The new Elizabeth Gilbert book and what makes for an ideal read on a long plane flight?

by on October 13, 2013 at 5:40 am in Books, Travel | Permalink

It’s good — really — and it is called The Signature of All Things.  I also find the book was nearly ideal for a long plane flight.  It has enough ideas to keep one’s interest, as I find that truly schlocky fiction bores me after a short while (it is better for short flights than for long ones).  But it is also easy enough to read and the print is suitably large.

Which other books do you find to be ideal for long plane flights?

Nick October 13, 2013 at 5:48 am

Gladwell comes to mind in the non-fiction arena.

However, my all time favourite would be Magician by R.E. Feist. The hours just fly by…..

Prashant October 13, 2013 at 5:54 am

Flowers for Alegernon was an ideal read during a recent 7 hour flight.

http://www.amazon.com/Flowers-Algernon-Daniel-Keyes/dp/015603008X

prior_approval October 13, 2013 at 6:39 am

‘It’s good — really — ‘

Is this the same as ‘It’s underrated — really —’?

Richard Blumberg October 13, 2013 at 7:03 am

I carry an old copy of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature. It’s a masterpiece, and every page is rich with delightful insights. And I haven’t read two pages before I’m soundly and comfortably asleep for he duration of the flight.

Gary Leff October 13, 2013 at 7:09 am

On a long flight at some point you’ll be really tired, possibly for much of the flight. Clear prose, ideally engaging prose, is very helpful. Complicated ideas, writing that you need to really parse, isn’t a great match for long haul.

Claude Emer October 13, 2013 at 7:52 am

I can’t say I read the same books when I travel but here are a few that have kept me company on long flights.

1. Epic of Gilgamesh

2. A Game As Old As Empire

3. The Purpose Driven Life

4. American Wars: Illusions and Realities

Paster October 13, 2013 at 8:42 am

” Average is Over ” made my last ICN-SFO flight an interesting one.

“Empires of the Sea”,by Roger Crowley,was great for an Instanbul-Seoul flight.

A Definite Beta Guy October 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

Pretty much any of the popular teen series. Hunger Games was absolutely perfect for long flight. So was Harry Potter. I imagine the Percy Jackson series matches both of those, and even Twilight is eminently readable if you can turn off your inner literary and social critics.

uair01 October 13, 2013 at 9:51 am

Recently re-read shortish, lightish books (books are only worthwhile if you can read them twice):

Charles Arthur – Digital Wars, Apple, Google, Microsoft
Thomas Pynchon – The crying of lot 49
Douglas Coupland – After God

@Richard: I’ve never read Hume, but for me Montaigne has the same effect.

JP October 13, 2013 at 10:06 am

I download free classics and work through them over time. The Odyssey, for example.

Another good genre is “books I always wanted to reread”. I already know the general concepts, I can read my annotations, and I can relive the time and place in which I first read the book. Relearning uses different parts of the brain; the keyhole is bigger.

A Definite Beta Guy October 13, 2013 at 10:45 am

Ah! Books I want to re-read. That’s one I wouldn’t have thought of.

What books have you re-read on planes? I have a feeling War and Peace is best not re-read on an airplane anymore than the first read, but, anything by Tom Wolfe would be perfect.

JP October 13, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Just reread ‘the cloudspotter’s guide’. That one works as a first read too given the vantage point for studying the topic. The book is more fun than it sounds.

Nadav October 13, 2013 at 10:29 am

Tyler, are you still holding off on reading Gone with the Wind? It’s pretty much what you described as ideal, in addition to being the fictional companion to Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball, which you also liked.

Bill Benzon October 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

Uncle Tom’s Cabin would make a nice complement to GWTW. It’s surprisingly good, and an easy read.

Mark Thorson October 13, 2013 at 11:41 am

Is the size of the print more important for a long flight than a short one? What is the optimal size, and what line spacing? In the documents I create on 8.5 x 11 paper, I think 12 point characters with 13 or 13.5 points line spacing is a good compromise between easy reading and text density. A book might be different, because you might want higher density otherwise one page won’t have much content on it.

