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Books for Long Flights

5 novels to read when you've got nothing but time

It’s vacation time, so if you’re on a plane (and later, on a beach), dive into these reads to pass some of those hours in the friendly skies—or under the blazing sun. Note: There are no nonfiction titles below, so my apologies if escapism ain’t your thang…


Maybe you’ve saved this blockbuster especially for your summer trip? If you did, then Dan Brown will take you from Florence to Italy’s north and onward along Robert Langdon’s quest. Need a companion read? Get the source text, Dante’s The Divine Comedy, newly translated by Clive James, and give your Kindle or Nook an interdisciplinary literary workout. (Hey, school season is coming…)

Stoker's Manuscript

Royce Prouty’s debut novel reminds everyone of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. Well, I never got why that novel was a hit, honestly, but OK, with this novel—yeah, a big thumbs-up. For more “down-to-earth” material, go with Transatlantic, Colum McCann’s homage to the Emerald Isle.


Roberto Bolaño’s near-1,000-page bug-squashing cornucopia isn’t for everyone, but everyone seems to have an opinion about it. If you haven’t read it yet, now is your chance, and then…you will, too! It’s the modern-day Infinite Jest, in terms of literary fiction.

Astor Place Vintage

Stephanie Lehmann’s return to early-20th century New York is now out in paperback, and it’s perfect for those who enjoy novels that skillfully weave historical detail into narrative with seemingly perfect emotional pitch. For some contrast, peer into Kathleen Tessaro’s The Perfume Collector, a nice bit of historical fiction that skitters through time and class in Europe—just released.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

All right: This is a shortish book, but I couldn’t resist. If you like fairy tales, love magic and otherworldly chills, take this little book on the plane with you and read it. Chances are you’ll finish it before the flight attendants break out the pretzels, but if you haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman, let’s hope this serves as a gateway to his many works. You won’t be disappointed.

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