General Question

juniper's avatar

Could you recommend a novel that will keep my nervous mind off my flight?

Asked by juniper (1910points) December 13th, 2009

I’m headed to South America in a few days, and I want to take a few books for the plane that will keep me engaged. I’m a bit of a nervous flier. I don’t freak out, but I get pretty tense. Usually I rely on dvds to help me forget that I’m flying over an ocean, but on this trip I’ll be without my laptop. Ugh.

I need something in paperback, and nothing scary or Dan Brown, Janet Evanovich-esque, please.

Any suggestions?

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36 Answers

andrew's avatar

I know this is a bit of a stretch, but when I was flying home from Guatemala with the worst stomach bug ever, I picked up a Nintendo DS in the airport—the game kept me enthralled.

Normally I wouldn’t suggest stuff like this to people I don’t know that love games, but my mom is completely and totally addicted to hers. I love reading a great novel, but if I really need distraction I find the interactivity really helps.

Otherwise, Pulp by Bukowski. Total page turner. But short.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Anything by Terry Pratchett is highly entertaining. He wrote a long series of books called the Discworld series full of funny characters and tight plotlines.

EmpressPixie's avatar

What genre do you prefer? Also, many international flights have awesome video systems. While you shouldn’t depend on it, you might be delightedly surprised.

jrpowell's avatar

Monkey Wrench Gang

It is long and one of my favorites.

aprilsimnel's avatar

On my first transpacific flight, I read The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Not too ‘soap-y’, but not too dry. Very engaging. That whole Masters of Rome series is good.

And I second Mr Pratchett.

wildpotato's avatar

Water for Elephants was engaging, entertaining, and easy to devour in large chunks without getting bored. Perfect plane book.

Anything by Philip K. Dick is great, but you have to like his plots enough to ignore the bad writing. Start with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep if you’re not familiar with him – it’s the book that the movie Bladerunner was based on.

Also, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer is absolutely enthralling – andrew, did you know that Bukowski said he read it all on a long bus ride? – but it is not for everyone. Read a bit about it before you pick it up.

Buttonstc's avatar

A fairly easy but engrossing read is

The Deep End of the Ocean
By Jacqueline Michard

missingbite's avatar

Can I suggest “Flying Without Fear” by Duane Brown before your trip? It may help you actually enjoy the flight! Good luck!

juniper's avatar

@andrew: Intriguing….I wonder if they have Pacman. Very tempting.

@EmpressPixie: Huh…let’s see. I guess it’s easier to explain which genres aren’t my favorites: mystery, fantasy, mass-market paperback (anything you can find at the grocery store).

@johnpowell: A favorite of mine, as well! I’ve read all of Abbey. :)

therookie's avatar

Tony Hillerman is a great Author. msytery The Sinster Pig is good book and the Talking God is another one.
All of his books are set in the Navjo Resevations of New Mexico.
I was not a big fan of msytrey untill i was recomenned the Sinster Pig.

How to read a book. by Alder and Van Doren

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@johnpowell GA, I love that book.

I would recommend The Stand by Stephen King, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, and Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, although you can’t go wrong with any of his books.

MissAusten's avatar

The Spellman Files Lisa Lutz is very funny. There are two others (Curse of the Spellmans and Revenge of the Spellmans), and all three of them had me laughing out loud. I couldn’t tell from the question if you wanted, or didn’t want, Janet Evanovich type books. If you like Evanovich, these are even better.

I recently read City of Thieves and loved it. It’s set in Russia during WWII and has some disturbing scenes. Not horror, but certainly not pretty. There’s also a fair amount of dark humor. Great book.

You might also like something by Barbara Kingsolver, James Rollins, or the Agent Pendergast books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

I’m partial to Jane Austen when I travel. :)

Seek's avatar

When one is nervous, I always recommend light, entertaining reading.

I have some wonderful books for airline travel, long waits on the train, and for long stays in labor-and-delivery (37 hours myself…):

“Why Do Men Have Nipples? – Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask Your Doctor After Your Third Martini” – Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D

“Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex? – Even More Questions You’d Only Ask A Doctor After Your Third Whiskey Sour” Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg, M.D

“Five People Who Died During Sex, and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists” Karl Shaw

lonelydragon's avatar

@wildpotato I second your recommendation for Androids. That’s a great road (or plane) trip book.

absalom's avatar

DeLillo’s Falling Man.

Gokey's avatar

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Clair's avatar

Twilight. (What? You don’t enjoy stabbing your eyeballs out?)
This is my regret

juniper's avatar

Thanks for the ideas, everyone.

