If you have ever made the horrific mistake of getting on a plane without a book in hand, then you know just how important a good in-flight book is. Sure, you tell yourself that you'll be fine watching the failed NBC sitcom pilots on that tiny personal TV screen, but somewhere over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean you're going to start wishing for something a little more substantial to keep your brain from atrophying. Here are a few short, brilliant books you can easily finish in a single plane ride.
I like a long book just as much as the next nerd — you always feel accomplished when you've conquered an 800-page monstrosity. But there's something to be said for a book that you can finish in one setting. You're completely enveloped in that story from beginning to end. Short books can change your entire life in the space of a couple of hours. And a airplane is weirdly the perfect reading spot, too: you're literally miles above the rest of the world, strapped to a chair, with no distractions besides the one year old wailing directly in your ear.
So if you're packing for your next long plane ride, here are a few books to throw in your carry-on:
1. 'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)' by Mindy Kaling
If you favor a light, breezy kind of airplane read, then this is the book for you. It's like spending the flight gabbing with your best friend, who also happens to be a wildly successful comedy writer and one of the wittiest people alive. Mindy Kaling's memoir covers everything from rom-coms to fringe theatre to selfies, and you'll easily tear through it in one cross-country flight.
2. 'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson
Or maybe you like an airplane book that's going to make you feel paranoid and deeply uncomfortable while trapped in a metal tube in the sky. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously creepy novel from horror master Shirley Jackson. It's short enough to finish on even the briefest of flights, but the story of Merricat Blackwood and her dead family will be seared into your brain forever.
3. 'An Age of License' by Lucy Knisley
Off on a trip abroad? Bring An Age of License for some travel inspiration. Knisley's adorable drawings catalog her book tour through Europe, and each stop has something new to offer. There's romance in cafés and cemeteries, career anxieties, honesty, and midnight picnics at the Eiffel Tower. It might even inspire you to write your own travelogue!
4. 'The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams
You might not have time to read all five books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy," but you'll certainly have time for the first one or two. If you like to spend your flight giggling uncontrollably so that the other passengers look at you weird, then this is the absurdist space adventure for you.
5. 'Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri
Short stories are a natural fit for a long flight, because sometimes you don't have the patience for five straight hours of the same exact plot. Interpreter of Maladies is a gorgeously nuanced story collection, tackling the barriers of culture and generations with great insight. Each one of Lahiri's stories brings something beautiful and real to light.
6. 'Slaughterhouse-Five' by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the funniest, most profound books about time traveling aliens that you'll ever read in one sitting. It's not just about time traveling aliens, of course, it's about war and humanity and mortality and all those other hilarious topics, which Vonnegut tackles with his patented dry humor.
7. 'Giovanni’s Room' by James Baldwin
As long as we're reading classics on planes, you should pick up James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room. It's a slim volume that was nevertheless a hugely controversial book in it's day: an American man comes to Paris in the 1950s and proposes to a young woman... only to fall into a passionate love affair with an Italian man. It's poetic, heartbreaking, and all too short.
8. 'Chronicle of a Death Foretold' by Gabriel García Márquez
Twenty-seven years ago, Santiago Nasar was murdered for having loved the beautiful Angela Vicario. A nameless narrator is now trying to get to the bottom of this baffling case, but the more he learns, the less clear it all becomes. Chronicle of a Death Foretold is not your usual murder mystery, and in just over 100 pages, Gabriel García Márquez manages to bring an entire town to life while racing to his story's shocking conclusion.
9. 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' by David Sedaris
David Sedaris has a lot of hilarious memoirs out there, but this has got to be one of the absolute best. Sedaris reminisces about his childhood speech therapy, his weird family, his failed career as a performance artist, and so much more. His rants are ridiculous, but he'll definitely keep you entertained through any amount of turbulence.
10. 'Invisible Cities' by Italo Calvino
If you want an airplane book that you can leisurely page through while glancing out the window at all those tiny, glittering cities, then read Italo Calvino. His utterly bizarre Invisible Cities is less a novel that a series of prose sketches of different fantastical towns. It's weird, beautiful, and perfect for slipping into your purse on a long trip.