While most airplanes are now equipped with WiFi and offer TV screens with plenty of pre-programmed movies and shows, there is something so pleasurable about finishing a book from start to finish on a flight – especially as a long flight offers the kind of respite that actually allows a break from all modern-day distractions. Read: social media.
While some books can drive us to boredom, there are others that are so compelling and addictive as to make a tediously long flight fly by. If you’re facing a long and uncomfortable journey, these five books are engrossing enough to see you through it with ease – or to sum them up with one awkward word: they’re unputdownable.
The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train by Erin Cressida Wilson might be considered 2016’s version of Gone Girl, but the twists and turns in this addictive mystery novel tell a different story altogether. The decidedly unglamorous protagonist is an overweight, unemployed, and alcoholic divorcée (surprisingly played by the lovely Emily Blunt in the film adaptation) whose actions are so often misguided that she almost seems like the antagonist. Her daydreams about a young couple that she sees daily from her train window prompts a spiral into an unhealthy obsession that takes on shocking proportions when the woman in the couple ends up dead. Guess as hard as you can throughout as the mystery unfolds, and you will still be left thoroughly surprised at the end.
Gillian Flynn capitalized on the mystery genre with her highly stimulating novel-turned-hit-film Gone Girl, but her previous effort Sharp Objects is arguably a more compelling tome. This page-turner is so masterfully written that you will not be able to put it down, but thankfully, you have a long flight ahead of you to get to the bottom of the most fascinating mystery developed by any writer in recent memory. While Sharp Objects has all the trappings of a typical thriller (the tortured investigative reporter returns home to unravel a series of murders in her small Southern hometown), what follows will leave you truly stupefied – you might just need to call the flight attendant for help removing your jaw off the floor.
The Girls ended up on many a “Best of 2016” list, and it deserves every accolade for its mesmerizing prose. The book is the debut effort by Emma Cline, and performed tremendously well considering its $2 million advance. The novel tells the story of a young girl in Southern California who falls in with a cult similar to that of the Manson family, known for terrorizing California in the late 1960s. Her liberal reimagining of the story surrounding the rise of the Manson family takes us into the mindset of a young, rebellious teenager who seeks belongingness and inclusion after her parents divorce, but ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time. The story itself is nothing extraordinarily new, but it is Cline’s masterful literary talents that make The Girls one of the best, most addictive reads of 2016.
The Chrestomanci Quartet
Diana Wynne Jones is Britain’s pre-eminent female fantasy novelist, but in the present day, much of her work has flown under the radar. The Chrestomanci Quartet, her most accomplished series to date, is not a new work, but it is one that stands the test of time. If you love the Harry Potter books, you have to get your hands on this imaginative, enchanting series. Chrestomanci is a powerful magician with nine lives, but his powers are not eternal, meaning you won’t always meet the same Chrestomanci in every story. There are leaps through time and space, a magical dream world, and even a British boarding school to explore in this amazing work of fantasy and fiction. This is one series you will return to over and and over again as it’s great for all age groups, from young to old.
Although the accomplished Canadian author Carol Shields died the year after Unless was released, she lived long enough to see this brilliant work of fiction win no less than the Man Booker Prize, the Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. This critically beloved book appears to be about the life of an “ordinary” woman, but the theme reveals how women’s lives are often trivialized by both the literary establishment and society at large. The main character is a writer named Reta Winters who is grieving her daughter, a bright and brilliant woman who suddenly dropped out of college to live on the street – a move that is never explained until the very end. This is the central mystery that unfolds throughout the duration of Unless, but the final reveal is shocking, devastating, and nothing short of heartbreakingly beautiful.