Whenever I feel my attention span dwindling, I turn to these four books.
They’re highly condensed, edited to the maximum, and hook your attention on every page. Plus, they’re made up of stand-alone chapters so you can flip them open and start wherever you like.
These quietly addictive books are ideal if you want to recharge your attention span, tackle longer books, and fall in love with reading over and over again.
Sum by Dave Eagleman
The subtitle reads: Forty tales from the afterlives.
And the book delivers just that — forty mind-boggling, witty, and confusing accounts of what life might be like after death. Each of these short chapters is, of course, contradictory to the next.
In one of my favorite tales, you get to choose the being you’d like to be in your next life. And because being human is complex and difficult, human, you crave simplicity. You don’t want to worry about the human condition anymore — you simply want to enjoy your time on this planet.
So you choose to be a horse grazing the fields.
Seconds later, a wand is waved, and your limbs morph into four muscular legs with hoofs. Your vocal cords start whinnying. Your brain capacity shrinks.
But suddenly, you forget what it was like to be human. You don’t even understand what a human is. You slipped down a slide of intelligence and you can’t climb back up. And just before your brain grows thick, you realize that a simple life is impossible without knowing what it’s like to live a complex life.
Yup, that’s just one of forty chapters.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
I love that every book by Matt Haig is tragically cheerful. He acknowledges that life can be dark but there are also reasons to be happy and hopeful.
The book is a collection of short stories, meditations, recipes, thoughts, and quotes. The chapters are kept short. The language is simple. The tone optimistic.
“You don’t have to continually improve yourself to love yourself. Love is not something you deserve only if you reach a goal.”— Matt Haig, The Comfort Book
Whenever I’m melancholic or unmotivated, my attention span is shorter than a distracted puppy. But The Comfort Book offers so many treats that I keep reading. And I feel gradually better. Anxiety diminishes. Hope returns.
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
This was the first book I read by Maya Angelou and I was instantly in love with her prose. It’s raw, honest, and straight to the point.
In Letter to My Daughter, she writes about the life lessons she learned as a black woman who traveled the world. It’s obvious that Angelou lived a rich life with thousands of incredible experiences. And yet, the chapters are short, captivating, and insightful.
My favorite story is the one about Angelou’s time in Marocco.
A group of locals invited her to have a coffee with them. She agreed tentatively but politely sat down with the locals. As she was chugging down the coffee, she noticed bugs crawling on the ground. And then she felt a cockroach on her tongue. She wanted to spit it out. But her good behavior taught her otherwise. And so, she felt three more cockroaches slipping down her throat as she was drinking the cup dry.
Years later, she picked up a book about African tribes. She learned that these tribes swap goods for goods and use the little money they have to buy raisins. They slip these raisins into a coffee they offer to strangers. It’s a sign of honor and respect.
I love this anecdote. The world is too beautiful to be a cynical place. Always assume the best in people.
The Moth Presents All These Wonders
If you love stories, the Moth doesn’t need an introduction. And if you’re like, “Stories are not my thing,” then you’re in for a treat.
The Moth is a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing beautiful stories with the world, around the world. They host regular events in which anyone can tell their story. Books like All These Wonders are collections of the very best stories from these events.
The stories are never longer than five minutes, and you’ll be hooked after a few paragraphs.
You’ll encounter true stories about a survivor from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a one-hit-wonder hip-hop artist who found his purpose after meeting Lawrence Fishburne (twice), or the time Lewis C.K. went to Russia right after the fall of the Soviet Union — and so much more.
These stories are about hope, love, and connection. They’re about loss, despair, and loneliness. They make you realize the richness and diversity of life.
It has become part of my morning ritual to devour one of these stories while I sip on my tea. It surges me with warmth up to my fingertips.
4 Quietly Addictive Books for Short Attention Spans
The next time you feel your focus dwindling, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you have to stop reading. It just means you need to switch it up. To recap, here are the four quietly addictive books that get me out of a slump every time:
- Sum by David Eagleman
- The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
- Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
- The Moth Presents All These Wonders