I think I need something a little more giiiiiiiiiirly, though. ;)

Berserker's avatar

Try Misery by Stephen King. If you’re into that kinda thing, the book reads itself like you’d down a good beer.
While it is horror, it deals with absolutely nothing supernatural, and so is very believable.
The best part that could help you is that it’s one of those suspense edge of your seat books that you just don’t wanna put down; it might be an excellent way to channel the flight stress away. Fight fire with fire as they, whoever they are, say.

Hell even if you saw the movie, I guarantee that the book’s suspense will work on you.

Seek's avatar

Oh! Just remembered to add

The Darwin Awards – I think there are six volumes out now. Instead of worrying about someone crashing the plane, read about people who flip their Zippos to check the level of propane in their tanks.

janbb's avatar

Some good easy, but not junky, reads:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo

I guess Fear of Flying by Erica Jong is probably a no. :-)

thriftymaid's avatar

Read a Grisham book; they always keep my complete attention.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Anything by Mark Twain :)

fundevogel's avatar

While Sharp Teeth definitely isn’t what I would call girly, it is technically a romance wrapped up in werewolf gangwarfare set in Los Angeles and written in free prose. Its far from typical and I couldn’t put it down.

janbb's avatar

Another one is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

And anything by Anne Rivers Siddons is quite enjoyable, girly stuff with great Southern atmosphere.

EmpressPixie's avatar

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s very similar to reading a highly enjoyable history book at times, has a lovely if somewhat suspenseful plot, and yes, I will admit, delves into fantasy, but in an extremely accessible way. Which is to say, it’s a vampire novel for people who really don’t do vampire novels.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is another good one—the premise is sci-fi for sure, but the majority of stores don’t bother to stash it with sci-fi because of its massive appeal. It is simply well written and a delight to read. It is, I will admit, a bit of a tear-jerker at times.

juniper's avatar

@EmpressPixie: I love, love, love both of those! Have you read “Her Fearful Symmetry,” Audrey Niffenegger’s new novel? It’s weird and amazing.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Okay, given that you love those, I’m going to go deeper with my vampire novel suggestions and say that you’d love Sunshine by Robin McKinley. It’s amazing. I have not read Fearful Symmetry, but I think I know what I’m doing over the winter holidays now.

Jeruba's avatar

Something absorbing, to hold your attention, and girly? How about The Time Traveler’s Wife?

[Edit] I see a moment too late that @EmpressPixie already recommended this. Oh, well, I second it. If I were traveling right now, I would take something by Haruki Marukami, but they’re not easy reads. For absolute page-turners, Robert Ludlum will do. Also there’s still the wonderful Pillars of the Earth.

andrew's avatar

@Jeruba: +5 for Wind Up Bird Chronicles

Jeruba's avatar

Thanks, @andrew. Here’s my next one. And I have this one on order. I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World a couple of months ago and was quite fascinated. Marukami is kind of a grown-up Jeffrey Ford: more coffee, less acid.

sliceswiththings's avatar

Honestly, Twilight and it’s sequels are perfect for flights. I read all of book two on a flight (bought it cheap at the airport). These books are terribly written but they’re page turners. You will be totally enthralled, and will not want to put it down. Perfect. Same with good ol’ Harry Potter too, of course.

Anything “intellectual” might not succeed in taking your mind off things…you need to be transported.

Xilas's avatar

“Terribly written” is correct, Stephen King said it was the most horribly written book he ever read, and i agree.

Want something fun to read without shiny vampires.. try Neverwhere.

fundevogel's avatar

@Xilas I would love a list of quotes by various authors on the Twilight series. It’s not unrelated to my love of historical figures talking shit about each other.

Seek's avatar


I would love to read a book of quotes on historical figures talking smack. Where would I find such an animal?

fundevogel's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Sadly I don’t know of one and I can’t find my notes on Arron Burr (everyone hated him). If I remember correctly Burr said that George Washington was “unable to write a sentence of common English”. I think it was James Madison that said something to the effect that Burr “should not be allow near the reins of government”. Alexander Hamilton apparently said something so foul about him that no one would repeat it, being a lawyer Hamilton would neither confirm nor deny uttering an unspecified offense.

Mark Twain wrote an entire essay dedicated to bashing James Fenimore Cooper (the author of the Last of the Mohicans) for being a terrible writer. It is one of my favorites of his writings.

I also liked it when Bertrand Russell dug into Hegel in “Unpopular Essays”:

“Hegel’s philosophy is so odd that one would not have expected him to be able to get sane men to accept it, but he did. He set it out with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound. It can quite easily be expounded lucidly in words of one syllable, but then its absurdity becomes obvious.”

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