There is nothing more arbitrary than deciding which are the best books to read while traveling. Reading is such a subjective activity, based on personal preference, that telling everyone on the plane to take Janna Gray’s Kilingiri or Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code creates tension. On the other hand, recommending a good read is just as common as suggesting where you can get the best sandwich.
The actual physical transfer for a trip is usually enhanced with a good read. It travels with an extra sensory strain that can make the journey much more enjoyable and memorable. So it’s not just about killing a few hours to avoid going crazy while you wait to reach your goal. It can be about entertaining yourself, learning, and challenging your perception of the world. Whether you do it through fiction or non-fiction, historical or police procedural, if there’s a reason to reach for a good read while traveling.
So, while we risk being nervous, here are a few books that won’t just pass the time in transit. They will remind you why you liked the written word so much in the first place.
Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling)
Has any other book collection brought so much fun and inspiration? With seven volumes in its catalog it will do more than keep you busy on the longest journey. The whole world marveled at the transformation of a young, naive boy into intelligent adulthood and sorcery.
Parting the Waters:
America in the Years of the Kings, 1954-1963, Pillar of Fire: America in the Years of the Kings, 1963-1965, By the Canaanite Coast: America in the Years of the Kings, 1965-1968 (Taylor Branch)
This award-winning trilogy was a life purpose for the author and dutifully chronicled the history of the civil rights movement in general and the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. especially. Non-fiction and history buffs will find these books exciting as they can read chapters like a page-turner. These books will definitely keep the mind spinning during even the longest journey.
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
Already considered a classic piece of literature, this first novel is an elaborate and detailed story set in the Gion district of Kyoto, in pre-war Japan. It focuses on the journey of a young girl from a poor fishing village to become a famous entertainer. Memoirs is a vivid story of hope, courage, and love, reminding readers that life experience is fragile and beautiful.
Hollywood Babylon (Kenneth Ager)
Some of us like to read about disgusting scandals. To look behind the curtain and see that it’s not all bright lights and champagne. There are many books like this, but this was the first. Published in 1965, it was banned and not reissued until 1975. There is nothing to learn here that will make your life better. But for us gossip traders, it’s the cat’s meow!
A Painted House (John Grisham)
In fact, anything written by Grisham makes good reading on a bullet train, boat, or plane plunging in and out of the clouds. All intentionally fast-paced and engaging. It’s about a young boy involved in a brutal murder, Grisham is no slouch in his department.
Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)
Fascinating, loosely based on true events. A man escapes from an Australian prison and flies to India and introduces himself as a doctor. From there, it’s a series of adventures that take our hero from the turbulent slums of Mumbai to places like New Zealand, Afghanistan and Germany. Don’t let its size discourage you. This is a quick read as can be.