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10 Books To Read in the Bathtub

Every time I run myself a bath and climb in with a book in hand, I’m like WHY THE FUCK DO I NOT DO THIS MORE OFTEN? I think the answer is “time” and “not having enough of it” but damnit I better start making the time. A couple years back, my fiancé got me one of those wooden extendable bathtub trays so I can chill with my iced coffee, my sparkling water, my phone, a scented candle, maybe even a small snack, and a book. It feels like being in a luxury spa, and I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you like to read in the bath. And while I’ve been known to lug a large hardcover into the tub with me, I’ve come to realize what constitutes the perfect bathtime book: It isn’t something sudsy, something light and fluffy content-wise. It’s a book that’s literally physically light, one that can potentially be read in a single sitting. The perfect bath time book is right around 200 pages or less.

This largely constitutes books branded as novellas, but some slim novels also come in around 200 pages. While I’m not officially putting it on the list, I feel compelled to mention the horror novelette (even shorter than a novella!) I wrote myself, which is small, square, and pink, making for a very good bath photo if you ask me!!!!!!! Anyway, it’s called Helen House, and it’s about the ghosts of grief. Now, onto the books I think you should get for your next bath sesh (or perhaps a book to just laze in the backyard or on a couch with if you don’t have a tub). These are perfect books to pack for a short trip, as they’re short but potent!

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (179 pages)

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Not technically a queer book but hands down one of my favorite literary explorations of marriage, this fragmentary novel is a constant re-read for me. But before I ever read it myself, my fiancé read it to me while I was in the bath in the first apartment we shared together, and it was such a perfect way to experience this book.

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier (208 pages)

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier

Funny, strange, propulsive, and voicey, Jean Kyoung Frazier’s debut has young queer desire baked into its pickled cheesy heart.

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets (144 pages)

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

This mordantly humorous tech dystopia novel-in-translation is centered on a lesbian who works at a nefarious company contracted to do content moderation for an unnamed and also nefarious social networking company. It’s a wild ride!

Junk by Tommy Pico (80 pages)

Junk by Tommy Pico

Given the page count parameters I set for this list, there should be a lot more poetry on it! But the truth is, I don’t always feel completely equipped to recommend poetry, because while I do love to read it, I’m not as well read in that arena and think other folks here at Autostraddle are better experts! See what they’re recommending! But listen, I could read Tommy’s work over and over and over and never tire of it, and so you better believe I’m bringing Junk into the tub!

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos (192 pages)

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos

This is a must read for queer writers of memoir and creative nonfiction (or just like all writers of memoir and creative nonfiction, but even if you’re not a writer yourself, it’s a craft book that has wide appeal and might crack open the way you think about bodies, desire, art, and the making of it.

Dyke (geology) by Sabrina Imbler (24 pages)

Dyke (geology) by Sabrina Imbler

I am forever recommending this ultra-short, uncategorizable, VERY GAY book by the same author as the recent critically acclaimed How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures. Just trust me on this one!!! It makes science horny!

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (208 pages)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Get a little gothic in the bath — why not! This one’s a classic for a reason.

People Change by Vivek Shraya (112 pages)

People Change by Vivek Shraya

Whether you’re somewhat scared of change or at a crossroads in life, this book can be both challenging and affirming when it comes to transformation, transition, change.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (192 pages)

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

Short fiction collections are perfect for the bath, because even if you can’t finish the book, you can at least finish a complete story or two. It doesn’t get much better than this one, which features multiple queer stories and deserving of all of its critical acclaim!

Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez (200 pages)

Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez

A memoir that features place writing, queer feminist theory, writing on butch identity, personal narrative, and soooooo much more, this is for when you want to swim in deep thoughts in the bath, and sometimes that is indeed the vibe!

Now you tell me — what are your favorite books that are about 200 pages or less?

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 815 articles for us.


  1. Bath reading is one of my favorite things, and the best way for me to relax when my brain is going a million places. My phone is in another room and i am a captive audience for my book. (I always bring at least 2 in case my mood changes)
    I am a tome reader in the tub usually, but i like the idea of a novella i can read in one sitting! I’ve been reading a lot of plays these days so maybe I’ll do that!
    I loved Nature Poem so I’m adding Junk to my list immediately!

    My queer bath novella recommendations are The Membranes by Chi Ta-Wei (134pp) or Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (160pp)

  2. My beloved book length! I really wanna read that Hanna Bervoets. If I can carve out time in a day when I don’t explode at the thought of social media.

    10 favorites from my shelves: Nina Bouraoui, All Men Want to Know; Becky Chambers, To Be Taught, If Fortunate (or a Monk & Robot); Marie Darrieussecq, Pig Tales (first I thought this was anti-misogyny revenge fantasy, but maybe it’s trans feels too? maybe anything can be trans if you try); Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone, This Is How You Lose the Time War; Rita Indiana, Tentacle; Nella Larsen, Passing; Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts; something by Amélie Nothomb, I reckon Pétronille has her gayest vibes; Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat; Katharina Volckmer, The Appointment.

  3. As usual, Autostraddle it out here publishing all the writing I didn’t even know I desperately wanted to read! (Although I must say I am moving out of my bath-reading season here in the Northeastern US).

    None of these are exactly light reading, but may I also put forward these short queer books:
    Chloe Caldwell’s novel “Women” (144 pgs)
    Maggie Nelson’s autotheory/experimental memoir “The Argonauts” (160 pgs)

    • This one is a little too long (250 pages) but I feel like making sure more people know about the Austrian novelist and poet Ingeborg Bachmann: “Malina” (originally published in German in 1971), which is queer in a more amorphous sense than the two I recommended above, but which includes the iconic line “No, I don’t take any drugs, I take books.”

  4. My days of bathtub reading are over since I no longer have a bathtub, but short novellas are fun, and I’ll be definitely checking out some of these!

    I’ve recently finished the Monk & Robot series and I definitely recommend it for anyone that likes non-dystopian sci-fi. It’s two books, A Psalm for the Wild-Built and A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, 160 and 152 pages respectively. It features a non-binary main character, and is written by my favorite sci-fi writer Becky Chambers, who is also queer!

    • my first thought (not gay, sorry) was So the Wind Won’t Blow it all away by Richard Brautigan. The malleability with time….incredible. Queer, We Are Made of Diamond Stuff by Isabel Waidner. So weird, so good

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