Nothing could be more arbitrary than deciding what are the best books to read while traveling. Reading is such a subjective activity, based on personal preference, that telling anyone they should take Janna Gray's Kilingiri or Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code with them on the plane borders on nervy. On the other hand, suggesting good reading is as common as suggesting where you can get the best sandwich.
The actual physical transfer for a trip is often enhanced by a good read. It instills the journey with an extra sensory push that can make the trip that much more enjoyable and memorable. So it's not just about killing a few hours to avoid going stir crazy while waiting to reach your destination. It can be about entertaining yourself, learning and challenging your perception of the world. Whether you do that through fiction, non-fiction, historical or police procedurals, if there were a reason to reach for a good read, it's while traveling.
So, though we take the risk of being nervy, here are a few books that won't just pass the time during transit. They will remind you why you enjoy the written word so much in the first place.
The Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling)
Has any other collection of books provided so much entertainment and inspiration? With seven volumes in its catalog, it will more than keep you busy through the longest ride. The entire world marveled at a young, naïve boy's transformation to smart adulthood and wizardry.
Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968 (Taylor Branch)
This award-winning trilogy was a life goal for the author, dutifully chronicling the history of the civil rights movement in general and the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. in specific. Non-fiction and history buffs will find these books thrilling as segments can read like a page turner. These books will definitely keep the mind spinning during even the longest trip.
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
Already considered a classic piece of literature, this debut novel is a finely etched and detailed story set in the Gion district of Kyoto during pre-war Japan. It focuses on a young girl's journey from an impoverished fishing village to becoming a celebrated entertainer. Memoirs is a lively story of hope, courage and love that has been reminding readers that the life experience is fragile and beautiful.
Hollywood Babylon (Kenneth Ager)
Some of us like reading about sordid scandals. Peeking behind the curtain and seeing that it isn't all bright lights and champagne. There are many books like this one, but this was the first. Released in 1965, it was banned and not republished until 1975. There's nothing to learn here that will make your life better. But for us gossip mongers, it's the cat's meow!
A Painted House (John Grisham)
Actually, anything by Grisham would make a good read on a speeding train, boat or airplane diving in and out of the clouds. They are all deliberately fast paced and engaging. This one, about a young boy caught up in a brutal murder, is no slacker in the Grisham department.
Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)
Captivating, it's loosely based on real events. A man escapes from an Australian prison and flies to India, passing himself off as a doctor. From there it's a series of adventures that take our protagonist from the tumultuous slums of Mumbai to the likes of New Zealand, Afghanistan and Germany. Don't let its size deter you. This is as fast a read as it gets.