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books for travel

Rule #1 of inflight entertainment: Don’t rely on the inflight movie. While you’re traveling for the holidays—whether it’s to a tropical beach or your in-laws suburban house three states away—we recommend snagging a great read instead. Need a few ideas? Below are our selections, all engrossing enough to help you forget about Aunt Myrtle’s bunions, and entertaining enough to distract from the imminent return to your workaday routine.

Tenth of December

Tenth of December | George Saunders

Saunders’ humor and ability to take on disparate voices transports readers (inside the mind of a preteen ballerina moments before a kidnapper arrives, for example). These stories have an immediacy that places readers uber in-the-moment, and what else could you ask for when you’re stuck another thirty minutes on that tarmac?


Night Film | Marisha Pessl

Maybe your taste runs more adrenaline-heavy? Marisha Pessl’s debut novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics was about a precocious girl confronted with a murder mystery and Night Film promises an equally gripping follow-up. Centered around an investigation into the strange death of the glamorous Ashley Cordova, this noir-ish tale draws readers deep into her family’s darkness.


Shark | Will Self

Shark revolves around a WWII maritime incident that resulted in a horrific a shark attack. Decades later, a survivor has flashbacks, and his shrink helps him untangle the memory. (Those flying over southern pacific waters might want to wait till dry land for this one.)


Don’t Start Me Talkin’ | Tom Williams

This blues road novel is about Brother Ben, the last remaining True Delta Bluesman, as he plays his final North American tour. It’s both tender and humorous, (and neither requires readers to know much about blues music, nor have them). It touches on race and culture, but mostly hones in on the inherent humor of these last-of-their-kind musicians.


Americanah | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The last few years have seen Adichie’s TED talk go viral, Beyonce sample her speech “We Should All Be Feminists,” and the publication of an Elle essay about smart women loving fashion. Americanah, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, centers around Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman in the U.S. grappling with community and belonging.


Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World  | Matthew Goodman

This is basically the 1880s version of “The Amazing Race,” detailing how two women were sent to circle the globe in 80 days, ala Jules Verne. The visceral travel details (stormy oceans, enormous snowdrifts) just might bring out your inner travel bug, and put you right back on that plane.


I Am Malala | Malala Yousafza

Shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education, seventeen year old Malala Yousafza was awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest-ever recipient. Read her story of recovery and survival to understand why John Stewart threatened to adopt her.


Tagged: Family time, Top 10 Lists

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Gretchen Kalwinski

Gretchen Kalwinski

Gretchen is a Chicago-based arts, culture and travel writer, and writing coach. She’s working on her first novel, and tweets sporadically at @gretchel.
Gretchen Kalwinski

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