Up in the air

What should I read on this flight?

After you’ve watched Air New Zealand’s “Stretch And Slide” safety video for the umpteenth time, you are faced with many long hours before the joys of Heathrow are yours to behold. What else is there to do, but conduct an independent survey of  your fellow passengers’ reading material?

Given the number of library customers we’ve helped with their e-readers over the past few months, I expected to see heaps of heads bent over little back-lit screens, and it is true that people were playing games on iPads. But  when it came to actual reading, people had chosen books (at least that was true in Economy Class; heaven knows what  goes on behind the little curtain in Business and First!)

Here’s the lowdown from on high of some of the books that were being read on my flights:

There were others, but their titles were concealed and I stopped short of riffling through sleeping passengers’ seat pockets. That would be creepy. To my surprise, I saw no magazines, but a couple of passengers were messily doing battle with newspapers in their teeny tiny allotted spaces. You just have to ask: why, why, why?

What really took me aback though, was that I saw only three e-readers in use on the whole trip. I have no idea what books were being displayed on them and that’s the one thing I really dislike about e-readers: even though reading has always been a private activity, I love the potential connection afforded by an exposed book title. In fact, in my younger days I fantasised about the perfect pick-up line, one in which a handsome stranger invites me for a coffee/wine on the strength of the book title he has just seen me reading. Using an e-reader would scupper that one for sure.

I’ve only read three of the books that my fellow travellers chose. So what do you think, did they do well?  What would you recommend as plane reading fare? And, when you next travel, can you keep an eye on what your fellow passengers are up to (reading-wise, that is)? I’m all up in the air over this one!

9 thoughts on “Up in the air

  1. Helen weideman 1 July 2012 / 11:46 am

    have just read a book review; Skios by Michael Frayn which I have earmarked as a book for my trip to SA , I must say I am a magazine reader on a plane, I always purchase one at a departing airport and flick through it when I am bored with the movie, eating lark, can’t sleep scenario

    • robertafsmith 1 July 2012 / 1:53 pm

      Yes, I am also a magazine fan so I was really taken aback that there was no in-flight mag and that no-one I saw had chosen mags to read on the plane. Very mysterious!

  2. ValerieL 2 July 2012 / 9:44 am

    No matter how long or short the flight is, my fellow plane travelers reading choices fall into three groups:
    1. The travel guide readers.
    2. The readers of page one of a large tome purchased at the airport and will never finish reading.
    3. Readers of newspapers that are so big, they are spread across the trays of the passengers on either side.
    As for me, I sit and watch. I want to:
    1. lean forward and tell the travel guide readers that they should have read that before they got on the plane.
    2. Suggest to the tome reader that the only way they will ever find out who dun-it, is to flip through and read the last page.
    3. Ask the newspaper reader to turn the page because I have finished reading the page he is on.

    • robertafsmith 2 July 2012 / 12:05 pm

      Well said Valerie! Other than reading other peoples’ newspapers though, have you ever read a book on a plane and if so what?

      • ValerieL 2 July 2012 / 2:28 pm

        Hi Roberta. After I have finished reading OP’s newspaper, I’m not left with a lot of time to read a book. I have started Joseph Conrad’s Secret agent and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the wind on planes and finished reading both books several months after the planes landed.

  3. Alice 6 July 2012 / 2:47 pm

    On the very first plane flight I ever went on – London to New York in 1989 – I was reading Jonathon Livingstone Seagull – 3 other people were reading the same book. A good book for flying perhaps.

    • robertafsmith 7 July 2012 / 8:23 am

      Definitely a case of the right book at the right time!

  4. Rebecca 6 July 2012 / 7:19 pm

    Thanks Roberta, your post reminds me of a book I enjoyed a few years ago: ‘Beginner’s Greek’ by Jim Collins. It’s a pre-GFC kind of romantic comedy (I think the hero created some kind of bundled mortgage product for a bank – yikes!) and the hero and heroine first meet on a flight because one of them is reading Thomas Mann’s ‘Magic Mountain’… the paperback! If the book was on a screen, hidden from view, no plot? Or maybe less charm?

    • robertafsmith 9 July 2012 / 4:30 pm

      It will be interesting to see how this literary crisis resolves itself!

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