In the next couple of months, I’m going to be making three trips across the Pacific ocean. (Don’t ask.) The big question is therefore, what to read on the plane? It’s 14 hours from L.A. to Sydney. Subtracting all the eating, fitful sleeping and laptop use still leaves lots of empty time. Any suggestions for good long-flight fiction?

My tastes are pretty broad (that’s what everybody in my class position says) but I don’t read enough fiction. When I consider the universe of excellent books I will never, ever read in my lifetime, an awful feeling of vertigo comes over me. I have managed to read some actual literature, but nevertheless my brain is mainly full of pop-culture detritus and enormous chunks of nerd content: answers to trivia questions, the lyrics to bad songs, long sections of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Monty Python sketches and scenes from The Simpsons. Appalling.

Looking around I find Kevin Drum asked about books recently and his readers recommended a large amount of SF/Fantasy stuff. Some of it appeals. I’m intrigued by Little, Big, The Quincunx and the Goldbug Variations. Several people endorse Ender’s Game. However, a freshman gave Laurie a copy of this last year and the author’s Preface was enough to make me hurl it across the room. So we can rule that one out, along with Stephen Donaldson, A.S. Byatt and Michael Crichton. Also appearing in Kevin’s comments are Robertson Davies and Patrick O’Brian, who are both suitable for air travel, but I’ve read them already. Midnight’s Children, Underworld, The Sot-Weed Factor and (I’m really, really sorry about this) Anna Karenina count as “Stalled Out After 150 pages."^1^ Other Russians (e.g., Dostoevsky) seem unsuitable for air travel. I am unable to re-read Jane Austen because of my wife’s rabid devotion to her. Maybe I could find some Anthony Burgess (other than A Clockwork Orange) in print over here. I went through a lot of his stuff as a teenager, but the old faker wrote so much, there’s always more.

For complex reasons, the obvious choice of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not an option. Any other suggestions?

** ^1^ I can’t believe I just admitted that about Anna Karenina. Maybe I should try the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation instead of the Rosemary Edmonds version.