One of the items on my Packing List is "reading material". Lately, my reading material has consisted entirely of fashion magazines. No judging. I've found that I have had a shorter attention span during recent trips, and prefer to read magazines or just watch "30 Rock" episodes on my iPod in between naps. I do enjoy books. It's just sometimes a challenge to find one that is airplane-appropriate.
On one flight I had just started David Sedaris' "Me Talk Pretty One Day". I had somehow ended up with a window seat (my self-diagnosed claustrophobia usually demands the aisle seat), and was tucked up next to the window reading about Mr. Sedaris' adventures in speech therapy. Airplanes are a lot like libraries, where you sort of feel like you should "Shhhh-ussshhie!" and I was trying so hard not to laugh out loud. But you know, when you're trying to suppress giggles, or less-cute guffaws, it just makes it worse. I was literally hugging the wall of the airplane, with my face turned away from my appropriately-quiet seatmates, violently shaking, with tears streaming down my face. Funny reading does make the flight go by more quickly, though. What else passes the time quickly? Smut! Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele, Judith Krantz - all good smut. Although it takes a brave individual to read those books out in the open, where anyone can judge you, or peer over your shoulder at an embarrassing sentence involving things that are "engorged" or "heaving".
I think that the airplane might just be the ideal place to try to get through such arduous works as "One Hundred Years of Solitude" or "Dr. Zhivago". If you've read either of these in their entirety, my hat is off to you (and I'm probably bowing). I have never had more difficulty sorting out character names. Lordy, the NAMES! I tried and tried and TRIED to keep characters straight, with the myriad José Arcadio Buendías, and the Pavel Pasha Kologrigovstanislovskivichs. It was exhausting. I even tried to dumb them down, for my own benefit, and said "I'm going to call him 'Joe', and her 'Sally'." To no avail. However, the whole "I'm trapped on an airplane" situation might be just what you need to power through those crazy names and finally conquer those books.
My opinions on airplane-reading:
- All David Sedaris - but be prepared. There may be spit-takes, there may be uncontrollable shaking, there may even be a little pee if you're not careful (but I was).
- "I Am America And So Can You" by Stephen Colbert - particularly for international flights, because that's just funny.
- Horror/thrillers - because you can always clutch your seatmate for support. Much less scary than reading it alone in your room.
Ed. note: The most terrifying book I've ever read was "The Amityville Horror". I could only read it in broad daylight, at the office, where I was surrounded by chirpy coworkers.
- Playboy - Seriously. I actually had to sit next to some guy who brought Playboy onto the flight. I moved as soon as we had reached cruising altitude (insert obvious joke about his impending cruising altitude, ha ha ha. Gross.)
- "War & Peace" - come on.
- Any variation of "Build your own bomb" - obvious reasons.
- "Growing Up in Bhutan" - the world's largest book, with 100 pages at five by seven feet. It would require its own seat, and probably in Business Class.
Just plain pretentious:
- See "War & Peace"
- Anything by Proust - sorry Dad
- "Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone" - Latin edition - yes, it has been translated into Latin.
If you forget to bring your own reading material, take the time to enjoy the in-flight magazine. It's not offensive, it's not pretentious, and you will almost always be able to pronounce the names and keep the characters straight. Plus, there's a crossword puzzle!