Twelve Books to Read on a Twelve Hour Journey


Summer is quickly approaching (and is already here for many of us on the academic clock!), and as such, long hours on trains and planes are imminent. Once upon a time, summer meant multiple transatlantic flights to and from Europe for me. Those days are no more (replaced instead by short flights and long train journeys), but a couple of weeks ago, I got a request for reading recommendations for a twelve hour flight and got to thinking about what I have or would like to read on one, long, internet-free journey. These are my recommendations:

  1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt In the opening pages of the novel, Theodore Decker tells us he dreams of "endless airport corridors where I ran for planes I knew I’d never make" and I consequently now always associate The Goldfinch with travel. Plus, The Goldfinch is as long as can be and is much more summery in feeling than The Secret History – perfect for long hours of summer travel.

  2. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Simple I read this on my last westbound transatlantic flight, and it was the perfect, lightest, funniest travel companion I could have asked for.

  3. The House at Riverton, Kate Morton I absolutely adore getting lost in the worlds Kate Morton brings to life for hours at a time, and The House of Riverton is a beautiful way to spend twelve straight hours.

  4. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton What is travel without imagining early twentieth century glamour? And what is early twentieth century glamour without a little Edith Wharton? For that matter, what is life without a little Edith Wharton?

  5. The Nest, Cynthia d'Aprix Sweeney The Nest was one of the most engaging novels I've read in the past two years, and I would have loved to have it to entertain me during a long journey.

  6. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy The request I got for this list asked if Anna Karenina would be a good book to have on hand for a twelve hour flight, and indeed, what better time is there to dedicate all your attention to Tolstoy? So long as you don't feel like emulating the ending when you're done.

  7. The Idiot, Elif Batuman I recently expressed my thoughts on The Idiot, and while I wasn't always sure how I felt about it, I do know that it would have been a great plane read as Selin spends half the novel hopping from country to country.

  8. The Shuttle, Frances Hodgson Burnett I discovered some of Frances Hodgson Burnett's adult novels via Persephone Books last year, and The Shuttle is by far my favorite. It's long, engaging, thought-provoking, and comforting all at once, and as a bonus, it takes place on both sides of the Atlantic.

  9. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion This book was brought to my attention a couple of years ago when I was desperately searching for something light but substantial to read after exams. I read the entire novel in a couple of hours, and I know it would be great to have on hand while traveling.

  10. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood The most easily-readable of Margaret Atwood's works, The Blind Assassin is a long but engaging read that'll help you forget your surroundings.

  11. Rules of Civility, Amor Towles I read Rules of Civility on train rides to and from Paris a couple of winters ago, and it was glorious to sit there, fully immersed in Towles's world as France went by outside my window.

  12. The Best of P.G. Wodehouse, P.G. Wodehouse I tend to get quite stressed during long journeys, and P.G. Wodehouse tends to calm me down when I do. I always like to have a volume of his works going (so far, always Jeeves-related) and this volume would be perfect to have on hand for a flight.

Enjoy and bon voyage!