Reading in Threes: Just a Few Pages

As much as I love a great chunkster, sometimes a short book is just as appealing. Here are three recent reads that fell under the 200 page mark.


god help the child
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Published by Knopf on April 21st, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 178
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Lula Ann Bridewell is born with skin so dark that her mother, Sweetness, is repulsed at the sight of her. In spite of her loveless childhood, Lula Ann grows up to be Bride: a powerful, striking businesswoman who uses her skin to her advantage and turns heads with her beauty. Bride loves and lets go of a man named Booker before she can learn his deeply hidden secrets, and just before she comes face-to-face with her own.

Having read my first Morrison novel only late last year, I came to God Help the Child with just Beloved under my belt. Perhaps I had expectations based on my experience with Beloved, but the first thing I thought when I finished this new novel was, “Where’s the rest?” It just felt incomplete. I felt the beginnings of fables and myths that didn’t get time to fully breathe, and backstories lacking space to grow. Though the combination of Morrison’s words regularly left me in awe, they didn’t quite come together for a complete story here.


that thing you do with your mouth
That Thing You Do With Your Mouth by David Shields and Samantha Matthews
Published by McSweeny’s on June 9th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 160
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In a unique method of sharing a story, That Thing You Do With Your Mouth is the personal history of actress and voice-over artist Samantha Matthews, as told to author David Shields. From her childhood trauma, through her relationships and career to her current life, Shields pens the words relayed by Samantha in stark, shocking detail that demands attention.

There’s something intriguing about the process of this little book—the fact that Matthews handed it over to Shields instead of writing it on her own. Though it didn’t completely win me over, it’s kept me thinking, which says quite a bit. Particularly after recent reads like The Argonauts and Come As You Are, I’ve been mulling over sexual experience and expectations quite a bit, and That Thing You Do With Your Mouth certainly adds to that internal conversation.


prelude to bruise
Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones
Published by Coffee House Press on September 9th, 2014
Source: Library
Pages: 124
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I picked up Prelude to Bruise in an effort to read more poetry, and ended up reading it alongside a re-read of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen during the last 24-Hour Readathon. We’ll go ahead and call that a gut punch. The poems are the story of Boy, a queer black child attempting to navigate gender, race, and family in the violent and sometimes mythical South. They’re heartbreaking and beautiful and you absolutely need to read (or hear) them for yourself.

You can also listen to Saeed Jones discuss poetry, race, and a whole slew of topics on the So Many Damn Books podcast.

Have you read any great books under 200 pages lately?


  • Now you’re talking my language! :) I have both God Save the Child and Prelude to Bruise coming from the library, weird coincidence. Thanks for your $.02!

    • Oooo, you’re really jumping into the poetry now! I love it :)

      • I’m trying. Picked one off the shelf at random today at the bookstore. Mark Doty’s Deep Lane. Read a couple and they were fantastic, but it’s not even 100 pages and $25. Blerg. I’ll get it eventually, they all seemed nature oriented and right up my alley.

  • I’ve heard much of the same from other folks regarding God Help the Child; I think this is why I didn’t jump on it right away. Thank you for sharing Prelude to Bruise; it sounds amazing! Do you think it would make a good audiobook choice? Hope you have a great weekend!

  • Prelude to Bruise is going to have to happen. Thanks for the recommendation! And I agree, sometimes a short book is just what the doctor ordered.

    • It’s more traditional poetry than Citizen, but still not the strict verse that you’d think of from school – I found it to be a great balance and a great read after Claudia Rankine.

  • I saw Saeed Jones speak at BEA, and he was fantastic. I really must read Prelude to Bruise!

    I’ve heard similar things from others about God Help the Child. I’ve also only read Beloved, and I think I’ll stick to her older, more highly lauded books for now.

    • I definitely want to go back and read a few more of her older books – thankfully, her great writing was still there, so this wasn’t distant enough to scare me away completely.

  • I feel really good about the fact that you felt the same way about God Help the Child!

    • Yeah, it definitely quite wasn’t what I would expect from her. I really hope you do give her another chance, though!

  • Do short stories count? Am reading Alice Munro at the moment.

  • Hmm, sort of sad that God Help the Child didn’t live up to expectations :(

  • I must read ALL of these!

  • I really want to read more poetry thanks to Citizen, and Prelude to Bruise sounds like the next stop.

  • Can I just say how awesome you are at bundling together your mini-reviews? For me, it’s always “here are a handful of books that have NO relation to each other, enjoy!” I must learn your ways.

    It’s a bummer to hear about God Help the Child, considering my status as #1 ToMo fangirl.

    After just reading Citizen, I’m going to have to hunt down Prelude to Bruise.

    • P.S. I was on the hunt for a verse novel for my book bingo during my lunch break library run, and I ran into Prelude to Bruise by serendipity. I snatched it up and am very excited to find the time for it!

  • I’ve read several short books or sorry stories lately that have made me wonder where the rest was our at least want more. Fortunately, I’m reading a great collection of very short stories about Tokyo that’s restoring my faith in shorter writing formats :)

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