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19 of the Best Books to Read on a Plane

When you’re facing a long flight or a long stretch of any kind of travel you need something to keep yourself occupied. I never take off for a trip without a new book with me, often two. Things I’ve been looking forward to reading. Here are my recommendations for the best books to read on a plane. 

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This amazing book is my #1 recommendation for best book to read on a plane to make your flight go faster.

Good airplane books can make the flight seem shorter, pass the time while waiting at the departure gate and give you a piece of something familiar while you travel if you’re feeling homesick. 

I often travel with two books to choose from. I find that I’m not inclined to read on a plane unless I’m really in the mood to read that particular book. So, then I just read the other instead.

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And while overall I prefer to read books that make me think a little bit, when I’m choosing books for long flights, I’m often seeking more of a literary distraction than personal enrichment. I know myself well enough to know that if a book is too dense or weighty (in every sense), I just won’t bother to pick it up…and I’ll turn instead to in-flight entertainment…not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

For me, the best books for a long flight draw me in and entertain me too. 

I prefer to pack light and travel with carry-on luggage only, so I read ebooks on my phone or tablet when I travel so that I’m not taking any additional weight with me. 

Great fiction books for a long flight 

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

cover image for Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella

I love Sophie Kinsella books for pure book-ish entertainment. She has a talent for getting her protagonists into the most unbelievably awkward scrapes and then somehow resolving things in a most entertaining and satisfying way. I have yet to read a Sophie Kinsella that I haven’t enjoyed. Can You Keep a Secret? is my favorite. 

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 

cover image for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Don’t judge this charming book by the flavorless Netflix adaptation. Set in post-World War II Britain, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society unfolds through letters between writer Juliet Ashton and the lovely cast of characters who tell their stories of the Nazi Occupation of Guernsey. 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

cover image for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling

Yup, I love Harry Potter and I’m not ashamed. You don’t have to only read airplane books for adults. What better time to finally get around to reading or re-reading this book series than on your next trip? P.S. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the best in the series. 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

cover image for The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If you’re looking for a page-turner that isn’t chick lit or “fluffy” in any way, then I highly recommend The Help. I literally couldn’t put this book down. I read it one weekend, including a three-hour stretch on a Sunday afternoon. It’s hardly surprising that Kathryn Stockett was the first writer inducted into the Kindle Million Club (1 million paid copies in the Kindle store) to reach that milestone only one book. 

The movie adaptation is well-done, but the book is *chef’s kiss*. 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

cover image for Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Winner of the Man Booker Prize, Life of Pi tells the story of Pi Patel, a young boy lost at sea…the only human survivor of a shipwreck that leaves him stranded for months in a lifeboat with only a tiger named Richard Parker. 

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

cover image of Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Short story collections are great options for flights because you can read them in bite-sized chunks if you want. The Pulitzer Prize winning Interpreter of Maladies is some of Lahiri’s best writing…what am I saying? All of her writing is stunning. 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

cover image for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you’re looking for a great classic to take with you on your flight, I’d pick Pride and Prejudice. Although you really couldn’t go wrong with any Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, so it gets my pick. 

Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse

cover image for Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse

Considered one of the greatest comedic novels in the English language, Joy in the Morning should definitely be on your vacation reading list…unless you’re concerned about laughing out loud in front of strangers on an airplane. 

Yes, you will LOL and maybe even roll your eyes. P.G. Wodehouse’s classics about the hapless Bertie Wooster and his faithful valet Jeeves are great if you’re looking for a funny read with a touch of upper-class British refinement. 

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Best books to read on a plane

Mysteries 

Mystery novels are always on the top of my “to be read” piles and lists. Here are my picks for best books for a long flight in the mystery category. 

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

cover image for The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

Reminiscent of Alfred Hitchock’s Rear Window, the protagonist Anna Fox lives alone in New York City and sees something from her window that sends her reeling…and questioning her sanity.  

Recommended by my sister, I took this book with me on our trip to Paris. And as amazing as that city is, I was still done with this book by the time we landed at our home airport a week later…if that tells you anything.  

