10 Must-Read Books with Quirky Female Leads You Can Finish in a Weekend

We’ve rounded up the best quick reads by women authors featuring sharp and snappy female leads.

Finding time for reading can be tough—even on weekends. Delving into a lengthy tome can feel like too much when you’ve already packed your schedule with everything you didn’t get to during the week. The good news is there are plenty of quick reads out there every bit as satisfying as lengthier works, and we’ve rounded up ten must-read books written by women that clock in at around just 200 pages each. They’re easy to gobble up in one or two days but so engaging that you’ll wish they lasted longer!

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The titles below vary in premise, plot, style and form, but have a few things in common. The ten heroines of these novels are all snappy and sharp. They all want more but aren’t sure how to get it. And when their dreams do come true, they’re not always sure what to do next.

One more thing these books—which are some of the best weekend reads we’ve come across—have in common is that their authors toy with novelistic conventions to build playful narratives that are diverting, suspenseful, heartwarming and uproarious. Whether you’re reading about a group of diehard swimmers and their pool obsession, a young woman falling in love with a K-pop star or a lonely lady spying on a charming coworker, you’ll be transported for however long you can reasonably sit and read. Bonus: you can crack open any of the titles below for fun, but each offers something deeper to keep you thinking about on your Monday morning commute.

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

A book cover featuring a large pool with a few scattered swimmers
‘The Swimmers’ by Julie Otsuka. The Three of Us_Penguin Random House

In Julie Otsuka’s third novel The Swimmers, a group of swimming enthusiasts relies on an underground community pool to escape their unpredictable lives above ground. When cracks forming in the pool floor threaten to close it for good, regular swimmers like Alice start to panic. Without the pool, what will they have? Without swimming, who will they become? Blurring lines between the real and the surreal, The Swimmers is a deceptively simple story about belonging and family, but it has allegorical possibilities, too.

Y/N by Esther Yi

A black and white book cover featuring line drawings of woman looking at her reflection
‘Y/N’ by Esther Yi. Penguin Random House

Reminiscent of Ling Ma’s Bliss Montage and Sloane Crosley’s Cult Classic, Y/N will take you for a wild weekend ride in a debut that asks: What happens when our obsessions go too far? A stoic copywriter attends her first K-pop concert; she doesn’t expect to fall in love with one of the lead singers. What begins as curious admiration rapidly turns into uncontrollable obsession. Y/N is driven by the narrator’s intoxicating voice and a series of hilarious plot twists and dreamlike adventures.

SEE ALSO: The Must-Read Books Behind the Biggest Screen Adaptations of 2024

The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

A book cover featuring a cartoonish image of a spilled glass of red wine
‘The Three of Us’ by Ore Agbaje-Williams. The Three of Us_Penguin Random House

Another debut novel, The Three of Us, deftly follows three characters: the wife, the husband and the friend. While the wife swears that she’s happy in her marriage, her best friend is skeptical and devotes all her energy to breaking up the husband and wife. Meanwhile, the husband is plotting to get rid of the friend. The novel takes place over a single day in the three companions’ lives and is written from each of their points of view. Reminiscent of the Showtime series The Affair, The Three of Us explores love and power, secrets and envy.

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

A book cover featuring a stylized depiction of a city
‘Brown Girls’ by Daphne Palasi Andreades. Penguin Random House

Brown Girls originated as a four-page short story in the Kenyon Review. It was later chosen as an O. Henry Prize Winner and one of the best short stories of 2021. In 2022, it was published as a full-length novel that preserves the heart and style of the story, but lets us live with Andreades’ characters a bit longer. Brown Girls traces the lives of a group of girlfriends living in Queens, New York, who grow up together, date together and roam the city together. But as the years pass and the girls get older, their lives begin to diverge. Can they preserve the friendships and bonds they formed as girls? Andreades’ musical style dismantles colonial storytelling models and immerses you in the cadence of city life.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

A book cover featuring a cute onigiri done up to look like a girl's face on a plate resting on a pink napkin
‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata. Grove Atlantic

This has been a popular title on Bookstagram and Good Reads since its translation into English from Japanese in 2018. Another deceptively simple story, Sayaka Murata’s slim novel follows the predictable life of Kieko Furukura, a single woman who works at a convenience store. Kieko has always felt like an outsider, but at the store, she’s important. And what’s more—she’s happy. The only trouble is that everyone in Kieko’s life thinks something is wrong with her because she isn’t in a relationship and never has been. Will Kieko give up her happiness to please others? To what lengths will she go to satisfy their expectations? Convenience Store Woman is about loneliness but also about empowerment and agency.

