Long layovers are brutal.
We spend a lot of time thinking about all of the fun things that we’re going to do while on vacation, but somehow forget that there is plenty of boring downtime too. I’ve sat in airport terminals on eight-hour layovers just because it helped me save a couple hundred bucks.
There’s a price for adventure. When it comes to air travel, that price is often paid in time. At a certain point you become willing to buy whatever tripe the airport’s bookseller has. Five hours into a layover, you’re so delirious from too much boredom, coffee, and Dramamine that you’re ready to purchase a Sarah Palin book. You might even find your worldview changing.
Eventually I wised up and started carrying books with me even when I didn’t expect a significant layover. You never know when the weather or airline is going to screw you over.
Here are some of the books that have helped me get through long layovers. They tend to be funny and easy to follow. Nothing too complicated because you have to pay attention to what flights are boarding. For me, subject matter doesn’t matter much. The book doesn’t have to be about travel. I’m looking for easily digestible nuggets of entertainment. These are the ones that have helped me most…
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace is one of my favorite writers. He’s often known for labyrinthine sentence structures and plots, but this book is easy enough to follow as long as you can tune the terminal’s TV monitors out.
Wallace’s genius and humor shines bright in these journalistic pieces. Regardless of whether he’s writing about mathematics, cruise ships, or professional tennis, the subject is always his mind. He never misses an opportunity to crack a joke, but his worldview is also extremely thoughtful and considerate. If you have a Kindle, then you should keep this book loaded in perpetuity. Keep re-reading. It’ll take you years to fully understand Wallace’s level of perception.
Leaving Brooklyn – Lynne Sharon Schwartz
When I first read this book I immediately felt stupid for not reading more work written by women. I don’t think that I felt that way just because Leaving Brooklyn was written by a talented female author, but rather that Schwartz revealed so much to me about being a young woman that I realized how much I had missed about the opposite sex.
Leaving Brooklyn is a coming-of-age story, but it’s much better than the one’s you’ve read before. Well, maybe not Portrait of an Artist, but that’s unreadable in an airport. Schwartz is one of those rare writers who makes well crafted sentences look easy. She makes it seem so natural that you forget how much work goes into writing well.
Any Book by Chuck Palahniuk
If you have a strong stomach, then Chuck Palahniuk’s books are perfect for travel delays. His writing is concise. His sentences are short. His books are amusingly thoughtful. I spent a couple of years lugging around several of his books at a time, so I’ve read them all in various airports and train stations.
You can plow through them in a few hours without losing interest in the story.
Palahniuk’s books tend to be very funny. At least I think so. It’s always possible that his stories will make you throw up or pass out.
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
I always try to read David Sedaris’s books with his voice in mind. If you’ve never seen him read, then you’re missing a lot of the humor in his stories. Download a few of his recordings if you don’t have a chance to see him live in the near future. It’ll give you some idea of how much funnier he is in person.
Me Talk Pretty One Day is, for me, the most consistent of his works. The short story format is perfect for travel. You get in a few chuckles, check to see when your flight will arrive, and then dive back into the book.
You’ll probably end up reading “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” several times. It’s freaking hilarious.
(Image via: Amazon.com)