Any dedicated reader looks forward to hitting the road, whether it be by plane, train, ship, or automobile, for that coveted quiet time to read. The books on this list can withstand interruptions, hold your attention but not demand it, and place you in that perfect, meditative mind space that accompanies travel.
We Love Anderson Cooper by R.L. Maizes
With heart and humor, R.L. Maizes presents 11 short stories written with the assertion that we are all, in our own way, outsiders. From the boy who comes out at his bar mitzvah to the tattoo artist with magical ink, you’ll find yourself drawn to characters whose feelings and motivations aren’t so different from your own. Which just goes to show, no one is ever truly alone.
Outline by Rachel Cusk
Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy, the novels Outline, Transit, and Kudos, begins on a plane with this first installment, and is the perfect project for reading in liminal space. Cusk writes with the confidence of an intimate friend. Faye, the narrator and the stand-in for Cusk, is simply relaying stories told to her by friends, family members, perfect strangers. Each of the three in this trilogy makes for great travel reading, but you might as well start at the beginning.
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
Most people know who Dorothy Parker is without actually having read her work. The woman had such a sharp wit and made so many contributions as a screenwriter that the general populace might find itself quoting Parker in complete ignorance. There’s no better time than the present, when you’re on the road looking for something light — but also weighty enough to get you thinking.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
If you’ve been hunting down that short-yet-captivating novel, look no further than the striking debut of the young Irish novelist Sally Rooney. Conversations with Friends, which chronicles the friendship of Frances and Bobbi, focusing on the romantic exploits and writing ambitions of Frances, is the kind of book that emerges maybe once in a blue moon, the kind of novel you can certainly read in its entirety on a single flight. And if the plane lands before you finish the book, you’ll just sit in your seat reading and let everyone disembark before you.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
This gorgeous little book, pure poetry in short vignettes, is easy to dip in and out of when you’re on the road. An ode to the color blue, Nelson investigates all sorts of emotions through that sapphire filter: mourning the end of a relationship, the feeling of art, friendship, and more.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
This memoir by poet Saeed Jones is short but packs a punch. Jones is gay and black, and this coming of age memoir growing up in a needless to say hostile environment and his fight to become himself is deeply moving and bracing, at just 208 pages. This is the kind of essential book that encourages readers not only to fight for their lives, but to live them without shame, in power and passion.
My Private Property by Mary Ruefle
Mary Ruefle is an American poet, and this collection of short prose is some of the finest poetry committed to paper in recent years. One series in particular, on the colors of sadness, are so short and achingly sweet that you might consider adding more poetry to your life. And don’t miss the secret Author’s Note at the end of the book.