Monday, April 11, 2016

What I'm About to be Reading

By Lisabet Sarai

I'm writing this on the 31st of March. Tomorrow morning, I will be embarking on a lengthy journey, from my home in Asia to the east coast of the United States. Optimistically, this means about 20 hours in the air, not to mention waiting time, transfers and so on. If all goes according to schedule, I'll arrive at my hotel in New York about 26 hours after I leave my apartment.

Lengthy plane flights aren't much fun, but living half a world away from my family and many of my friends, I've learned to endure them. One of the best ways to make the time fly (so to speak) is to lose oneself in an engrossing book. For a trip like this, I tend to prefer one long novel rather than several shorter books. I'm not likely to get bored (I'll be too exhausted), and I don't have to use up valuable carry-on luggage space with multiple volumes. The book should be something with a lot of plot, something that doesn't demand too much intellectual effort but which has enough excitement to keep me awake. (I don’t like to read ebooks on a plane. I get a headache.)

In preparation for this particular voyage, I bought a copy of A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire saga. I don't watch TV, so this is going to be mostly new to me. Everything I've heard about the book and the series sounds promising, though. Three dimensional characters, intriguing cultures, a touch of magic, and lots of action. (Sex too, I gather...) And the novel fits my external criteria; it's nearly 800 pages long, yet not too heavy.

Fantasyif it's well-written and original—has always been one of my favorite genres. In high school, I was totally enthralled by Tolkein's Middle Earth. I knew it inside and out. I even did my senior English thesis on that fictional world.

I note that the book I discussed during our last "what are you reading" cycle (Winter's Tale) could also be categorized as a fantasy, as would the other book I mentioned in that post, John Crowley's Little Big. And I recall that on one of my most enjoyable (well, least aversive, at least!) plane trips in recent years, I read Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, another fat (650+ pages), juicy fantasy full of creative ideas.

I'm hopeful that The Game of Thrones will be equally good. It's actually quite rare for me to explicitly purchase a brand new paperback book. In fact, I tried to find a copy in several used bookshops, without success, though I did find some of the later volumes in the series. It occurred to me that this scarcity might indicate that readers wanted to hold on to their volumes, perhaps to read again. A good omen?
Wish me luck! I won't be back until the third week in April. I'll catch up on comments then.

Oh, and for the trip home, I have Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. A nice, meaty 900 pages!


  1. Hope your trip is fun.

    Hafta say that my go-to plane read is Grisham. Too light for serious reading, but perfect with all the distractions around. Stories are simple and not hard to follow, even broken up with dry nuts delivery and unhappy babies. Plus, they kinda work out for the typical 5 or 6 hour flights we generally take. Both Hawaii and New York fit in that time frame from California. Half on the way out, half on the way back.

    1. I've only read a couple of Grisham's books. They were pretty good, but not, I think, engrossing enough to keep me happy through a 15 hour flight!

  2. Hi lisabet!

    So I gotta ask- have you seen the TV show on hbo? Very big deal in this country. There was a scene where evil queen circe was publicly humiliated by being paraded down the street naked. She looked really good. Then I heard an interview with the actress and someone asked her about it. It wasn't her body! It was her head somehow special effected onto someone else's body! Boy if we could only do that in real life.


    1. Hi, Garce,

      I'm aware of the series, as I mention above, but since I don't watch TV, I've never seen it.

      The book turned out to be amazing, by the way. I'm hooked. Now I have to go out and buy the next volume.

  3. I read the first Game of Thrones book, and my son has all of them and looks forward to the next, but I think it would take at least a twenty hour plane trip to spur me to read the next one. I haven’t watched the TV show, since others in my household are uninterested, but I follow a good deal of what’s said about it online, and it seems that by now the TV version has diverged so far from the book that one might do best to choose one or the other. I may get back to the books if find out that my very favorite characters survive through the end of the series. If they don’t, well, twenty hour plane trips are unlikely to come along at this point in my life.

    1. I found the book was perfect for the trip. I particularly liked the shifting POV, which led you into some sympathy for even the nasty characters. I also appreciated how strength and complexity of the female characters. One does develop favorites though...!

      Anyway, I'll probably be off to buy the next volume as soon as get over jet lag!

  4. Lisabet, I hope you report back to us on your reading after you have several volumes of Game of Thrones under your belt, as well as Elizabeth Kostova's doorstop of a book. Long plane rides are the best for long reads. (And if you doze off between chapters, no one is offended.)

    1. They were both excellent reads. I tried to ration myself, so I wouldn't use them up before the end of the trip!

      (And when I did, I rounded off the flight with a Stephanie Plum novel. Like popcorn, not that nourishing but incredibly tasty!)

  5. I'm glad you liked the book!

    I have very opposite tastes from you. I like to bring a lot of short books onto a plane because I find that my mood shifts as I fly. I don't want to be stuck in one universe the whole time. That makes the length feel longer.

    I also tend to avoid 900-page tomes altogether. Give me a short story collection any day!

    I'm glad you can sink yourself into those giant books, though. I've always felt jealous of that depth of experience.


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