Guys, I spend a lot of time in airports. Not Up in the Air, Death of a Salesman a lot (pretend DOAS has a modern adaptation where he’s accrued a load of air miles – might have ended differently), but a lot. I always have grand aspirations for my travel reading. I load my iPad with Tolstoy and Dickens thrilled that technology has advanced far enough that I can read the classics in the departures lounge when it turns out the weight of volumes wasn’t what was preventing me from from breezing through 1000 pages on a transatlantic flight. It turns out my brain only half functions on these travel days and instead of Dickens I read stacks of New Yorker back issues or the Game of Thrones series that my husband has surreptitiously snuck on to my e-reader. Right now I’m waiting to board a five hour flight and my only reading material is a 500 page homestead novel translated from Norwegian. It’s staying in my bag. I’m travelling again in a couple of months and I’m going to turn over a new leaf for that trip and bring only things I’ll want to read, even if I’m on three hours of sleep and unsure of my timezone. Now enough preamble! Here are my top five (realistic) recommendations for airport and airplane reading.
1) Travel guides – preferably Lonely Planet but any will do. Most of my travel is for work and I’m a bit jaded about business travel. So glamorous in theory; conference rooms and sandwich buffets in reality. I’ve recently been making an effort to sneak away for at least an afternoon to discover the cities I’m visiting. I’m also a runner so I try to plan early morning runs that allow me to explore. Travel guides help make the best use of limited travel time. Even if you don’t get to see or visit the places you read about, you’ll develop an understanding of your surroundings and if free time creeps up you’ll be ready to make the best of your new city knowledge. Bonus point: For the weariest of travellers a Lonely Planet guide doesn’t require keeping track of a narrative. Read a bit here, a bit there, look at some pictures, and maybe take a nap.
2) Stephen King novels. This isn’t groundbreaking advice but they call it airplane reading for a reason. He’s a great writer, his work is well-paced and you can read one of his books from cover to cover on a flight. Try the recently released Joyland if you’ve made your way through his earlier stuff. Bonus point: Paperbacks! If you’re a reader of literary fiction you hardly ever get to experience the joy of a pocket sized edition. Revel in it.
3) Short story collections. We’ve covered a few great ones recently including Claire Battershill’s Circus and Francesca Marciano’s The Other Language. Short stories are perfect if you’re feeling up to the challenge of following a narrative in your beleaguered state. Use that energy! But know that it probably won’t last past the 5000 word mark of an average short story.
4) Essay collections. See above for my thoughts on how long I think your brain power and concentration will last. Essay collections serve the same need as short stories in this case. You can pick up Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams or if you’ve already worked through that, try any collection from Chuck Klosterman including his latest, I Wear the Black Hat. Have I spoken previously about my love for Klosterman and his work? I remember the first piece of his I ever read, an article about the Real World (Hawaii, I think) for Spin. He made me love magazine writing and his subject matter is usually light enough for mushy travel brains.
5) Travel fiction. Grumpy about being stuck in an airport? Counteract your bad mood by diving into the world of your destination. I’m heading to Banff so perhaps after some coffee I’ll check out the work of J. Jill Robinson. Her 2012 novel More on Anger might do me for today.