You’ve probably read this list before. Great books to read on a plane. Amazing plane reads. Amazing books to read on a long flight… This can go on and on. Eventually, you click on the article, you skim through the content, and you see predictable titles of the latest bestsellers that the travel community is currently obsessing about.
The thing is, finding a perfect book to read on a plane is a hard task, at least for me. On the one hand, I hate reading something too “heavy”, because I get really tired on long flights and can’t concentrate. On the other hand, I also don’t really like those easy, dumb reads that forget about as soon as you finish the last page. I also hate pseudo-philosophical, Paulo Coelho-infused crap.
What I’m looking for is a “book in the middle”: easy and serious, light and dark, not too short and not too long. I’m looking for a book that wouldn’t squeeze all juices out of my brain and instead, would leave something in it to think about. In other words, I’m looking for a good no-bullshit book.
So, my dear friends, here’s a small collection of seven of them that I have sincerely enjoyed during my trips around the world. Would love to learn about your favorite reads, too!
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe
A middle-aged fakir, who’s been making his living by eating nails, swallowing knives and taming cobras in a little village in India, is in need of a new bed of nails due to his worsening rheumatism. So where does he go? To Paris. But namely — to a Parisian IKEA. There, he gets trapped in a blue wardrobe wrapped in bubble wrap (long story), which throws him into a series of adventures in England, Italy, and Libya. This journey, spiced up with a bit of a ridiculous love story with a French woman and a very serious personal vendetta with a gypsy taxi driver, turns fakir into another man. He will, in fact, never be the same again.
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe isn’t just the longest title you’ll ever read. It’s also a fast-paced comedy of errors with a truly serious side. Lightly, as a matter of factly, as if playing a game with the reader, it touches upon such topics as a refugee crisis, poverty in third world countries, child abuse, and molestation, making the book not only highly entertaining but also deeply moving.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
Art is theft, said Pablo Picasso.
Nothing is original, said Jim Jarmusch.
Steal like an artist, summarised Austin Kleon.
If you haven’t read this book before, do it. It will change your perception towards art making, empower you to create, and make you see ideas everywhere you go. After you read this book, everything will inspire you.
Gone with the Woman
While the author of this book, Erlend Lou, is mostly famous his Naive.Super. bestseller, his debut novel, Gone with the Woman, is actually A LOT better. No jokes.
The protagonist of the story (whom the author hadn’t even bothered to give a name to) leads a somewhat boring, but very peaceful life until a girl called Marianna suddenly appears on the horizon. Marianna moves in right away and turns his life into a nightmare: she talks all the time, she wants to do things together, and her stupid yellow cupboard doesn’t match the interior of the whole apartment. And what’s more, no matter how much he tries to get rid of it, he can’t seem to lift it from the floor. The yellow cupboard seems to be dead glued.
The protagonist feels extremely unsettled and terribly unhappy — but eventually, he learns how to live with it. This choice becomes a tragedy of his whole life.
Gone with the Woman masterfully paints a portrait of many people out there who choose not to take action and live the lives they hate. It’s a very sad, very scary, and yet very, very real. There’s no transformation, there’s no happy ending. There’s just you and your daily, stubborn choice to not make a choice.
So if you want to know how life can go by if you don’t get a grip, read this book. It will make you want to do the opposite.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Christopher John Francis Boone is an interesting boy. He knows all the countries in the world (and their capitals), every prime number (up to 7,057), he hates the yellow color, he loves animals, and he has a hard time understanding human emotions. Oh, and he can’t stand to be touched! So when one day he encounters a tiny corpse of his neighbour’s tiny dog, he decides to get to the very bottom of this suspicious matter. Things, however, don’t go as planned. His Mom leaves his Dad. His Dad turns out to be a liar. And Cristopher’s whole life crashes overnight like a house of cards.
All these life-turning events make Christopher participate in a quest of his own, leading him to London, in search of his Mother and in search of the truth. What starts as a silly detective story turns out to be a serious, captivating, and very unusual coming-of-age novel.
Get it here: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
(informal) A person who is socially awkward, especially one who does not dance at a party due to shyness.
And speaking of coming-of-age novels, if you do like them, you’ve got to read this one. It’s a story about Charlie, who writes letters to an unknown friend (probably imaginary), sharing the days of his life with him. Charlie’s life, however, isn’t that much fun. He’s shy, he just started to go to high school, he gets anxiety attacks and he hasn’t had any friends since his only friend Michael committed suicide a year ago.
But as they say — new year, new life. Curious to explore a different side of it, Charlie decides to stop observing life from a safe distance, and begin participating in it with as mush passion as he has. And yes, this means falling in love, trying drugs, getting into fights, making peace with the past, and jumping head down into the present moment.
This book is so quiet, and somehow very loud. Very Catcher In The Rye, I’d say.
Get it here: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
1990s. Berlin. Russian immigrants. Alcohol. Poetry. Poverty. Party. Post Berlin Wall realities.
The author, Wladimir Kaminer, offers you a vinaigrette of autobiographical comical stories depicting the weird life of Russian immigrants like himself. He came to Berlin in 1990, when he was 22, simply because he wasn’t doing anything useful back in Moscow. He was lost, so he decided to wander. And Berlin, the city of lost souls, seemed like a perfect place to be at the time.
Through his vodka-fuelled narratives, Kaminer manages to say a great deal (without saying too much at all) about the disjointed times he used to live in. My favorite chapter in the book is called “The Russian Bride” — a tutorial on how to love a Russian woman and the clear benefits (let’s even call it Returns On Investment) that the relationship will bring.
As a Russian myself, I found this to be hilarious. Couldn’t stop laughing.
Get it here: Russian Disco
Join Me (+Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways To Make the World A Nicer Place)
What if you read an ad in a newspaper that said just two words: “Join me”? Wouldn’t it raise many questions in your head — like, join whom? join where? join why? — that would prompt you NOT to join? Well, apparently not.
Danny Wallace has discovered that people don’t feel too hesitant when they read ads like these. In fact, thousands of people chose to join the cause that had no cause and that originally was nothing else but a prank. Soon, however, there were about 10,000 of clueless joinees all over the world, ready to participate. In what? Where? Why?
That’s something that Danny Wallace had to figure out later.
This book is light, funny, warm and kind. It’s a non-fiction story about the power of community and the goodness of human heart. Today, Join Me is a global movement that spreads the random acts of kindness and tries to make the world a better place. And if this is something that you’d want to do, too — why don’t you join? After all, there’s already a full tutorial provided: Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Nicer Place.
Now, it’s your turn! What are YOUR favorite no-bullshit books that you’d recommend reading on a plane (and not only there…)? Share with me, please — I’d love to add something new and exciting to my to-read list!