Thursday, April 8, 2010

Travelling Tomes

The Books on the Nightstand podcasts (which I'm a little behind in listening to) have brought up some interesting topics of late. One, in particular, I'd like to focus on: Books to Read While Travelling. This topic actually spanned two pod casts: Podcast 69 ("Book Spotting at the Airport") and Podcast 70 ("Poll: Best Books for Your Carry-on" and "What Makes a Good Airplane Book?") And as I listened to, and deeply pondered (of course), these related topics, it made me wonder if airports and airplanes don't required wholly different types of reading material.

Airports are both hustle-and-bustle and hurry-up-and-wait. You're sitting for long periods of time, but rarely comfortably. You're also trying to multi-task (grab a bite, use a bathroom that's slightly larger than a shoe box, use your phone, check on connections, etc.) by doing all of the things you can't do (or have a hard time doing) on an airplane. Your attention is pulled in multiple directions as people parade past you on their way to their destinations. Therefore, in my opinion, airports require books that are less literary in nature; more plot-driven because your airport reading material will be required to both: 1) Allow you to "zone out" the circus surrounding you; and 2) Read in shorter bursts (in between activities). I feel that commercial genres (Science Fiction, Thriller, etc.) are better suited to meeting those needs.

Airplanes, on the other hand, are a much more static environment. Sure, you might have a seat neighbor who is a chatty cathy, making it hard to read, but once you've addressed that impediment to your literary pursuits (patiently listening to their sales pitch and/or story or giving them the brush-off), then you're all set. Airplanes tend to be quieter (on the whole) than airports, and you'll (generally) have 60 or more minutes of uninterrupted time in your seat. This gives you the time required to invest in digging into more dense prose or teasing out character development that literary fiction often times requires.

In the segment, "What Makes a Good Airplane Book?", Michael (who's opinion is not the same as what I've stated) alludes to the fact that he tends toward commercial fiction while travelling (perhaps because: 1) He travels with young children; and/or 2) He doesn't want to pack two sets of books--airport and airplane--when he travels). And upon inspection of the above photograph (taken by a random Flickr member in the Regan Airport [Washington]), I'd say that airport book stores cater to that sensibility.

This BORDERS has the "High Flying Hits" display which, upon close inspection, I was able to identify eight of the fifteen titles (if someone else can find the others, then I'll be super impressed) and they were all genre fiction titles: Pandora’s Daughter by Iris Johansen; Point Blank by Catherine Coulter; The King of Lies by John Hart; The Traitor by Stephen Coonts; The Assassin [and another undetermined title] by Ted Bell; The Dying Game by Beverly Barton; and Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella. All that to say: If you want to read literary fiction (in the airport or on the airplane), you're probably well advised to bring it with you.

After you've read all this (and listened to the pod casts), hustle on over to BOTNS and participate in their poll about the best travel book... poll closes on April 30.

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