Hollis October 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

China Miéville’s “The City and the City” (2009), though I confess to listening (via audiobook) rather than reading, which I find easier on airplanes.

freethinker October 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I don’t have tyler’s high-brow taste in books. On long journeys I prefer to carry the omnibus editions of: 1) P.G Wodehouse books, especially the ones with Jeeves and Bertie Wooster stories, and 2) Enid Blyton’s Five Findouters series I used to read as a kid like many English Medium educated urban kids in India. Don’t know if American children even head of Blyton.

kyle sunderland October 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm

The Fish that ate the Whale (Rich Cohen) – It’s the story of Robert Zemurray an immigrant from Russia who becomes the most successful fruit importer in the US

beau valtz October 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Anything by Elmore Leonard or Richard Stark or James Crumley. After them, maybe Ross Thomas or John Macdonald.

cthulhu October 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm

The Parker novels by Richard Stark (a pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake) are gloriously entertaining and have terrific re-readability; however, many of them are too short for a long flight. So take two…

Bradley Gardner October 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

One of the most enjoyable plane flights I ever took was accompanied by Bertrand Russell’s History of Philosophy.

jseliger October 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Which other books do you find to be ideal for long plane flights?

This may be strange, but Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. I first read it going from L.A. to Israel. As Eco says elsewhere, the novel demands that the reader enter an entire world, and the novel is strange and yet plotted.

In Israel I picked up some of Eco’s other novels, and some miscellaneous other books, but on the way back I reread The Name of the Rose.

Oiler October 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

If you like Name of the Rose, you should try Wolves of Paris, by Michael Wallace. It’s like Name of the Rose with Werewolves and the kind of book that will grab you for hours.

Foobarista October 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm

The Mars Trilogy, which is plenty long enough for a round-trip flight to China. Shorter flights: various John Grisham or Tom Clancy books.

I get a headache when I try to read anything overly demanding on an airplane, so I avoid “highbrow” books.

Ted Craig October 13, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I’d pick “Working” by Studs Terkel. I like plays for mid-term flights because you can read them in real time.

Hillary October 13, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I’m leaving on vacation this week – the plan is Reamde by Neal Stephenson, some China Mieville back catalog, and finish A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. If I manage all those I have plenty on my kindle to occupy me. I might read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies again.

GiT October 14, 2013 at 1:39 am

Hammett or Chandler might be good.

mike shupp October 14, 2013 at 2:03 am

There’s a new Donna Tartt novel due out later this month, THE GOLDFINCH, which I’m quite looking forward to — even without an airplane flight.

wiki October 14, 2013 at 2:30 am

I always use a high-low strategy. Load up the Kindle or tablet with classics to read or reread (Dostoyevsky, Gibbon, Hume, Thucydides, etc.) and also a bunch of noir pulps (Willeford, Thompson, Lacey, McBain, etc.). Pick one and shift to the other genre if my mind seems to wander.

dan1111 October 14, 2013 at 2:33 am

Any book about an airplane disaster.

Chris Purnell October 14, 2013 at 4:32 am

Anything by Anthony Trollope

John Schilling October 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Am I the only one who prefers short-story collections and the like? A long flight on a commercial airliner is not a conducive environment to uninterrupted reading, and it is difficult to match the length of the book to the length of the flight. Short stories, comedy pieces, essays – these always fit, and are easily set down when they don’t fit any more.

Oscar October 14, 2013 at 4:37 pm

One’s own memoirs, naturally.

Vali1005 October 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm

The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey.
Captivating books and I’m very thankful that, the first time I heard about “Leviathan Wakes”, it was on MR.

vali1005 October 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey
I find all 3 books absolutely captivating and I’m thankful that, the first time I heard about “Leviathan Wakes”, it was on MR.

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