What book to bring?
August 14, 2006 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What book (for pleasure) should I bring with me to Africa for a very long trip?

I am studying abroad and have to pack in a big backpack. I want one good non-acadmic book to get me through the long flight and the beginning of the trip. It should be paperback, good, entertaining, and long. Think of this as a desert island question. Thanks!
posted by names are hard to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Infinite Jest? I'm not really enjoying it all that much, but I'm still plugging away, some months after starting it (I do have secondary books going, though).

It's not horrible, just not particularly enthralling. You'd think after 800 pages, something would have happened by now...
posted by Rock Steady at 9:13 AM on August 14, 2006

When I went to Rwanda, I read Atonement, by Ian McEwan, although if I hadn't slept so much, I might have finished it before even touching down.

On the way to Spain, and into my first few days there, I read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murukami, and that was sufficiently dense, weird, and engrossing, to help me get through my first few days in a new country where I knew no-one.

Although widely panned, I actually liked You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers. I was in India for the summer, and the book's discussion about reconciling interactions with people from entirely different worlds, especially socio-economically, while travelling, rang true for me and my experience at that time.
posted by buddha9090 at 9:19 AM on August 14, 2006

The Ground Beneath Her Feet, or The Satanic Verses. Both by Salman Rushdie, both around 600 pages. Whirlwinds of a story.
posted by suedehead at 9:24 AM on August 14, 2006

A Fine Balance or A Suitable Boy. A Fine Balance is probably the best book I've ever read.
posted by Dasein at 9:27 AM on August 14, 2006

I really enjoyed An Instance of the Fingerpost. I mentioned it to a couple of friends, and they had read it and really liked it too.
posted by procrastination at 9:28 AM on August 14, 2006

I found Phillip Caputo's Acts of Faith a great page-turner, with a very large cast of characters.

It takes place mostly in Sudan. About the wages of good intentions, optimism and naivete. Might be too downbeat to be considered 'entertaining', but it definitely held my interest, and would think it'd be great on a very long flight.

Comes in paperback, and it's 688 pages long.
posted by marsha56 at 9:32 AM on August 14, 2006

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

One of the best books in recent years. And long. The paperback is 800 pages.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:35 AM on August 14, 2006

White Teeth. Hilarious, long, and more plot lines than you can shake a Harry Potter book at.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:36 AM on August 14, 2006

I found Vargas Llosa's War of the End of the World to be a completely gripping, page-turner. And, at 600 pages, quite a hefty read.
posted by vacapinta at 9:37 AM on August 14, 2006

Second Infinite Jest. It's my favorite book ever.

Also check out this book The Method Actors by Carl Shuker. It's quite long, paperback, and very engaging.
posted by mattbucher at 9:40 AM on August 14, 2006

Oh, also Robertson Davies' The Deptford trilogy (in one 830 page book) which I've now read three times.
posted by vacapinta at 9:45 AM on August 14, 2006

Big second for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Almost as long as, much more interesting (sorry, mattbutcher) than Infinite Jest. I'd second the Dave Eggers books too.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:52 AM on August 14, 2006

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It may not be long enough.

Second on Ground Beneath Her Feet. Very appropriate for starting a long trip.
posted by printdevil at 9:53 AM on August 14, 2006

Shantaram. I cannot recommend it enough. It's highly entertaining, fascinating story, a great read. I have passed it on to several people who have zoomed through it and many have told me its among their favorite books ever. Basically, it's a story, based on the author's life, about an academic Australian who gets divorced, becomes addicted to heroin, starts holding people up for money, gets sent to jail, breaks out of jail, makes his way to Bombay, and has lots of adventures while he hides in Bombay for 10 years.
posted by Amizu at 9:55 AM on August 14, 2006

Jonathan Strange is more Harry Potter -- Infinite Jest is more Gravity's Rainbow. I'm not knocking your shit, just saying they are not comparable.
posted by mattbucher at 9:56 AM on August 14, 2006

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. What a weird, fucked up book, but I loved every page of it, and I read it while spending six weeks in India.

Another book I'd highly recommend if you'll be in Africa is Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town by Paul Theroux. Engrossing, superbly written, and just great all around. Theroux did what the title implies and wrote a book around his trip. Perfect to get you in the mood for travelling and Africa.
posted by The Michael The at 9:56 AM on August 14, 2006

I love the Satanic Verses, but the sociohistorical/contemporary Islamic thematics are pretty darn heavy for a plane trip where he/she won't have access to wikipedia entries on the Qur'an and modern Indian history. Fantastic book, it just won't whittle away 17 hours of leg cramps quite so efficiently.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:02 AM on August 14, 2006

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

about 900 pages, however long that takes you to read (I've noticed I'm about 1page/min for fun reading)... for me it's 15 hours.

posted by hatsix at 10:50 AM on August 14, 2006

I second Shantaram! It's great - totally engrossing
posted by buddha9090 at 11:38 AM on August 14, 2006

I didn't find White Teeth to be very long, but was impressed with nearly every word Zadie Smith wrote until the conclusion of the book left me disappointed. Another vote for Infinite Jest, plus one for Confederacy of Dunces.
posted by bilabial at 11:48 AM on August 14, 2006

Jonathan Strange is more Harry Potter -- Infinite Jest is more Gravity's Rainbow.

Well, I'd rather read Rowling than Pynchon, so, yeah.

Confederacy of Dunces is also great, but be prepared to laugh out loud on the plane!
posted by Rock Steady at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2006

This may border on academic, but what about Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Or the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a single volume?
posted by gregchttm at 12:21 PM on August 14, 2006

The Count of Monte Cristo (get an unabridged version) served me very well in the same sort of scenario.
posted by dfan at 12:26 PM on August 14, 2006

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.
Around 1400 pages.
posted by tnai at 12:50 PM on August 14, 2006

Yes, thanks tnai, I should have mentioned explictly just how freaking long A Suitable Boy is.
posted by Dasein at 1:21 PM on August 14, 2006

posted by Addlepated at 3:39 PM on August 14, 2006

I second The Michael The's Dark Star Safari recommendation.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:47 PM on August 14, 2006

A third for Infinite Jest. Also my favourite book ever. I'm stuck in the middle of Gravity's Rainbow right now, and it sure is a challenging read.
posted by roofus at 5:11 PM on August 15, 2006

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