Whether you are traveling for work or trudging through the air with your kids, airplane travel requires a good book.
Sure, you could pack various electronic ways to keep yourself amused or be hardcore and read the WSJ cover-to-cover, but I prefer the luxury of complete immersion in a novel, short story or memoir.
Consuming a book on a plane reminds me of studying in college in a carrel in the library. You are uncomfortable, forced to plod and packed in amongst strangers. Somehow all these factors together make for an intense reading experience.
Here are some of my best plane books.
Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing – 2000, LAX to IAD – I read this on the way home to DC after visiting girlfriends in California. We had all recently read The Rules and What Men Want, and had lively discussions on whether those were effective ways to pull guys or promoted dishonest communication with men. I believed the latter and attested that young women in dating relationships hold all the power, they just don’t know it and believe it. (BTW, I was very single.) The final short story in this great collection affirms my point.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – 2010, BWI to MSY – Pregnant and emotional, I cried heaving sobs and laughed out loud for this beautiful story, told in letters, about the people on Guernsey Island during Nazi occupation. Sitting next to Charlie on the way to our family getaway to New Orleans, I completely embarrassed him.
Cutting for Stone – 2011, SAN to BWI – I felt like the fictional doctors in this book would have high-fived my nursing Alice while reading, packed plane or no. I love the characters like old friends I’m hoping will call me back.
Object Lessons – 1998, SFO to IAD – I read this on the red eye flight that brought me to live permanently in DC. I was starting my new job on The Hill in 48 hours, and I was too excited to sleep. I was so naive and green that it was very fitting that I chose a book about a twelve year old girl. (Anna Quindlen’s first novel.)
Shiksa Goddess : Or, How I Spent My Forties – 2003, DCA to BOS – While working at a PR firm and traveling extensively for a client, on planes I read every piece of quality chick lit I could get my hands on. (Trade press, be damned.) I still hold late playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s 35 personal essays as the ultimate “blog posts.”
Lit: A Memoir (P.S.) – 2010, BWI to AUS – Ever since I read The Liar’s Club in high school I have revered Mary Karr. While traveling to Texas to see my new niece, I was floored to find that her memoir of getting sober was also about her journey to joining the Catholic church. As an adult convert myself, and someone who had read not one review of Karr’s latest memoir, I was blown away. A double re-read.
Delusions of Grandma – 1995, SAN to OAK – Why is a twenty year old chick reading Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical novel about an almost forty year old pregnant woman left by her partner and caring for her friend dying of AIDS? Because it is sad and funny and true. Also, I stole it from my mom. (Sorry Mom!)
Things the Grandchildren Should Know – 2009, LAX to ATL to BWI – On the way home from my friends’ wedding and whirlwind trip to Southern California, my then family of four and I we were kept on the runway for two hours due to engine trouble, rerouted through the Midwest to refuel, and then dumped in Atlanta at 2 a.m. (no hotel voucher). E of Eels/Mark Oliver Everett’s melancholy memoir was very fitting. It is also crazy hilarious in parts and I needed the giggles. Desperately.
Still Alice – 2009, SFO to BWI – This book so touched me that I gave it as soon as I finished to my seatmate, a linguistics professor at Georgetown. She said that she was intrigued to read how the protagonist’s communication deteriorates due to Alzheimer’s disease, and also she had never seen someone on a plane so engrossed and cry outwardly due to a novel.
Well, she just had never sat next to me. I always bring tissues.
What are YOUR best recommendations for plane reads? We can ALL use some new good stuff to load into our Kindles!
Amazon affiliate links are used. If you pick up one of those books I get like five cents, woot woot!