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Books on a Plane

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Book placed on the airplane seat with a bag of complimentary snacks.

We have now returned from our summer journeys. Journeys that took us on planes, trains, and Automobiles. I am very familiar with a variety of airports, security protocols, and airport food.

An interesting and delightful learning experience on these many travels is rekindling my love for reading on a plane.

We fly on many of our trips, and much like the kids, I downloaded shows to watch on the plane. It was an excuse to wear headphones to drown out the plane noise and an excuse not to make conversation with the person sitting next to me – although my kids have more than once pointed out that I always make friends on a plane ... and the mall ... and the park. However, the inconsistency of apps, WiFi, or battery power has left me NOT streaming my favorite show but instead scanning through the flight offerings. Whenever I have watched movies or shows on a plane, they are edited and will cut out when the flight attendant makes announcements, which is annoying. They have also taken away my control, and as a result, I either end up frustrated and watching Behr play his Sneaky Sasquatch game, a game that Hubs has renamed Grand Theft Auto for Kids. Once on a trip to New Orleans, we were stuck on the runway for almost an hour and I burned through my downloads too quickly. My planned flight distraction ran out just when we were flying over a thunderstorm. And while the lightning in the clouds beneath the plane looked super-cool, white-knuckling it the second half of my flight was not fun.

Last Thanksgiving for the Lousiville flight, I forwent the hassle of preparing eight hours of download and instead packed a book. I turned on a jazz playlist and sunk into the story. I read all of Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood. It was refreshingly retro.

Reading a book is intimate. It’s just you and the content. And when you step into a book, you are the one who decides the pace. You might pause at the chapter breaks or scene breaks, but really you can pause or walk away at any time. If it gets scary, you can flip pages. If it gets boring, you can skip whole chapters. You are literally holding a little world in your hands. One might argue that you have the same control with a tablet. Fine. But a book has never told me, Failure to load.

One of the things I have noticed in my travels is that I am not the only one who has decided to ditch streaming on planes. Sitting at the gate, it’s not uncommon to see people reading books! Like real books. I spotted someone reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, another reading Karen Soto is Back, and a million people reading Colleen Hoover's books. Airports not only still sell books, but they also have these new "Read It and Return It" programs for frequent fliers. On my way out of Tampa, when I purchased Ruth Ware’s One by One in a gloriously small mass-market paperback size, the clerk asked if I was interested in it. I said, “No. I like to keep my books.” but now I have read the bookmark that came with it and an thinking it's not a horrible idea. Especially if you get on a plane with a book and realize you hate it.

Reading on a plane – or in a car, or on a train – is not for everyone. Hubs claims he cannot concentrate on a book while on a plane because all the sounds and noises on the plane are too distracting. Instead, he reads articles on his phone or streams what the plane offers. I have caught Behr reading a Dog Man book once while sitting next to me, but he prefers playing games. W. likes to stream, but he will only stream something for ten minutes before starting something different. He’ll watch parts of five different movies when we fly for an hour, which is why we are often arguing for download space on Netflix.

But the beauty of reading on the plane is it provides a space where you can read. I mean how often is anyone in a space for an hour or more of uninterrupted reading time? And when you are interrupted, it's a nice person trying to hand you the beverage of your choice and a bag of snacks.

Luckily, we don’t have another flight planned for months. I'm tired. But when we do, I can only hope Megan Abbott’s Beware the Woman is available in trade paperback so it fits easily into my tote.

I love to hear what people are reading, and to see them out and about getting “caught” reading.

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Read Books. Wear Boots.



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