This time next month I will be winging and training it all over the USA and Canada for two weeks, and with 70 hours of that time to be spent in transit I have one huge worry – what am I going to read?
I’d like to lie and say that I will be tackling big issues and learning Sanskrit and flicking through Hawking‘s Brief History of Time, but my holiday reading is usually selected for two things; is it long enough to get me through a twelve hour flights, and is it distracting enough to stop me worrying obsessively that every tiny change in engine pitch means the plane is about to drop out of the sky during that twelve hours?
Length is obviously needed when you are going to be spending twelve hours straight in a small and uncomfortable seat, so I used to select all my holiday reading by checking out if the book was long enough, and the text densely printed enough, to mean at least ten hours of reading. My old rule of thumb was that if it was under 500 pages I wasn’t interested, and over 800 was the ideal.
The problem is that longer doesn’t always mean better and certainly doesn’t mean engrossing. I used to always go for epics as holiday reading, regardless of how interesting they sounded, and it was the Lord of The Rings that finally cured me of it. I can appreciate the immensity and originality of Tolkien’s work, but I just don’t enjoy his writing style and before the plane was even in the air I was bored. I slogged through what felt like five hundred pages of Bilbo Baggins’s party and by the time the first of the Ringwraiths showed up to kill the hobbits, I was actively cheering them on. I failed to finish the book on that holiday, opting instead to read the inflight magazine and watch Terminator 2. Three times.
Terminator 2 is probably closer to my reading level on a plane than the non-fiction that I normally like to get my teeth into. I’m usually crampled and fretful, and in need of a book that will entertain and engross me rather than educate me. Stephen King is one of my favoured in-flight authors, as is George R. R. Martin, but King clearly wins on the grounds that he releases books more often that once every seven years or so. Sadly, I’m up to date on Stephen’s work and facing seventy hours with no ideas of what to read and the worrying feeling that I may end up watching Terminator 2 yet again.
What’s your preferred read when you’re up in the air or on a long journey? Do you settle in for a long-haul of brain-stimulation or are you all about the brain-candy? And can you recommend anything that will keep me off terrible action flicks?
(And yes, I know, one obvious answer to my issues is an e-book reader but the one I have my eye on has been unavailable in Australia for the last few months. I may pick one up in the USA, if I can find it, but that’s too late to prevent me gnawing my own arm from boredom on the way there. And then how will I be able to carry it?)