Hi book lover! Are you taking the plane in the coming days or weeks and are you out of inspiration on how to keep yourself busy? Looking for a book that can capture your attention long enough so that the flight passes by in a breeze?
Don’t you worry! I’m sure that you’ll find the perfect book to read on a plane in this exhaustive list of 20 books for flights, whether you like reading fiction or non-fiction and whether you prefer to flip through paper pages or to minimise your luggage with ebooks!
Most books have something to do with travel, although there are also some classics in this list that you absolutely should have read.
In order to give you the best information possible, I asked other travel bloggers to recommend their favourite book to take on a flight and give their personal feedback on why they especially like that book. I hope that they can convince you of their choice!
Let’s dive into it!
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The best books to read on a flight
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding – Kristin Newman
Recommended by Carly from Fearless Female Travels
An easy airplane read that hits very close to home for me is Kristin Newman’s humorous memoir, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding. In this book, Newman recounts the two decades of her life that she spent traveling the world, having more than a few passionate holiday romances along the way, while the rest of her friend group was settling down, getting married and having children.
As a solo (and single!) female traveler myself, the familiarity of this story definitely had me laughing out loud a few times. It reminded me of the time a dashing Australian backpacker I met in Slovakia came to visit me in Canada, in December, during a record cold snap (I think the -40 Celsius weather froze his heart) or the time I traveled to Barcelona, Spain to spend Christmas with a man I met backpacking in Peru (I ended up falling in love with the city, not with him).
This is a great plane read because it opens your eyes to the possibility of romance, or just friendship, in whatever destination may be on your itinerary.
Paris: The Novel – Edward Rutherfurd
Recommended by Leyla Giray Alyanak from offbeatfrance.com
I wish I’d read this book before my first adult trip to Paris: the city would have meant so much more, especially for a history buff such as myself. It starts way back, around the Middle Ages, and moves forward to the contemporary era in fits and starts, jumping back and forth between epochs and the lives of the six families it portrays. At times it is confusing and may feel erratic, but it is a page-turner so the reader does find their way back.
What this book excels in is the history of Paris. Told through the various characters, it comes to life – the birth of a major department store, the fall of the monarchy, the Jewish situation throughout the ages in France… it’s all there, the major events of history, each taking place in a corner of Paris we are bound to recognize if it still exists.
A popular historical novel (the author is perhaps more famous for his other books, which include Sarum and London), it manages to get the reader interested in places (neighbourhoods) and periods that they might not have been keen on at the outset.
Yes, it is large and long and yes, if you put it down for a length of time you might find it hard to return to, but if you’re diligent and pick it up as your plane takes off, by the time you land in Paris you’ll want to rush to the Eiffel Tower because you will have read all the details about how it was built.
Related: 21 cool weekend breaks in France
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
Recommended by Maaike from Travellousworld.com
Wild is about a young woman who after her mother’s death and a failed marriage, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. She is fully unprepared for the long journey, and the memoir describes her on her route to self-discovery which in itself is one of the reasons why I love this book so much.
I first read the book before I watched the film starring Reese Witherspoon, funnily enough on a plane. The memoir captured me immediately by the distinct way Cheryl depicts the spirit of the trail and the people she meets along the way. It really gave me the adventurous bug which was perfect as I was on my way to hike in the Alps myself. Although a memoir, it reads like a novel, making it a perfect read on the plane.
Home by Seven – Steph Jeavons
Recommended by Kat from Biker Girl Life
Most of us get on a plane to travel for fun; to discover and explore and have adventures. But have you ever considered travelling in a different way? Packing up a vehicle and heading off over the horizon, all by yourself?
That’s exactly what Steph Jeavons did. Having made some mistakes in her teenage years (which ended up with her in prison before the age of 20) she promised that when she got out she’d make the most of her freedom.
And she did. She got a motorcycle and set off to explore the world. Alone.
As a female motorcycle rider, I am very much in the minority. As a female biker who enjoys motorcycle touring and travel, that’s even more true. So to find a book about a girl who has ridden her motorbike on every single continent – yes, including Antarctica)- is wonderful (and dangerous- I was barely halfway through before I’d started planning more trips…!)
I love Steph’s dry humour, her adventurous spirit and the honest way she discusses the highs and lows of her life and her choices, including the mistakes she’s made, dangerous roads she’s ridden and dealing with unwanted (and drunken) advances on her travels.
