From Matthieu Ricard’s guide to happiness, to the unreliable narrators crafted by Kazuo Ishiguro and Gillian Flynn and the dystopian technology chronicle of Dave Eggers…here are six books you’ll find easy to nestle into every time you’re clocking up the air miles.
Air Reads – Volume 1
Six books to make time fly by
NOVEL BY ALEX GARLAND
An apt beach read if there ever was one (bar William Golding’s Lord of the Flies). Whether you’ve feasted your eyes on Leonardo Dicaprio in the Danny Boyle film adaptation or not, this cult novel is worthy of a read. In The Beach, Garland leads us through the memories of a young backpacker named Richard who tells the tales of his travels in Thailand which eventually lead him to an idyllic self-sufficient beach community. This picturesque society later proves to be problematic and Richard’s own moral viewpoint at points becomes unreliable. Read this novel for a strong dose of wanderlust underpinned by gritty and troubling undertones to the narrator’s storytelling.
NOVEL BY KINGSLEY AMIS
Meet the coming-of-age novel when you’re already of age, so to speak. Set in England, Lucky Jim features the character of Jim Dixon at its centre, a young, lacklustre university lecturer who’s just looking to get by as best he can, with as little bother as possible – whether that be from bumbling pretentious professors or sad manipulative lovers. Amis’ novel succeeds to capture that twentysomething feeling of being acutely aware of having your whole life ahead of you, whilst being impatient for its best years to begin. The reader is met with a fairly likeable protagonist who gets hopelessly irritated just like the rest of us – but with brilliant comedic timing and wit. If you like The Office, you’ll love Lucky Jim.
NOVEL BY GILLIAN FLYNN
Flynn’s #1 New York Times Bestseller Gone Girl champions the unreliable narrator (of which, there are two) with suspense that will make it hard for you to put this book down. We follow the story of Nick and Amy Dunne – a married couple in Missouri – and the scrutiny that Nick starts to face when we find that his wife has mysteriously disappeared. The hunt for his wife begins, as does the hunt for Nick’s own apparent involvement. Constantly switching between two lines of events and two stories, Gone Girl eventually converges the two in a disturbing and thrilling cocktail of revenge, deceit and drama mixed with frank and intelligent storytelling.
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY
NOVEL BY KAZUO ISHIGURO
While Ishiguro’s arguably most famous novel might be the dystopian Science Fiction novel Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day landed him with the Man Booker Prize for Fiction for its mastery and we can see why. Set in 1956, the reader is given an impressively convincing insight into the mind of a British butler, Mr Stevens, who works in an English stately home. The Remains of the Day is no doubt an incredibly English novel, but one that has wider implications of a protagonist who is at the centre of his own self-constraint, upheld by invented ideals and loyal subservience to his boss. What results is a protagonist whose fierce dedication to his profession regrettably results in the commitment to be passively silent, both at the expense of love (at best) and at the expense of virtue and honour (at worst).
BOOK BY MATTHIEU RICARD
A French-born Tibetan Buddhist monk who grew up surrounded by artists and great thinkers, Matthieu Ricard inspires in his assertion that happiness, rather than a fluctuating state of being, is an important life skill that can and should be acquired. His book Happiness outlines the very habits that can be formed to achieve this life skill whilst helpfully exploring the moments in which challenges to happiness can be remedied. With short meditation exercises met at the end of each chapter, Ricard’s book proves to be an invaluable and informative read, both in the air and on the ground.
NOVEL BY DAVE EGGERS
A dystopian novel whose warning rings a little close to home in an increasingly technology-driven world. Eggers’ The Circle follows timid but determined graduate Mae Holland whose new job finds her at an impressively sophisticated tech company that anyone in the world would be honoured to have. We soon begin to see how The Circle’s hyper-connected and euphoric company vision starts to present troublesome traits that Mae finds hard to see. If you’re a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Wave, 1984, The Truman Show – or the daily desire to stay connected – this novel is for you.