Books for a short attention span

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 | Columns, La Mesa Reads, Top Stories | No Comments

By Heather Pisani-Kristl | La Mesa Reads

When condolences, comedy, and legislation can be tweeted in 280 characters, the long-form novel doesn’t stand a chance. Glued to our phones, tablets and smart watches, we rarely have time to engage in the slow process of getting to know a cast of fictional characters or the history of an idea. If your attention span has fallen victim to Facebook, try these books to get back into the reading habit.


The urban fantasy series “Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher: Harry Dresden, wizard and supernatural P.I., assists the Chicago Police Department when they encounter those difficult-to-solve paranormal crimes. While definitely not short in length, novels such as “Storm Front” and “Fool Moon” contain enough cliffhangers and magical weapons per chapter to keep you turning the pages.

“No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher Short Stories” by Lee Child: Brief cases from the life of drifter and former Army investigator Jack Reacher, from his childhood through his present exploits. If you haven’t finished all of the full-length novels yet, you’ll enjoy a little backstory to warm you up before you dive back into the series.

The “BookShots” series by James Patterson, published by Little, Brown & Co.: Patterson shrinks his trademark thriller plots into 150 pages or fewer; the County Library has purchased scads of these in paper, e-book and downloadable audiobook. These are original novellas, not abridgements, and among them are familiar characters from Patterson’s full-length novels, such as Detective Michael Bennett and the members of the Women’s Murder Club.


“Economic Ideas You Should Forget,” edited by Bruno S. Frey and David Iselin: Respected economists from around the world contribute two-page explanations of why beloved economic principles should be reconsidered. Topics brought into question are controversial (“Home Ownership is Good,” “Size of Government Doesn’t Matter”) and timely (“Robots Will Take All Our Jobs,” “Hosting the Olympic Games”). Rich in vocabulary and theory, these brief essays won’t take much of your time. Fans of “Freakonomics” will find substantial discussion here.

“The Best American Travel Writing 2016,” edited and with an introduction by Bill Bryson: Although the library owns the 2017 edition, I’m recommending the 2016 edition for the caliber of authors it contains: Michael Chabon lost in Morocco, Pico Iyer on being a foreigner here and overseas, Patricia Marx exploring the South Korean plastic surgery craze, William T. Vollmann in Fukushima with a Geiger counter, and Paul Theroux visiting Harper Lee’s Alabama hometown. You may not want to visit some of these places after reading about them, but you’ll be glad that someone else did.

Second Saturday performance series

Enjoy live musical performances in a family-friendly setting, brought to you by the Friends of La Mesa Library. Guitarist and singer Dale Desmuke will be playing bluegrass and Americana at the library on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.

The library will be closed on Monday, Dec. 25 for the Christmas holiday, and Monday, Jan. 1 for the New Year’s holiday. The library will be closed on Monday, Jan. 15 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Friends membership renewal

Members of the Friends of La Mesa Library have a new benefit – 50 percent off in the Friends bookstore any time of the year. If you’d like to join the Friends for the first time, pick up a form at the library or print out an application at It only costs $5 for a single membership; proceeds from memberships and book sales support events at the library. Renewal reminders and information on the bookstore discount were sent to members’ homes in December for January renewal.

—Heather Pisani-Kristl is managing librarian of the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or get information online at

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