Certain genres of books, on the other hand, work really well. I’ve found essay collections, travel guides and short stories to be the best for me.
Collections of essays or, even better, columns are a great place to start. Essays tend to be short and totally independent of each other — at most they’re linked by a common theme. While there are often one or two essays in a collection that take an hour or so to read, you can save it for when you’ve got a little more time to kill and just chip away at the shorter ones when you’re at the bus stop.
If you already have a favorite columnist, see if they’ve published a collection — many prolific ones do. Otherwise, I can wholeheartedly recommend Tim Kreider’s two collections, “We Learn Nothing” and “I Wrote This Book Because I Love You;” “Consider the Lobster and Other Essays” by David Foster Wallace; “How Did You Get This Number” by Sloane Crosley; “Arguably” by Christopher Hitchens; and “A Slip of the Keyboard” by Terry Pratchett (and dozens more if you reach out to me on Twitter!)
Good travel guides are also perfect bite-sized books. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet’s trip guides like “Epic Drives of the World,” “Epic Hikes of the World” and “Epic Bike Rides of the World.” Each one is packed with awesome adventure ideas — a perfect distraction on your morning commute. Or, if you already have a vacation planned, grab a good guidebook for your destination and work your way through it. Not only will you be reading more, but your trip will be even better thanks to all the preparation.
If your tastes skew more toward fiction, consider short stories. While there aren’t many modern writers who do more than dabble with the form, lots of the greats of the last century wrote a ridiculous number. For example, Ernest Hemingway wrote about 60 while Arthur C. Clarke published more than 100. “The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway” and “The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke” collect most of each author’s work in one affordable — if hard to carry — book.
Even some thrillers can work. There are writers like Dan Brown — “The Da Vinci Code” — and Matthew Reilly — “Ice Station” — who seem incapable of writing more than a thousand words in one go without needing to break it into a new chapter. It gives their books serious pace, but it also means that you get a natural stopping point every few minutes — if you can bear to tear yourself away.
How to make bite-sized books work for you
Really, bite-sized books are what you make of them. I started out with a collection of interviews, gradually moved on to essays and short stories and finally, once I was in the habit of reading any time I had a few minutes to spare, straight-up fiction. Since I use the Kindle app on my phone, I don’t even have to think about carrying a book with me.