What happened to the airport novel?
These provocative and packed books were full of plot, just the thing to help pass the hours into the journey (with maybe a few small bottles from the drinks cart). With titles in glossy and embossed font, the covers of these paperbacks for the massive market bear images of tall-stemmed roses, champagne flutes, and the occasional dagger (a shoe or dagger, depending on the plot).
The fate of these ubiquitous books was on my mind while passing through some airports last week. I haven’t seen any of it, so I put up the question on Twitter, asking people what makes the book an airport read and if they have any favorites.
“The term brings back to my mind legal thrillers — early Grisham stuff, Da Vinci Code, or Scott Turow,” Wrote Los Angeles Times Op-Ed assistant editor Marit Orlis, who has programmed the book festival for many years and has also been a bookseller.
“It’s big names for thriller writers, big books, self-help (based on bestsellers), celebrity memoirs, and big fiction titles,” Kathleen Schmidt books. “Basically, the airport book is a bestseller, past or present.”
My own sense of what the books were like was rather vague, thinking of books like Arthur Healy Airport – It has to be one, right? Or the novels by Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins. (If he’s not a writer of airport novels, Robbins is at least an honorary beach read, as his name is recorded in Seaside pressure poem“pull the mussels (from the shell).”)
I needed more help, so I asked a book expert, author, librarian, and Notice the action of the figureNancy Pearl on Airport Novels.
“I think the way we generally think about airplane books, airplane readings, or airport novels is a novel that immediately grabs your attention, and doesn’t even let you search for it. So this cross-country flight goes really fast, because you Too busy with the book.”
Pearl, who was Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award In 2021 from the National Book Foundation, he says these books are often viewed with disdain.
“They have a bit of a bad reputation among intellectuals, because they’re plot-driven. Because that’s what’s going to take you,” she says. “You can’t leave it because you want to see what happens next.”
Pearl suggested two books that did just that: Helen Geltrow’s “Distance” – which I immediately ordered from the library – and Richard K. Netflix series has become Several years ago. (I’d add literally last summer’s book about the “Falling” plane by T.J. Newman, too.)
“I think, in fact, any book could be an airplane book,” she says. For me, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” by John Le Carré, was the kind of book I can’t let go of. It was a lot of fun, but I don’t think that’s the kind of book when we tend to think about reading airplanes.”
Perhaps asking what happened to the airport novel is the wrong question. Because a lot has changed at the airport over the past few decades, from the suite of security measures to the cost of checking a bag or changing your seat. (Those old jokes about shoddy plane food seem weird now because a lot of flights don’t serve meals anymore.)
There is also a wide selection of books to read at many airports now. I first picked up Pete Dexter’s excellent “Deadwood” at the Denver Airport several years ago and loved it. Last week, a convenience store in Burbank Airport had a small but adorable selection of horror titles (although I was horrified enough at the cost of a bottle of water and a bag of Chex Mix).
Plus, let’s be honest: Streaming and screen opportunities are now hard to beat. On my recent trip, I saw people immersed in online puzzles, an action movie, and a Korean TV show in the seats around me.
and me? I was reading a book.
(Note: As you can imagine, Nancy Pearl is quite the fun, and so I’ll get more of our wide-ranging talk in an upcoming column.)
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Do you have any questions, book suggestions, or airport readings to share as we head into the long weekend? Please send it to email@example.com and it may appear in the column.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
Sunyi Dean knows what her debut ‘The Book Eaters’ will taste like.
Sunyi Dean describes herself as an autistic author of fantasy fiction. She was born in the United States, raised in Hong Kong and now lives in northern England in Yorkshire with her children. Stay active by running, swimming and doing yoga. “The Book Eaters” is her first novel.
Q: Can you tell readers a little bit about your book Eaters of Books and what inspired it?
“The Book Eaters” is a mystery thriller set in alternative Britain in the 1990s, centered around a community of people who eat books for sustenance, and the main character is a fierce gray single mother.
There’s a lot of other stuff going on, but I’ll avoid spoilers!
Q: In the book Eaters of Books, different books have different tastes. How will your book taste?
I strangely thought about this a lot, and decided it would taste like blood and peat. Peat is a rich, dark soil that is especially watery, and it smells very smoky; We flavor whiskey with it (among other things.)
Q: What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading ARC [advanced readers copy] From “World Running Down” by Al Hess, a retro post-apocalyptic book with conscious androids and tech-savvy transformers. He’s so much fun and he has an incredible heart.
Q: Do you remember the first book that influenced you?
cliched, but ‘Lord of the Rings’ stands tall. I read it early and made an impression. When I was about seven years old, my father started reading The Fellowship of the Ring to me in bits and pieces as a bedtime story. I ran out of patience and I “borrowed” books from him to move forward.
Q: Do you have any favorite book covers?
I adore retro SFF covers and used to take pictures of them for Instagram. I know they’re cheesy and not marketable anymore, but they had charm and color and were an absolute trip to look at. Any of the old Moorcock covers were great.
Q: Do you have a favorite book or books?
My favorite book is “Hawk Wings” by Cynthia Voigt. It’s an unknown YA fantasy, written in the ’90s before YA took off, by an author who doesn’t usually write fiction. It doesn’t feel like YA nowadays – it’s far, far away, almost without plot, and a very slow pace. But I think it’s perfect and I’ve reread it more than any other novel.
Q: What books do you plan or hope to read next?
Hope to read a lot of stuff next! Jeff Vandermeer’s fourth Southern Reach novel, “The First Binding” by R.R. Virdi, Claire’s recent Northern releases behind it, and Oliver Langmeid’s “Glitterati”, to name a few!
Q: What do you find most attractive about the book: plot, language, cover, recommendation? Do you have any examples?
Writing style and sound for me. I usually know in a few paragraphs if I want to continue. Conspiracies come and go. All this in the implementation of the story itself.
Q: What is something that no one knows about in your book?
In “The Book Eaters,” Devon plays Final Fantasy that shouldn’t be over yet. In chronological order, both the PlayStation 1 and the game you play were a year or two away from release.
Q: If you could ask your readers something, what would it be?
are you happy? If not, then why?
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next one Free Bookish Event is September 16th With guests Barbie Latza Nadeau, Andy Burwitz and Ron Shelton who will be joined by host Sandra Tsing Luo.
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