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

cover image of The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie

Or any Agatha Christie book. Well, nearly any Agatha Christie. They’re not all homeruns, but vastly more of them are than are not. If you’re new to Christie, I recommend starting with her fussy Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Like The Mystery of the Blue Train, the bulk of my favorite Christie novels are Poirots.  

Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

cover image for Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

The first in Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Mystery series, Homicide in Hardcover introduces readers to Brooklyn Wainwright, a rare book expert and book restorer. When Brooklyn is accused of murdering her mentor, she (of course) sets out to prove her innocence and find the real killer. 

A Still Life by Louise Penny

cover image for A Still Life by Louise Penny

 A Still Life is definitely more hard-boiled than your standard cozy mystery, but Penny’s writing is still often stunningly beautiful. In A Still Life, Sûreté du Quebec Chief Inspector Armand Gamache comes to the small village of Three Pines to investigate the mysterious but apparently accidental death of an older, quiet resident of the town.  

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

 

cover image for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Once you encounter precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, you’ll never forget her. She lives in a crumbling but once-grand English manor house and has her own laboratory. Her personal musings on murder, mayhem and chemistry (she’s an expert on poisons) are frequently laugh out loud funny. 

Sweetness is the first in the Flavia de Luce series and still one of my favorites of the bunch. And to be honest, I enjoy these books just as much as general fun reads as I do for the mystery. 

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

cover image for The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

A more dysfunctional family of private investigators you will never meet than in The Spellman Files. Izzy Spellman, elder daughter, is quite a mess, but she’s also pretty good at her job. Mix in some funny family drama and you get mysteries that are more like screwball caper movies from the 1930s than your standard mystery novel. 

Much like the Flavia de Luce books (above), I enjoyed The Spellmans as fun reads (PERFECT for a plane trip) much more than for any mystery. Seriously. I blew through the entire series way too quickly. Now, that I think about it, it may be time to give them a re-read. 

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

 

cover image for Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Magpie Murders is a mystery novel for mystery novel lovers; a book in which mystery books play a very large role. There’s even a mystery novel within the mystery novel, an homage to the golden age of British mystery writers. And Agatha Christie’s grandson Matthew Pritchard makes a cameo appearance as well. Seriously. What could be better? 

Page-turning non-fiction 

If novels aren’t your thing, and you prefer non-fiction here are my top picks to keep your attention even during your flight meal service. 

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

 

cover image for Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit is the ONLY nonfiction book I’ve ever read that had me turning pages like I was reading an exciting and fast-paced novel. So, if you’re looking for something to keep your attention on your plane trip but don’t like reading fiction, you can’t do better than Seabiscuit. 

Laura Hillenbrand is an amazing writer. The book is outstanding. The movie is bleh. 

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

 

cover image for The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

If you enjoy reading about travel while you travel my favorite travel book is The Geography of Bliss. Weiner, a former NPR foreign correspondent, covers thousands and thousands of miles in search of what it is that makes people happy and makes some surprising discoveries along the way. If this is your introduction to travel writing, it’s a good one. 

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell 

cover image for Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

This is an unusual pick for an airplane read, I know. But, to put it simply, Homage to Catalonia one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read. It covers Orwell’s experiences fighting against the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. It’s on many “100 Best Nonfiction” book lists for a reason. 

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

 

cover image for Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose

Band of Brothers is the account of the E (Easy) Company of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army and all their experiences on the European Theater of Operations in World War II…while taking 150% casualties. It’s a remarkable book about a group of remarkable men. 

My last semester in college I took a course called “The History of the Two World Wars.” Band of Brothers was on the required reading list for the course. When my parents came to my college campus for graduation, I gave my copy to my father since I thought he’d like it. He proceeded to devour the book within days, then everything else Stephen Ambrose ever wrote, then every other book on military history he has been able to lay his hands on. 

How about you? What would you recommend to someone who needed help choosing a book for their next long trip? 

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Best books to read when you travel

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