MELISSA BLOCK, host: We are told to face our fears. If you have a fear of flying, writer Chris Bohjalian has a suggestion for you - actually, three suggestions - all books about plane crashes. Here's Bohjalian's pitch for reading about the thing that scares you.
CHRIS BOHJALIAN: I spend a lot of time at 35,000 feet, and while I am not by any stretch a white-knuckle flayer, I am the sort who counts the number of seats between me and an exit row before we take off. As the old adage goes, I'm not afraid of flying, it's crashing I fear. And yet, I have a fascination with airborne fender-benders. It's that part of us that's drawn to disaster movies and stories of serial killers. Why do we love the Titanic? Because it sinks.
Just this summer, I was on a jet when lightning flashed. The flight attendant shrieked when the windows of the cabin went white. Here are three books I actually read while 5 miles off the ground that featured the worst that can happen in the sky. Even though they forced me to face my fears, I loved every moment I spent with them.
Journalist William Langewiesche has built a career sharing with us the stories behind the stories, from ground zero to the outlaw seas. His most recent book, "Fly by Wire," chronicles Captain Chesley Sullenberger's January 2009 ditching of an Airbus in the Hudson River. He focuses on the role that the plane's technology may have played in the remarkable water landing. But what is especially riveting are his stories of the accidents that did not end so well and what most likely occurred on the flight decks of the doomed airliners.
Nigel Farndale's "The Blasphemer" is a tale of an adamant atheist and his great-grandfather, a World War I deserter, but the novel hinges on a small aircraft that ditches near the Galapagos Islands. While Langewiesche spends his time on the flight deck, Farndale brings the reader back into the passenger cabin, where the panic and utter helplessness are palpable. I remember the way I opened my window blind when the fictional plane experiences its first violent jolt. Just like the fellow in the novel, I gazed back at the engine on my side of the aircraft and studied the wing.
BLOCK: That's Chris Bohjalian. His latest novel is "The Night Strangers." You could find a lot more reading recommendations at our website. That's npr.org/books.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.