Wherever you’re jet-setting off to this summer, you need to have your perfect summer reading list in your suitcase right alongside your flip-flops, sunscreen, and that brand new bikini. It’s no good just picking randomly from the summer’s latest book releases. You’ll need the right book for the beach, a different book to read at a wedding (it’s your fifth wedding this season so you pretty much know these vows by heart now), a very different book to read in the hotel bar… and, of course, you need the ideal book for the plane.
It may be tempting to dive straight into the new Judy Blume that you’ve been too busy to read, or get your hands at last on the latest novel in the Fifty Shades franchise — but this would be a serious mistake. Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event is about planes falling from the sky, so you really don’t want to be reading that at 50,000 feet. (It’s fab though, so pack it in the suitcase for later.) And as for Grey, well, it’s probably not a good idea to get all hot and bothered on a plane if you don’t want to get arrested.
Nope, your reading for the plane is a pretty difficult (and crucially important) decision — so leave it to me.
If Your Flight Is 3 Hours...
...to Toronto: The Escape Artist by Anita Kushwaha
If you’re heading to Canada this summer, wile away the journey with this compelling novella about an Indian-Canadian 9-year-old who uses her vivid imagination to escape the loneliness of being an only child, and her aunt who suffers from severe PTSD. After an unexpected emergency forces them both into reality, you won’t be putting this one down until the plane lands.
...to Illinois: The Tenant by Javier Cercas
Javier Cercas’ Midwestern novella The Tenant follows a linguistics professor whose life begins to unravel. First he twists his ankle while running; soon he has lost his office, his girlfriend, his job… This darkly humorous story will give you chills and have you chuckling as you head home for the holidays.
...to New York: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
If it’s a city break you’re after this summer, where better to go than New York — and what better to read on the way than the legendary novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Don’t expect many similarities to the Audrey Hepburn film — Capote’s story is set in the 1940s and doesn’t include a love affair — but Holly Golightly is just as quirky and gorgeous on paper.
If Your Flight Is 6 Hours…
...to Mexico: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Each section of this magical romance begins with a Mexican recipe, so if you’re spending time in Mexico this summer, you can make use of the long plane journey for culinary inspiration. Each recipe is tied to a significant event in the novel, so your holiday dining will taste all the more special.
...coast to coast: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Maybe in Another Life begins with Hannah Martin flying to Los Angeles to start afresh, after a failed relationship with a married man. If you’re jetting cross country this summer, get stuck in to this Sliding Doors-esque romance — and watch Hannah chase her soulmate in two parallel universes after one tiny decision takes her life in rapidly different directions.
If Your Flight Is 8 Hours...
...to London: Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
Need I explain Bridget Jones? If you’re traveling to London to bag yourself a Mr. Darcy, make sure you’ve got this hilarious novel on hand. Use the plane journey to brush up on all your British slang, while being reassured that you’re not the only one who worries they may die alone and be eaten by an Alsatian.
...to Barcelona: The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda
This stream-of-consciousness novel is considered one of the most important works of literature about the Spanish Civil War, so it makes some pretty crucial plane reading if you want to fully understand the culture you’re about to submerse yourself in. It’s also a pretty uplifting tale of a woman discovering her own independence and outlook on the world.
If Your Flight Is 12 Hours...
...to Kenya: A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
If you like your vacations packed full of danger and excitement, get psyched up on the plane with literal cliffhanger A Change in Altitude. Three couples decide to climb Mount Kenya, but in a terrifying accident, one of the party is killed. This tragedy shapes the rest of the novel, which builds towards the daring decision to climb the mountain again.
...to Brazil: The Lost City of Z by David Grann
As if we needed proof that nonfiction can be every bit as unbelievable and gripping as fiction, David Grann decided to write about his journey into the Amazon, searching for what may have happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished there while looking for a lost city. Since his disappearance in 1925, 100 people have died in the hunt for Fawcett; Grann’s adventure reveals extraordinary evidence that Fawcett’s lost city may really have existed after all.
If Your Flight Is 24 Hours (and You Just Can't Sleep!)…
...to Australia: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
It’s a long way to Australia. Like, a really long way. Such a long way, in fact, that you’ll have time to devour the monumental classic The Thorn Birds from start to finish. Illicit affairs, a sweeping history, and devastating betrayals: this epic saga has them all. The only downside: you’ll land in Oz feeling pretty jet-lagged, because with this juicy book in your hand, you won’t be sleeping a wink.