Books in Flight

facing the prospect of three hours imprisonment while being hurtled through the air at 37,000 feet, i’m anxiously pawing through my bookstack this morning, searching for just the right solace to see me through this ordeal.

do you like flying? some people do, you know.  while i can’t pretend to enjoy flying, i tolerate it as the most efficient means to an end.  it is absolutely essential, however, to have the perfect book with me.  i enter the plane with my book clutched tightly to my chest, my own personal security blanket.  and from the moment i sit down (seat belt securely fastened) my attention is riveted to the page.

that’s why choosing reading material for air travel is so very tricky.  it must be a book with an engaging story, yet not one that requires great amounts of concentration, for after all, people on airplanes do talk (and rather loudly at times) not to mention the incessant snap of soda can tabs and the ear splitting creak of armrests and tray tables.

it should be a small book, and the regular paperback novels are, of course, the perfect size.  but hasn’t the print in these particular editions become awfully small of late?  and i find these new paperbacks, touted as being “a more comfortable size for reading,” are really not comfortable at all, at least for my small hands.

and then there’s the matter of choice, for one can only carry so many books in one’s hand.  today, for instance, i must decide between  the Austen biography, Mansfield Park, Interpreter of Maladies, and On Common Grounds, a paperback mystery I picked up purposefully for this journey.  so why not just take that one, you ask, and pack the others away?  really, my heart races at the thought of that – after all, i might not care for the one, and then i would be required to get out of the seat (assuming the captain has turned off the seat belt sign, leaving me free to move about the cabin) and rummage through the overhead compartment to find one of the others. 

oh my, i’m exhausted just thinking about that.

and i should be gathering the rest of my things for the journey.  but somehow, all else pales in comparison to this task.

now tell me, what do you read whilst traveling?

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12 thoughts on “Books in Flight

  1. I don’t care much for flying either, but do relish it as a time when there’s nothing to do but read, and no one looks at me strangely for doing so. I always have to carry two or three books, just in case I become bored with one. The extras go in that space underfoot, so I don’t have to get out of my seat to fetch them. Wishing you a safe flight.

  2. I usually carry a book along, but I don’t often have success reading it on the plane. I typically find myself too sleepy to read. While on an 8 hour layover once, I did manage to read the entire “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood”. Good luck with traveling.

  3. I used to love flying….but I haven’t flown in so long I’m not really sure how I would feel about it now…funny how things change. When I was younger I wanted to be an airline stewardess..that’s how much I liked flying!!

    As for reading material…you are so right…you need something that will occupy your time, but not require great amounts of concentration.

    I would always pick something “light” — a mystery or even something along the lines of chick lit — something I would not normally read in my day-to-day life — something totally frivolous!

    Wherever you are off to — enjoy your trip!!

    By the way, I’ve left something for you today at my Sage & Thyme blog!

  4. I get a bit of a high from flying, just knowing that I’m off for some kind of adventure, and knowing that everyone else is too. 🙂 It helps that I’m short, so sitting in cabin isn’t really a big issue!

    What do I read? I always make sure I have the latest edition of The Economist and some kind of fashion magazine (InStyle, Elle, or Marie Claire). I think that magazines work really well on flights, and being able to switch between very intellectual and very guilty pleasure is always nice! If it’s a long flight (over three hours), I bring a mystery by an author that I really like, and/or I’ll bring a book to reread that I loved the first time round. I don’t bring anything super literary, or super complicated. I never, ever bring a classic, even though I love classics, because somehow they just don’t work on airplanes.

    Wow-I guess I have way more of a system than I thought I did!

    Oh, and I totally agree that the type in Mass Market Paperbacks has gotten out of control, it’s so tiny sometimes it hurts just to look at it.

  5. My favorite thing to do on an airplane is to read. I usually bring at least two books in my carry-on, just in case the first book is a bust. When I fly alone (or even just with my 5 year old, who loves to be on a plane and watches movies) I get a lot of reading done. While traveling home from China six months ago, this time with two children in tow, not so much reading was going on. Sigh. I really need a vacation without the kids!

  6. I really detest air travel, and am so anxious that I find it hard to distract myself with a book. How awful is that? But I usually try. It has to be something I’m halfway through already, so I know where I am, and it has to be a comfort read with a gripping plot. So I tend to favour crime fiction, or some sort of family saga. Take care, wherever you are going and have an extra book just in case!

  7. I knew you would all have some opinions 🙂

    Jeane, I did keep my book bag under the seat, which was helpful.

    Kim-how I wish I could sleep on planes – alas, a 10 minute nap is the most I can hope for.

    Sherry -I’m convinced you’re right – something totally frivolous is just the ticket.

    Eva-yes, I always take one magazine along, and since I rarely read magazines, it’s something of a treat.
    And you’re right -classics don’t wory (I tried it today, and completely lost my enthusiasm for Mansfield Park in the process.)

    Stephanie-I don’t think I could carry enough books to help me survive a flight to China, children in tow or not. I doff my hat to you 🙂

    Litlove- I’m sorry air travel is so unsettling for you 😦 And I agree with your advice – I like to be well into a book before I choose it as a traveling companion.

    My inflight reading experience today was less than stellar – I managed to stay fairly well engrossed in my Austen biography, but then switched to Mansfield Park and completely lost interest. So I gave up on that and spent the remainder of the flight with More magazine. Oh well.

    Thanks for all the good advice and well wishes 🙂

  8. I have to have at least three books with me – usually a mystery and two other fiction. I’ve been stuck twice with horrible books on 12 hour flights and that is just not fun.
    Hope you find a good book to take with you or better yet, take two just in case 🙂

  9. Although I am an avid reader, I usually find myself writing more than reading whist traveling. A spiral notebook is an absolute necessity for me. This might be though, because almost all of the flying I’ve done has been emotionally tumultuous… and writing is a means of self soothing.

    I like books on tape for flying, though they aren’t tapes anymore, but uploaded onto my ipod. Or even calming music, just to tune out everyone else on the flight.

    Sorry, no good suggestions. I do like the idea of taking a book that you’ve loved, to reread.

  10. It’s not the flying that bothers me, it’s the other part of the process … getting to the airport, waiting on line, going through security, and often being talked to like I’m 6 yrs. old. But like you I can’t just take one book, in case I don’t like it! And of course when I get to my destination I may find others but then again I may not. So ….. there we are … overloaded again.

  11. I don’t mind flying for the most part, with the exception of being THAT CLOSE to people I don’t know for hours on end. Makes me a little edgy.

    Generally, I have a really hard time reading on planes for whatever reason, but the last time I flew I took Michael Cunningham’s novel, Specimen Days. It’s gorgeous writing, doesn’t require tooo much concentration, and it’s three stories woven together, so there was enough movement in the story to keep my attention. I read the majority of the book on the plane and hardly felt the time passing.

    Good luck picking the perfect book!

  12. This is no longer a problem for me as the furthest I can travel at the moment is twenty miles and then only if I’m driving, but I do have exactly the same problem on hospital visits. OK, so maybe I have been given an appointment time but when was the last occasion you got in to see a specialist on time? So, do I have enough pages left in the book I’m reading to get me through the wait? I once made the mistake of thinking I was fine – enough for my appointment time plus an hour over run – only to be still waiting to be seen two hours after my appointment was due. Never again! I take at least two and preferably three books with me now and to hell with what anyone thinks.

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