Riding on planes with books.
May 20, 2014 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Hi! I just got a new job that will have me on about three planes per week (mostly domestic, short-ish flights) for the foreseeable future. Sometimes I will have work to do on these flights, but in general I anticipate a lot of sitting around in airports/airplanes. Since these flights will often happen in the middle of my workday, I can't really default to my usual sky pastime of a Bloody Mary and a nap. Can you suggest your most engaging books for tearing through during travel? I have most recently devoured short story collections by Kurt Vonnegut and George Saunders, as well as a Joan Didion novel, but I really like to read almost everything. I've got an iPad, so things I can download on Kindle would be especially welcome, as would works by lady authors.
posted by justjess to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Jon Krakauer
posted by Kruger5 at 9:28 PM on May 20, 2014

Alice Munro for short stories.
Sci-fi anthologies for short-term escapes into other worlds.
Collections from your favorite poets.
posted by islander at 9:28 PM on May 20, 2014

When I travelled that much, I like to read series:
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R King.
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (not yet a series)
Terry Pratchett Tiffiany Aching series
Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley
Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series
(All also good as audiobooks, for a change from reading.)
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 9:34 PM on May 20, 2014

Wool by Hugh Howey. I read it recently on a long-ish car trip and have since ordered the other books in the trilogy..
posted by cp311 at 9:36 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Night Flight and West With The Night are both gorgeous, engaging reads, and they're flying themed.

Longer series that have recently kept me riveted: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, Connie Willis's time traveling historian books, and Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:47 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you like Kurt Vonnegut and George Saunders and you want to read fiction by women well then I'd like to introduce you to the one the only Grace Paley, one of the real giants of mid-to-late-20th-century US prose fiction. Saunders's story "The Bohemians" is more or less a straight rip (in a good way) of her style.
posted by escabeche at 10:22 PM on May 20, 2014

I just re-read The Crimson Petal and the White. It's a thick book, but engrossing.
posted by mochapickle at 10:28 PM on May 20, 2014

Oh hey, I popped in to suggest Grace Paley too. Good job escabeche.

For a shift of tone, I recommend the rip-roaring swashbuckling adventures of Captain Alatriste.
posted by Mizu at 10:31 PM on May 20, 2014

I find collections of short stories particularly engaging as well— my top picks are Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
posted by a halcyon day at 10:58 PM on May 20, 2014

Flannery O'Connor! Her short stories are among the best ever written.
posted by saladin at 3:58 AM on May 21, 2014

Mysteries! Agatha Christie's books are generally bite-size and quite good. You could also try some Ngaio Marsh.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:18 AM on May 21, 2014

They're crap, but for airport reading that just sucks you in and "Oh, where did the last hour go?" you can't beat Lee Child's Reacher series.
posted by Etrigan at 4:32 AM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

A frequent traveler gave me The Emperor of Maladies for Christmas, saying he couldn't put it down. I couldn't put it down either. Fantastic read. And I learned a ton.
posted by Dragonness at 5:55 AM on May 21, 2014

Since you like short stories-- the New Yorker magazine is my mainstay for short hops, the exercise machine etc. If you subscribe to the paper copy, you get the digital copy for free as well. Read a story, a couple of articles, and the flight is over. As a bonus, the paper copy is extremely thin and light so you can read that when the battery life on your tablet is a concern.
posted by BibiRose at 6:08 AM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recommend Margaret Atwood. Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood, and MadAdam are all tied together and for me were difficult to put down.
posted by Sheppagus at 6:24 AM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

AS Byatt is a lady who writes a lot of short stories - many twist fairy tales into contemporary settings, others do great pomo stuff with Victoriana. Also, if you haven't read Byatt's "Possession" you should (skip the poems, it's ok).

Seconding Atwood as above.

If you like Vonnegut, you may like Flann O'Brien's books too.
posted by kariebookish at 6:50 AM on May 21, 2014

I just read the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern on a long flight. Recommended!
posted by chocotaco at 7:07 AM on May 21, 2014

I really enjoyed Karen Russell's Vampires in the Lemon Grove and think it would be a good suggestion for fans of Tenth of December.

Are you a fan of Lois McMaster Bujold? The Vorkosigan series is a space opera, mostly about a genius strategist named Miles and his various (mis)adventures. I started with Shards of Honor, though, which is about his mother, Cordelia, a scientist who's on an expedition when an insurrection breaks out and who is captured by the so-called Butcher of Komarr. It's sci-fi/romance, a combination I'm usually not terribly interested in, but I loved it. I particularly liked it that Bujold's characters come up with much better solutions to problems than anything I thought of.
posted by johnofjack at 7:15 AM on May 21, 2014

I tore through The Golem and the Jinni. Best book I've read in years.

Pretty much every conversation I've been in about books has mentioned Night Circus as chocotaco did, so that's likely getting added to my list.
posted by advicepig at 7:49 AM on May 21, 2014

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
posted by Hanuman1960 at 7:59 AM on May 21, 2014

Check out last week's question on Best Airport Novels, although the recommendations there generally are a bit lighter than what you seem to be looking for, as the question requested "books purely for distraction and fun."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:26 AM on May 21, 2014

You might take a look at the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian if you're into historical fiction. I just finished #4 in the series and it made a recent flight go much faster.
posted by sapere aude at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2014

If you like George Saunders, I'd recommend Etgar Keret
posted by taltalim at 12:50 PM on May 21, 2014

Nthing the New Yorker. Thin, interesting articles on many different topics, some good fiction, and yes - the paper version is very lightweight. I often 2-3 back issues with me when I travel.

Two bonuses to the paper version: You can read it during takeoff and landing (I don't know about an iPad), and you can give away the old copies when they're read. Sometimes, I'll just leave them on a random chair in a coffeeshop or on the bus.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:29 PM on May 21, 2014

11/22/63 by Stephen King - very engaging and readable; nice and long, but a surprisingly fast read.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. People always seem to be recommending this, with good reason. Fun and funny.

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer. Very light, but very fun.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:16 PM on May 21, 2014

One of my favorite authors is David Foster Wallace. I suggest "A Supposidly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" and "Consider the Lobster."
posted by lalunamel at 7:18 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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