Whether you ride a motorcycle or not, if you enjoy travel and adventure, you’ll be inspired by this book and the call of the open road.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Recommended by Cosette from KarsTravels
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a classic. The novel was first published in 1813. It’s one of the most popular novels in English Literature. The book is a combination of a romantic novel with satire.
The protagonist of the story is Elizabeth Bennet. The book follows her, while she and her 4 sisters try to find a suitable husband. Their mother wants them to marry wealthy and above their class. There are many suitors, among them Mr. Darcy. He’s dismissed by Elizabeth at the beginning since he appears haughty and aloof. At the end, Elizabeth has to change her mind about Mr. Darcy.
I’ve read the book several times and love the story of romance combined with humor. Jane Austen is an excellent writer who engages you in the story. You want to keep on reading.
The book is perfect to read on a flight since you can finish it at once during the flight. The book pulls you in, but it’s not too hard to read.
The Tutankhamun Affair – Christian Jacq
Recommended by Cosette from Cosette is Cookin’
The Tutankhamun Affair by Christian Jacq is a historical fiction novel. Christian Jacq is a French author and Egyptologist who has written several novels about ancient Egypt.
The book follows Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon from a young life to their death. Carter being the one who discovers the grave of Tutankhamun and Carnarvon being the one who funds the excavations. Their love lives, setbacks in the search and the mysterious curse surrounding the grave of Tutankhamun all come to life through the words of Christian Jacq. Although you already know the outcome, you have to keep on reading.
The book wasn’t boring at all, and I devoured it page by page. As a historian, I always love reading a good historical novel and this was one of the better ones I’ve read.
The book can be read completely during a flight and is very engaging, which makes it perfect to bring with you on the plane.
The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn
Recommended by Martina from PlacesofJuma
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn is a really exciting classic thriller that is actually fantastic to read on a longer flight! The writing style is fluid and you really dive into the book.
The story is about Anna Fox, a woman who lives alone in her house in New York. She is separated from her husband, and her eight-year-old daughter doesn’t live with her either. Anna suffers from agoraphobia and won’t leave her house. She chats a lot, drinks heavily and takes lots of medication.
Her favorite hobby is looking out of her window and watching the neighborhood. One day, shortly after her new neighbors move in, she observes a robbery. But her fear of leaving the house prevents her from intervening. When she later reports the murder to the police, no one believes her.
I personally really loved the fact that at some point, you no longer know exactly whether it was imagination or reality. Also, the story behind the anxiety is catching, and the whole thriller has many twists and exciting surprises until the end.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple
Recommended by Sarah McArthur from Costa Rica Vibes
Bernadette Fox is not just a mother, wife, agoraphobe, and former famed architect; she is also a complex and quirky woman who is majorly misunderstood by the people in her life.
This book is told from the perspective of her 16-year old daughter Bee. It chronicles Bee’s quest to find out what has happened to her mother after she disappears before a planned family trip to Antarctica.
This is a good book for a long travel day. It is a light read but well written and something you will have trouble putting down. Plus, at its core, it is a book about planning for a trip to one of the most unique travel destinations in the world.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette was also turned into a movie starring Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, and Laurence Fishburne. I suggest downloading the film as a light movie to watch on the plane after you finish the book.
Seven Years In Tibet – Heinrich Harrer
Recommended by Anukrati from Bulbul On The Wing
My friend promised me that he would compensate me for not attending my wedding. After a couple of days, I received a book from him titled Seven Years in Tibet.
I read most of it during my trip to Malaysia and Bali. And with every page that I read, my heart thanked my friend for introducing me to such an inspiring story.
Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer is the true story of the author, who was on a mountaineering expedition in the Himalayas when England declared war with Germany. He was arrested by the British army in India and put into a Prisoner of War camp. He made several attempts to escape and finally succeeded at making it to the border of Tibet, a land that rarely accepted foreign visitors.
The book gives a beautiful insight into Tibet and Tibetan culture. As I kept reading on the flight, my heart wanted to see and feel Tibet in real. The book is a landmark in travel writing.
People We Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry
Recommended by Disha Smith from Disha Discovers
One of the best books to read on the plane is “People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry. This book is the perfect way to keep entertained during a long flight. It’s an addicting page-turner that involves romance, friendship, and travel.
Poppy and Alex have been best friends since college. They go on a trip every summer to catch up since they live far apart. Two years ago, they had a falling out on their trip to Croatia and haven’t spoken since. Poppy, a travel journalist, is quite unhappy with her life and is missing Alex. In an attempt to revive her friendship and figure her life out, she invites Alex on a trip to Palm Springs. Will they rekindle their friendship?
