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Airport Novels

Despite the unromantic aspects airlines introduce to air-travel—outrageous fees, crammed seats, delays, boarding cattle-herding style; I still look upon air travel with a romantic anticipation. I’ll be sitting in my trans-Pacific flight to Hong Kong, looking up to the window, realizing I might make good time at an early arrival in my hometown. To what did I owe this newfound oblivion about where I was? This insouciance about fraying schedules? This good cheer about the dismaying ritual of herding, shuffling, squeezing, starving, sitting and suffocating that characterizes air travel today? One of my best travel companion, needless to say, is my reading. I know I have read through serious stuff like The Stranger on the beach of Puerto Vallarta, but vacation read should be easy. I also spend a tremendous amount of time reading at the airport. Airport reading needs to be fast paced enough to make your wait fly by and engaging enough to keep your attention from people watching or staring at whatever is playing on the airport news channel. Airport reading shouldn’t be too emotionally engaging though—no tear jerkers. Here are what the local bookstore’s staff suggests:

The Litigators by John Grisham. A fast paced legal thriller. While The Litigators doesn’t break new ground, it is a solid story that will keep your interest and make your travel time more enjoyable.
Iron House by John Hart. A smart crime novel about two brothers who are orphaned as children. One becomes a professional killer, but when he tries to leave that life, he will also be forced to reunite with his brother to protect them both. If you don’t want a formula but do want something suspenseful, Iron House is a good choice.
Beginner’s Greek by James Collins. This sweet, simple romance begins on a cross-country flight. James Collins’ debut novel is well written, delightful reading for your next trip.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. This novel takes place mostly in Europe over several centuries, and would be great reading for a cross-Atlantic flight.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Review
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Review
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Review
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Review

Travel reading can be tedious affair. To quote Dominique Browning, travel writer for the New York Times: “Of course, one can stoop too low. Junk food may be what is needed on a plane trip, but junk books don’t satisfy. Poor writing grates on my ear, no matter where I am. It is like eating too many potato chips; by the time you realize your tongue is glued to a salt lick, you feel dumb as a cow, and you’re sick. What I want on a plane trip is a loud, beefy — even vulgar — but scintillating companion.” I cannot agree more.

7 Responses

  1. Something not to read in an airport? Tuesday with Morrie. Want to know why? Because while waiting in the airport for my flight, there I was, crying hysterically at the end of the novel. With people around.

    • Oh my. Another don’t is “The Art of Racing in the Rain”. I don’t know why the bookstore staff suggested it, it’s a total tear jerker for me.

      • It was suggested because it’s amazing! But yes, a teary read! Basically, don’t read the end of any book in the airport unless you’re willing to cry or it’s a book where you know 100% you won’t cry, like a John Grisham novel!

  2. Agree Tues W/ Morrie not an airport read. Way too sad but Pillars of the Earth held my attention on a long haul flight and airport waits from Australia to USA. What an epic. Agree airport reads must take you into the core of the book in order to tune out the loudspeakers, crying babies and boredom of uncomfortable chairs. Good post, Pam

    • Sometimes I pack an Anthony Trollope novel because the tome of his book can last through pretty much any long-haul flight over the pond. For crying babies, get ear-plug or noise-canceling headphones.

  3. I always spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to read for my airline travel trips. I usually end up bringing way too many books because I can’t quite make up my mind and I find that I can never resist a quick trip to the airport bookstore (some of them are not too bad) to satisfy an impulse for something unexpected!

    • Although the airport bookstore doesn’t always have what I crave, I always make a point of paying a visit. Now Books Inc (the SF local indie) has a store in both T2 and T3 at SFO. Great sources of reading materials!

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