinks she sees her son appear outside her home. But is it really him? If so, is he OK? What is going on? Is there some sinister evil at play here?
The reader is quickly drawn into Chris's dilemma about whether and how to see her son. We are also drawn into her life, which includes a tense relationship with her mother, making this novel just as much about intergenerational relationships as it is a scary horror story. I own a paperback copy of this book and it's a slim volume - much thinner than the other books I've mentioned here, but it packs an incredibly powerful punch for anyone, and is absolutely gut-wrenching for a mom of kids. You'll find yourself needing to read it in bits here and there because it's so scary and horrifying that I cannot imagine how it would feel to read it in one sitting.
The book is ideal for busy people because as mentioned, you'd need to put it down quickly anyway because it's so scary. I cannot say any more about it because there are no spoilers here, but suffice to say this is not a book you could ever forget reading. So fix yourself a warm drink and make a start on it!
Yes, it is possible to read non-fiction which is gripping and intellectually stimulating yet does not contain too many different things to keep track of. Here are some non-fiction books which I've read recently that fits all the requirements for a busy mom whose reading keeps getting interrupted.
A Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald
This book is the memoir of Kurt Eichenwald, a journalist who happens to have epilepsy. His struggle to pursue his life and his career is described unflinchingly in the face of his challenges with epilepsy. This condition leaves him at times incapacitated without any warning, often placing him in mortal danger. Long-term issues with memory persist also, and he describes his system of record-keeping and of interviewing others to piece together the missing parts of his life. He survives medical incompetence at the hands of doctors who almost killed him. Determined to succeed against all odds - including the prejudice of others - he achieved success and acclaim in his chosen career as a journalist.
His clear yet engaging account of his life in A Mind Unraveled lets the reader see his struggle to understand his condition and the cost of living a normal life for someone with epilepsy. Having a career with a company that offers comprehensive health insurance is a must, as is living in a big city with public transportation (since he cannot drive with epilepsy).
Although the subject matter sounds rather grim, it's not at all a grim read. It's filled with hope and wonder the whole way through, and he tells his story not just from the point of view of a career journalist, but also as a husband and father.
Since this is the memoir of one man, there are no confusing extra bits to keep track of (as there might be in other types of long-form journalism, for example). He has taken pains to present medical information carefully and factually, yet very accessibly for the layperson. There were places in this book where tears sprang to my eyes, and you will definitely find yourself captivated by it.
Everything is Fine by Vince Granata
Vince Granata had a normal early childhood, but what happens when a sibling suffers from severe schizophrenia?
In his true story Everything is Fine, when grown up as young adults, Vince's younger brother Tim was living at home with his parents, unable at that time to live independently due to schizophrenia. Then something terrible happened: Tim killed his mother in an act of horrific violence. The delusions the schizophrenia caused had made Tim believe that he needed to do that.
Many miles away, Vince was helping out as an aid worker in a school overseas when this happened, and he came home to grieve. With their mother dead and Tim in prison, how can Vince and his other siblings continue their lives? How can they ever move on with their lives in the weight of this shock and grief?
This memoir, while it contains a lot of sadness, was surprisingly engaging to read because the reader is so quickly drawn into this family and the unique problems that Tim's schizophrenia posed. Vince is an appealing and responsible older brother who gives a clear and candid account of his feelings and of his family. This book looks backwards a lot, which is to be expected. Because it is written in a personal and conversational tone, the book makes for a straightforward read yet draws the reader into the complex subject matter and powerful emotions quickly.
It's true that much of the science fiction genre can be complex, but there are still plenty of books that are well suited to busy parents. The ones I've selected here keep the reader going and are easy to pick up and put down. No complicated galactic political factions, no being blinded by science, just great plots set in the near future.
Light Years from Home by Mike Chen
This is a story mainly of three adult siblings, but it's more than that. In Light Years From Home, Evie's family fractured fifteen years ago on a camping trip when her brother Jakob vanished and her father went missing for several days. Evie never gave up hope of finding Jakob, but her sister Kass thinks he either voluntarily disappeared or is dead. The sisters can't agree on this and their discussions are always fraught with argument. Evie and Kass become estranged.
Suddenly, an event happens and Evie goes to their childhood home to visit Kass, now living there with their mom. To everyone's surprise, Jakob shows up there shortly after. He speaks of aliens and a war being fought in the galaxy. Is Jakob telling the truth, as Evie thinks, or is he mentally ill and suffering from delusions, as Kass thinks?
The stakes are high - because if Jakob is really involved in an intergalactic war, then he and his mission in visiting Earth have him targeted by aliens. Can the sisters figure out what is really going on, and if so, can they provide Jakob the help he needs?
Light Years From Home is an easy and fun read, yet offers the reader plenty to think about, from adult sibling dynamics to the challenges of caring for an aging parent, and how to uncover what is really true in two fundamentally opposing points of view. The messy real-world difficulties of dysfunctional families are something every mom can relate to in one way or another. I'd describe this book as action and adventure with a science fiction angle, making it a great first choice for the busy person looking to read in the science fiction genre.
Trashlands by Alison Stine
This science fiction novel provides a warning look at the mid-range future if nothing is done to combat pollution and global warming. Besides being powerfully predictive, what engages the reader in Trashlands is not just the post-apocalyptic world but also the individuals struggling to survive in this world. It's told mostly from the point of view of Coral, who works as a plucker grabbing garbage in rivers and landfills to sell or trade: this is the most common type work that people do in that bleak future. But Coral is trying to do more than just survive: she's trying to save up enough money to get her son back from the plastic recycling factory where he got taken to when he was kidnapped. Unlike almost anyone else in that world, Coral likes to make art whenever she can with bits and pieces of what she finds. This is often at the cost of eating a meal.
Her life and her struggle changes when a reporter arrives from far away and wants to write about what he sees at Trashlands. Will Coral be able to get her son back? Will she continue her art? What will life look like for her?
Although this book does hop around between different characters, it's done in a clear and easy way, where you're never puzzled about what's going on. The plot is linear, and a lot of it is about experiencing Coral's world and her anguish at being separated from her son. Busy readers will appreciate the thought and care that the author put into the world building - you're immersed in it from the get-go, and the world and the explanations unfold gradually as you read. This makes what would be some fairly complex concepts quite digestible and easy to read.