Twelve More Books to Read on a Twelve Hour Journey
When The Attic on Eighth was first launched, we were asked to share books that were good for “a twelve hour journey.” Then, Olivia shared her favorite picks for the task, turning to classics and contemporary books alike. Today, she revisits the concept with newer picks.
Faced with my first transatlantic journey in several years last week, I fixated on one specific question: what was I going to read on the plane? The last time I’d crossed the ocean, in-flight internet wasn’t a thing, and I know as a fact that I don’t really like to watch films on planes – I can’t hear well over the sound of the engines (who can afford noise cancelling headphones?) and I also know that I don’t sleep on planes, no matter what. Long flights, in my book, are made for reading. I love knowing that I’m up in the air, far from all communication, far, even, from any responsibilities. I can disappear into a book knowing that I don’t need to, and even can’t, look at my phone or get distracted by someone in front of me.
What I read, then, becomes very important. Who wants to be stuck on a flight with a bad book, unwilling to turn the pages and likely to get distracted by the smell of airplane food being heated up down the aisle?
For my recent flight (or I should say flights because I’ve now made a round trip), I settled on three books: New People by Danzy Senna, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. All three were books I had been looking forward to and ones I knew I would speed through. They didn’t disappoint. Here is more on them and some of my other most absorbing contemporary reads that are sure to keep you hooked for hours on end:
An American Marriage, Tayari Jones – The story of two Atlanta newlyweds – described as “the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South” – who are ripped apart when one of them is falsely accused of a crime and jailed, An American Marriage is the intimate and passionate creation of characters that feel so real by the end of the novel that you think of them for weeks afterwards. A stunning and immediate modern classic.
New People, Danzy Senna – Taking place in 1990s Brooklyn, New People is about a PhD student in her late 20s who is simultaneously trying to finish an emotionally taxing dissertation and get ready for her wedding to her longtime boyfriend and fiancé. The novel is often noted for its exploration of biracial identity – both the protagonist and her partner are biracial and question what that means – but for all the academically interested amongst you, it is a poignant look at the state of mind of working on longterm research and, in a world of white, male campus novels, a rare look at the academic world through the eyes of a woman of color.
The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory – The novel that is giving romance novels the good name they deserve. Dealing with the aftermath of an elevator meet-cute, The Wedding Date follows the romance between a mayor’s chief of staff in Berkeley and a pediatric surgeon in Santa Monica and delves into social, racial, and gender issues in a thoughtful way while still telling a squee-worthy fluffy story.
The Mothers, Brit Bennett – Reading The Mothers about a week before I left for my trip, I was almost disappointed that I hadn’t thought to keep it for the trip. Considering the absence of mothers in the face of teenage romance, abortion, religion, and friendship, The Mothers is a bildungsroman for the modern day. A fantastic read you won’t want to put down.
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng – One of the all around best novels I’ve read in the past few years. A story about mothers, daughters, and the messiness of art and family, Little Fires Everywhere sucked me out one of my worst reading ruts and reignited my love of contemporary literature. I don’t really feel the need to say anything more than to read it.
Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton – We’ve mentioned and recommended Social Creature here on the Attic many times. Our Rachel Tay even wrote a piece about it and its connections to Mean Girls. We love it, I love it, and it’s a fantastic book to disappear into for hours on end if you love Edith Wharton and Gossip Girl and wish they had more to do with actual crime and murder.
The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer – Another book we’ve written about before. The Female Pesuasion isn’t a fun read by any means, but it is an engaging one. About the professional relationship between its young protagonist and her older female mentor, the novel explores a too-little-written-about dynamic, while engaging with different feminisms, and is just long enough that it will keep you reading through an entire flight.
Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff – Fates and Furies is a fantastic novel. About the fraught marriage between two New Yorkers, the novel delves into passion and deception in a stunning way that plays with perspective and is ultimately incredibly human. Groff’s collection of slightly gothic short stories, Florida is also a fantastic read that will keep you entertained for ages if you don’t want to dig your teeth into only a single story.
The Muse, Jessie Burton – A dual story that takes place between 1960s London and 1930s Spain, The Muse is tied together by a painting. An engaging, dramatic, but intellectual novel, The Muse pulled me out of yet another reading rut. I highly recommend it if you also love period dramas.
Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney – I may have had reservations about Normal People, but Rooney’s first novel is the one I genuinely loved. Like The Wedding Date, it’s a fantastic book to read if you love romantic comedies, but it’s definitely an angstier one that stars Keira Knightley, poetry, affairs, and trips to the French countryside rather than to California. Conversations with Friends is thoughtful and, I believe, ties together far more nicely than Normal People.
The Incendiaries, R.O. Kwon – Another twist on the campus novel, The Incendiaries deals with the romance between Phoebe and Will, as Phoebe is radicalized by a religious cult that turns to mass violence specifically aimed at abortion centers. Not a single character in the novel is likable, yet the book pulls you into its world, wanting you to read more and find out what is motivating its inhabitants.
What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons – A great book to read, flying between countries and cultures. The experimentally written story of a young woman who comes of age between the US and South Africa as she deals with the loss of her mother, What We Lose is a quick but poignant read that makes you feel its every emotion but also has you taking a second look at its style.
Bonus: Throw as many of your mini Penguins and Faber & Fabers and Picador Classics into your bag as you can to help transition between reads or to take short breaks on your trip!
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Olivia Gündüz-Willemin is Editor-in-Chief of The Attic on Eighth. She is dedicated to reading her way through the world and trying to stay as calm as possible.