Indelicacy by Amina Cain

A book cover featuring abstract red shapes on a blue ombre background
‘Indelicacy’ by Amina Cain. Macmillan

If you’re looking for a quiet read to decompress after a hectic workweek, you want Amina Cain’s Indelicacy. This subdued narrative follows a nameless woman who works at a museum and dreams of being a writer. Not unlike Convenience Store Woman’s protagonist, Cain’s narrator is nominally content with her simple, orderly life. But when she marries rich, everything changes. Can she still be an artist when she’s living in a palatial home with other women working under her? Is she allowed to want less than she has now? Cain meticulously captures the complexities of balancing conventional and creative desires.

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

A book cover featuring line drawings of a woman's mouth, arms, hands and a glass of water
‘How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water‘ by Angie Cruz. Macmillan

Angie Cruz’s How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water tells the story of a woman searching for a sense of home in changing circumstances. When Cara Romera loses her job at the lamp factory, she starts seeing a career counselor, Lissette, who quickly becomes Cara’s confidant and pseudo-therapist. Everything Cara has been keeping quiet about her past starts to emerge in their regular sessions. Will these revelations set Cara free, or will her secrets ultimately undo her already tenuous life? Cara’s animated, vibrant and intimate voice propels this novel from beginning to end—you’ll feel as if Cara is confiding not just in Lissette but also in you.

The Woman in the Purple Skirt by Natsuko Imamura

A book cover featuring the color block image of a woman's face
‘The Woman in the Purple Skirt’ by Natsuko Imamura. Penguin Random House

Stories about obsession and voyeurism are always trending. What’s more, they read as fast as Netflix starts your next episode. The Woman in the Purple Skirt is no different. Like all good voyeuristic tales, Natsuko Imamura’s novel begins with an innocuous event: the day the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan notices the Woman in the Purple Skirt. Instead of introducing herself to the Woman in the Purple Skirt, The Woman in the Yellow Cardigan sneakily inserts herself into the Woman in the Purple Skirt’s life. The more she meddles with her affairs, the more chaos ensues. Imamura’s deadpan, yet heart-thumping novel will make you think about loneliness and longing. What happens to the people who go unnoticed? What happens to those who notice too much?

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez

A book cover featuring an upside down green parrot and right side up pink blossoms
‘The Vulnerables’ by Sigrid Nunez. Penguin Random House

From the renowned Sigrid Nunez comes another story about the close bonds between people and animals. Set in New York City during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, The Vulnerables traces one woman’s attempt to adjust to suddenly unfamiliar circumstances. When a friend asks the narrator to pet-sit her feisty parrot in a ritzy apartment where a moody twenty-something is camping out, the narrator’s concept of solitude rapidly changes. Told with wit and tenderness, The Vulnerables captures the loneliness of unprecedented times and the friendships that can emerge.

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

A book cover featuring a woman's face in the letter O of the word HERO
‘The Hero of This Book’ by Elizabeth McCracken. elizabethmccracken.com

The Hero of This Book is a perfect weekend meditation. In under 200 pages, Elizabeth McCracken traces the story of a woman’s encounter with loss and her attempts to grow beyond it. After her mother dies, the narrator takes a trip to England in the hopes of overcoming her sorrow. However, her mother’s presence stays with her throughout the trip. A book about observing and questioning, grieving and healing, The Hero of This Book displays McCracken’s characteristic wit and boldness. It also asks: how do our maternal relationships define us? And what happens when we have to mother ourselves?

10 Must-Read Books with Quirky Female Leads You Can Finish in a Weekend