Short on time? Turn to short stories

As a newcomer to the somewhat daunting world of the early morning London commute, I am impressed by the people who, undeterred by the uncomfortably close mass of armpits and elbows, continue to be absorbed in their books whilst standing in a cramped tube carriage. Having managed to get on the wrong train once already, reading an engrossing book on the tube probably carries too great a risk, but I was reminded of someone who recently told me that they never had the time to read. Yet these resilient Londoners prove that even the busiest of people can enjoy a good book if determined enough.  Though I am still sceptical of an English teacher who once told our class that he woke up at five-thirty every morning to read – presumably implying to the unenthused GCSE students that reading Lord of the Flies was not that great an effort – if a story is gripping enough, booklovers will use any opportunity to carry on reading it.

If you’re short on time, however, War and Peace might not be your first choice of recreational reading material (although you can find A&B’s brilliant episodical summary here) but collections of short stories could provide an alternate option. The likes of Robert Barnard’s  Rogue’s Gallery, for example, would satisfy any fan of detective fiction without having to invest more than a train journey uncovering a mystery’s resolution.

The BBC’s upcoming National Short Story Awards (now currently accepting entries) celebrates this underrated form of fiction every year. Its previous winners provide plenty of inspiration for anyone looking to enjoy something new and under 8000 words, and we’ll soon have more to choose from as this year’s shortlist will be revealed in September.

Whether it’s during the hustle and bustle of the weekday commute, in the small hours of the morning, or – perhaps more realistically – whilst lounging in the sun on holiday, it would be a shame not to find time to enjoy the escapism of fiction at least every once in a while.

Sarah Johnson, currently doing work experience at A&B

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