Friday, September 29, 2006

Airplane reading

is not for me at all a disparaging term; I find myself mentally "saving" certain books up for long trips, there is no good bringing/buying a pile of short books on one's travels and what you need is books that are long and also very entertaining (more or less Dickensian if possible). Plane trips are the circumstance in other words where a Robert Ludlum novel would suddenly become more appealing light reading than a Dick Francis.

Sometimes you buy the book in advance and keep it in reserve (Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon once got me through a long weekend of travel, it was excellent--good book in its own right of course, but conveniently immensely long....); then alternately aside from the length question there's the keeping-in-reserve of books that are interesting enough to be desirable but popular enough to be potentially purchasable even in an inadequate airport newstand-type bookstore (the one I've got in mind for this is Bill Buford's Heat, I would like to read it not too long from now but I think it's a sensible kind of thing to expect to find at some moment when I'm really, really strongly in need of a good book with not a lot of options for procuring one--non-fiction often works this way for me, I remember jumping on Augusten Burroughs' two memoirs in the actually quite good little bookstore in South Station in Boston and reading them both on the train to New York--not good value for money, exactly, but very enjoyable reading and the expense is allowable under the circumstances).

Anyway I've been reading reviews of this one with great interest, and
Donald Morrison's FT review of Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games is the clincher:

This is a blockbuster in every sense: 5lbs in weight, 900 pages, more subplots than Shakespeare, more themes than Tchaikovsky, more dead bodies than Highgate, more history than Gibbon, more characters than - well, Chandra’s other novel, Red Earth and Pouring Rain.



  1. I bought a copy of Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance' in a Delhi bookshop and was engrossed for much of the 8-hour train ride back to where I was living in Rajasthan. Then I emailed friends in London, frothing about it, only to find that he was old news over there.. Dickensian in all the right ways, apart, perhaps, from the humour. Not quite as funny as Dickens. But a great read, if you haven't seen it before.

  2. I love airplane reading, too. In the past several years, I've developed a weird affinity for multi-hour layovers at airports: I've come to appreciate the rare time for complete disconnectedness from other people, the possibility of exploring almost every gate in the airport (this is a particularly good adventure in Minneapolis-St. Paul, by far my favorite airport in the U.S.), and the chance to read long books without interruption. I do wonder, though, who picks up Henry IV, Parts I and II from the dutifully stocked Shakespeare section of the airport bookstore. I think some airports now have an exchange policy, where travelers can read a book on a plane and exchange it at their destination airport--a great idea if I'm remembering the terms correctly.

  3. I finished reading Sacred Games last week. The review was right---I couldn't put it down. It's an amazing book.