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6 Recommendations from Irresistible Airport Bookshelves

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Today Sabinaa friend of Lotus Pocus Focusis sharing her latest reading choices:  

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I never leave on a trip without one (two or three) books in my backpack. I also carry around a Kindle with an endless cue of books “to read”. So it’s not because I’m bored or missing a story that I like to stroll around book stands in airports.


It’s not the bigger stores that I enjoy, those with a wide selection of books, magazines, and newspapers in various languages and genres. I like the smaller kiosks, where there is a limited and somewhat peculiar selection of books, with Bertrand Russell’s philosophy, Life of Pi and random volumes from sci-fi sagas piled together. These give me the feeling that they were left behind by the millions of travellers passing through the airport hallways. Forgotten on benches, dropped from bags, or simply abandoned for loss of interest.


I always feel somewhat guilty for buying books in airports because “I should just make do with my existing reading stash”. But I can’t help it. I read the titles, pick out some and read the back covers, and, without fail, there is one that becomes irresistible. And somehow I’ve never bought an airport book that wasn’t a great read.


Because summer is around the corner (and aren’t we all just a little bit sexier holding an old-fashioned paperback novel?), here are some recommendations from my list of “books I bought in an airport”, listed in a chronological order. To read with a coffee, tea, cocktail, or beer – whatever floats your boat and airplane.


1. Travesuras de la niña mala (The Bad Girl) by Mario Vargas Llosa


This was the first book I ever bought in an airport. I got it from Barajas in Madrid on my way home to Bucharest after a year in Spain. I recommend it for its haunting X-ray of an obsessive love and for the feeling that I still have, years after having read it, that its pages hold an uncomfortable truth about how life unfolds.


2. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown


This one I bought at the Charleroi Airport near Brussels. I was on my way to visit a friend in Rome and the action of the book takes place in Rome and the Vatican – sold! I remember reading it in the little airplane space that a low-cost ticket buys, and holding on to it throughout my trip, recognizing some of the places that the book references in my walks. And I also remember placing among its pages the 50 EUR fine I got in the subway for travelling with an expired ticket.


I recommend it because Dan Brows knows how to write a page turner and because it is entertaining and even intriguing, if you can let go of some of the rigours of science and history just for the sake of it.


3. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane


It was foggy that day. The volcano from Iceland with the impossible-to-pronounce name had erupted and we got stuck on the airport in Vienna. Fortunately, the Romanian Tarom airline was brave enough to take its folks back home, but not before I got my hands on Lehane’s novel. It was a greatly entertaining read which I finished within 24h. If you haven’t seen the film (and even if you have) the book is, as always, much better.


4. Lust for Life by Irving Stone


I was heading from Bucharest to Amsterdam and what better book to pick up than one with Vincent van Gogh on the cover? This biographical novel based on the life of the Dutch painter became one of my favourite books. It’s very well documented and exquisitely written, full of life lessons and memorable quotes, and tragic and beautiful at the same time.


5. Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada


This is my latest airport purchase. I got it a couple of days ago at the Henri Coanda airport in Bucharest on my way to, yes, Berlin. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but the cover says it’s one of the masterpieces of the last century (the first 73 pages makes a compelling case as well), so if you happen to pass it by, give it a try yourself.


6. The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph


With this one I’m cheating a little because I didn’t get it in an airport, but at a train station – Amsterdam Central Station to be more exact. I was searching for a nice read during my last days as an official resident of the Dutch city and I’m putting it here on the list because I loved it so. At first I found the title intriguing. But the book proved to be much more than that. It’s dark, witty, funny, sad, and a great combination of big ideas and real problems. Just what the doctor recommended.


That’s my list. Do you have any favourite books you picked at an airport, a train station, or wherever your journeys have taken you?

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