Book-wise, good things do come in small packages.

I got to thinking about this while reading "The Christmas Guest." Peter Swanson's 2023 mystery is fine, but I was most compelled by the afterword, in which Swanson says he specifically wrote "Guest," which is 96 pages long, so it could be gobbled in one sitting.

In general, my take on book length would be similar to Roger Ebert's pronouncement that "no good movie is long enough and no bad movie is short enough," but Swanson has a point. There are times when a shortie is just the ticket: If you've been taking a reading break and you're diving in again; if it's December and your book club needs a title that accommodates busy schedules; if it's snowing and you want to hang under an afghan until shovel time; or even if you just crave the satisfied sigh you emit when you flip the last page (that's not just me, right?).

The exact length of one-day reads depends on how speedily you read and the kind of book it is (I'm leaning toward titles written for adults but much of Rebecca Stead, Kate DiCamillo and Lemony Snicket's excellent work can be read in a day). I'm thinking the sweet spot is around 100 pages. In that spirit, here are some titles you can whip through on a lazy afternoon:

"Ballad of the Sad Cafe" — Not a week goes by in which I don't think of Carson McCullers' tragic romance, which insists "[t]here are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries." Its 50 pages aren't hopeful about love, but they are packed with insight.

"Chronicle of a Death Foretold" — I know what you're thinking: Gabriel García Márquez is known for dense masterpieces such as "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and "Love in the Time of Cholera." Granted, but as much as I love both, my favorite is this riveting novella, which reads almost like an Alfred Hitchcock movie plays. Beginning with this foreboding sentence — "On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on." — it explores the near-misses and diversions on the way to a murder. (Coming next week, his "Until August" is also just 100 pages.)

"Notes on Grief" — That title sounds like a bummer, but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's rage-filled reflections on the death of her father are strangely comforting, like a hand on your shoulder that reminds you that whatever you're feeling is OK.

"Passing" — Nella Larsen's Harlem Renaissance novel focuses on two women in the Jazz Age. Both biracial, they have taken different paths (one presents to the world, including her husband, as white). Things come to a shocking climax as Larsen explores the horrors of racism and the price of hiding from it.

"The Sense of an Ending" — Like several of these speed reads, Julian Barnes' book turns on a character's dramatic reappraisal of events he thought he understood. When Tony Webster meets up with an old friend, he helps Tony see the past in a new light and realize his life was built on a devastating lie.

"Small Things Like These" — Claire Keegan is ideal for your read-in-one-day needs because all of her work is brief, but "Small Things" is the most satisfying. Set in Ireland in 1985, its hero is a coal merchant named Bill, who has a surprising encounter that helps him see how centuries of patriarchy have damaged the lives of Irish women.

What are your favorite one-sitting books? Let us know at