I personally loved reading this book because of the travel element. As a travel writer, I felt connected to Poppy. I also liked that it was thought-provoking in the sense that it made me analyze the last time I was genuinely happy. It also emphasized that life is about the journey and not the destination. Overall, I enjoyed this book because it’s filled with several meaningful life lessons.
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
Recommended by Erica Riley of Travels with Erica
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is one of the best books to read on the plane. It is thrilling and will keep you engaged even when you’re exhausted. On the other hand, it is an easy enough read that you can still follow the plot even though there are plenty of distractions around you.
Eight strangers are invited to an island for different reasons. Some for work and others for social reasons.
It doesn’t take long until things go wrong, and someone dies. This goes on until there were none. You’ll be guessing who the murderer is right until the very end.
You won’t be able to stop reading, and your flight will be over before you know it.
Wind, Sand and Stars – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Recommended by Tom Bartel from Travel Past 50
I find it hard to recommend this Wind, Sand and Stars too highly. I’ve never read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, so I was completely unfamiliar with the depth and insight he brings until I found this book.
Saint-Exupéry was a pioneering French aviator, who began flying rickety machines over the Pyrenees and Atlas Mountains in the 1930s. The book’s opening descriptions of the terror and exhilaration of crossing those mountains in fog, without radio, and without reliable instruments, keep you on such a knife’s edge that you almost don’t want the journeys to end.
But they do, mostly well. With one notable exception: when Saint-Exupéry crashed at full speed into the north African desert as he was attempting to fly from France to Vietnam. The harrowing account of being stranded without water for days, not knowing exactly where he was, and fully anticipating his death are oddly exciting and calming at once.
Still, based on this, you’ll have to decide for yourself if you want to read this book while you’re on an airplane.
To Shake the Sleeping Self – Jedidiah Jenkins
Recommended by Jessica Schmit from Uprooted Traveler
To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret is written by Jedidiah Jenkins about his real-life adventure of bicycling from the Oregon Coast, through Central and South America, all the way to Patagonia.
While Jedidiah had a stable life in the United States as an attorney, he felt compelled to do something different and, with no cycling experience, set off with just his bicycle and a few panniers. The book follows Jedidiah on a journey through several countries, from surfing in Nicaragua, camping in the fields of Peru, and hiking the epic mountains of Patagonia. Along the way, Jedidiah, of course, also goes on a journey of self-discovery, grappling with tough topics like religion and sexuality.
I relate a lot with Jedidiah- I’m an attorney by day (travel blogger by night!), with an insatiable desire to meet new people and experience this beautiful world. The book is excellent to bring along and dive into on a long flight- if you’re anything like me, you’ll be raring to go on an epic adventure once you reach your final destination!
The Feather Thief – Kurt Wallace Johnson
Recommended by Megan Johnson from Hey I’m Reading
The Feather Thief by Kurt Wallace Johnson is a non-violent true crime book about the theft of hundreds of bird skins from the British Museum of Natural History. In 2009, Edwin Rist was studying at London’s Royal Academy of Music and grew to love the art of salmon fly-tying.
One night, he went to the Tring Museum, an outpost of the British Natural History Museum, and walked out with hundreds of bird skins collected 150 years before by Alfred Russel Wallace who risked everything to get them himself.
This is one of my favorite books ever and I made two other people read it right when I finished it so I could talk about it. It’s part history, as far as human use of and collection of feathers throughout modern history goes, and part true crime, as we learn about Rist’s incredible heist and everything that lead up to and followed it.
This is perfect to read on the plane as it’s riveting and will keep you entertained throughout the entire book and flight. It’s not specifically an adventure book but it certainly feels like one.
Mother of God – Paul Rosolie
Recommended by Megan Johnson from Red Around the World
Mother of God by Paul Rosolie is a true adventure story in both senses: it’s non-fiction and it’s an adventurous book. Paul Rosolie is a naturalist, conservationist, and explorer, and Mother of God takes us through the Amazon Rainforest with him, into the depths of the remote Madre de Dios region.
His first trip there was in 2006 and from that point on, he would return as often as possible to see floating forests, search for wildlife, and try to protect Madre de Dios from poachers, developers, miners, and oil giants.
This is one of my favorite books (I own two copies) and it almost makes you feel like you’re in the jungle with him. It’s part education, part adventure, and it all makes you wish you were there. I love reading about the Amazon and this was just a different perspective than a lot of traditional explorer works.
