If you've flown recently, given the bad weather across the country, chances are you've spent some time twiddling your thumbs in an airport lounge.

Well, we can't do anything about the weather or the delays. But we can do something about the boredom.

Here's author Susan Jane Gilman with some recommended airport reading.

Ms. SUSAN JANE GILMAN (Author): I don't have a Kindle, but I do have my pride and pretension. When I travel, I want something delicious and escapist to read that won't insult my intelligence or embarrass me in airports.

Thankfully, some smart, breezy paperbacks have recently been published that are great alternatives to classic airplane reading. And they have nothing to do with vampires.

Elaine Dundy's novel "The Old Man and Me" is far more literary than chick lit, but just as much fun. This reissue of her 1962 classic absolutely crackles with deviousness and wit. It's the story of Honey Flood, a shameless, young American gold digger who arrives in England determined to ensnare an older aristocrat. Honey is a terrific female anti-hero: part Holly Golightly, part Daisy Miller -but badder, bolder.

Want a light, modern "On the Road"? Try "The Flying Troutmans," by Miriam Toews, a poignant American road-trip novel with a twist: It's Canadian. Two highly creative, exasperating teenagers have been abandoned by their mother. Their beleaguered young aunt flies in from Paris to rescue them.

The three set out on a desperate mission across the continent. Their story echoes the movie "Little Miss Sunshine" in that it's a frothy mix of absurdity and family drama in a beat-up minivan. It's easy reading and entertaining.

Prefer real adventure? In 1977, Daniel Everett, a Christian missionary, plunged into the Amazonian jungle with his wife and children. Their goal? To enlighten one of the most remote tribes on the planet. This tribe, Everett discovered, exists entirely in the present, without words for colors, numbers, or the passage of time. They have no concept of war or personal property.

So guess what? They ended up enlightening Everett instead. He spent decades with them and his nonfiction account, "Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes," is riveting, and it's serious escapism. This book boldly takes you where almost no man has gone before. Yep. That's a "Star Trek" reference.

If sci-fi is your passion, you may be a nerd - or just read like one. Either way, there's much to love in Benjamin Nugent's insightful book, "American Nerd: The Story of My People." Its history of the nerd does a brilliant job of explaining geekdom and anti-intellectualism in America.

There are keen observations about jocks, racism, autism and, of course, Dungeons and Dragons. While a few sections go off on distinctly nerdy tangents, it's an original, sometimes very funny, read.

If you traditionally buy self-help books, pick up "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read," by Pierre Bayard. Just one read will make you seem infinitely more literate. Bayard's work is cleverer than its title suggests. It's chock full of perceptions, philosophy and humor.

If none of these appeal, here's one last recommendation for hard-core grumps: "On the Genealogy of Morals," by Friedrich Nietzsche. OK, it ain't new and it certainly ain't escapist - but it is alienating. Nothing like brandishing a 19th century German depressive on an airplane to repel all those cheery, chitchat travelers seated beside you. Bah, humbug. And it, too, is available in paperback.

(Soundbite of music)

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from