This is perfect to read on the plane to really get you in the adventurous spirit, especially if you’re visiting South America or the Amazon specifically. It’s an exciting read for lovers of nature and the outdoors.
The Golden Spruce – John Vaillant
Recommended by Nicole from Traveling BC
The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant is a masterfully written story about the maddened act of a logger turned environmentalist, who rushed into the woods in the night to cut down an ancient golden spruce in an act of unthinkable ecoterrorism.
This unique golden tree is sacred to the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii (once known as The Queen Charlotte Islands) – a wild and powerfully beautiful archipelago off the coast of Western Canada.
Through Vaillant’s words, you’ll walk into the world of the Pacific Northwest, learning about the rich culture of the Haida people, the myths surrounding Kiidk’yaas – the Golden Spruce, and the devastating impacts of logging.
I love this book because somehow, Vaillant turns a book about logging into a thrilling page-turner, complete with a mystery about the disappearance of the logger. It’s the perfect book for a long flight because you won’t want to put it down. You’ll end the flight wishing you were landing on the rugged, beautiful shores of Haida Gwaii instead!
Just One Day – Gayle Forman
Recommended by Krystianna from Volumes & Voyages
Just One Day by Gayle Forman is one of the best books to read on the plane while traveling. This YA romance novel will truly sweep you off your feet with its lightheartedness and wanderlust-worthy topics.
The book follows Allyson who falls in love with a guy named Willem. The reader is immediately pulled into the story as Allyson is in Paris right after graduating high school. Of course, everything takes a turn when she can no longer find him after her whirlwind of a day.
I personally loved reading this book because it made me want to travel even more and got me excited for my trip! The characters are incredible, and it’s also the first book in a young adult duology. So, once you’re done reading, you can read book two if you want!
It’s the perfect book to read on a flight because it’s only about 350 pages. Plus, the topic is pretty light so you’ll read it quickly.
Taste – Stanley Tucci
Recommended by Shireen from The Happy Days Travels
Taste: My Life Through Food is an autobiography by Stanley Tucci focusing on how food, heritage and travel have shaped Tucci’s life. In this memoir, we learn about Tucci growing up in New York with Italian parents, including a year spent in Italy, and how his early years were shaped by home cooking. We traverse the globe through Tucci’s career as an actor with details about on-set food that was served and some of his favourite meals along the way.
Throughout the book, there are many recipes included that complement the writing so well. I loved this book because the stories, dialogue and descriptions of food were too good to not be true so the authenticity bode well with me.
It’s the perfect book to read or listen to on the plane as it’s relatively short (at 320 pages) and will inspire travel to Italy and help the reader imagine great food while stuck with plane food! Also take a look at the full review of Taste.
Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell
Recommended by Katja Mamacos of WanderCapeTown
Talking to Strangers is a fantastic non-fiction book, perfect for when you’re about to explore a new area and meet a bunch of new people! It’s a pop-psychology book looking at the natural assumptions people make about others and the reasons behind those assumptions. Malcolm explores human psychology through case studies and easy-reading analyses, making for a very interesting deep-dive.
I’m much more of a fiction fan myself, but I loved this book for its clever, simple explorations of how our brains work. As well as its very organic explanations of some of our trickiest human struggles, like the difficulty of telling when someone’s lying, and why we generally default to the truth.
Each chapter looks into a different element of talking to strangers, making it perfect for long or short flights, as it’s nicely broken up. Whether you’re visiting Cape Town or London, you’ll certainly step off the plane feeling better prepared for adventures with foreign strangers.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Recommended by Dan from BLATAM
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the perfect book to read on the plane if you are looking for new travel inspiration and motivation to fuel your travels. The book tells an endearing story of a young Spanish shepherd who has a longing for travel and a desire to search the world in the hope of finding worldly treasure.
Along the way, the shepherd soon begins to learn lessons that become essential wisdom and life lessons that can be absorbed and transferred to the reader.
I loved reading this modern classic along my travels backpacking Central America and it helped me start my 3-month adventure with a real purpose to learn more about myself. The Alchemist is a great book for longer flights and it will inspire you to listen to your heart more and follow your dreams.
I hope that at least one of these books is sparking your curiosity and that you’ll have an amazingly smooth flight ahead of you!
Whatever book you choose to take on the plane, I’m sure you’ll have entertainment for your entire flight!
If you have any other recommendations for books to read on a flight, feel free to comment them below!