On a recent plane trip, I could not keep track of my books. I had stuffed two paperbacks into a carry-on bag: Elizabeth Bowen’s Friends and Relations and a mystery. One of the other would keep me occupied on the trip, I thought.
The bag was a tight fit under the seat. I had to crouch in the aisle to drag it out. With much flexing of knees, I managed this triumphantly. The Elizabeth Bowen, however, was not in a zippered compartment marked BOOKS. It was with meds, toiletries, and a cardigan sweater.
Once the book was out of the bag, it was out for the rest of the trip. Usually there is an empty seat next to me, and I fling the book down when I don’t want to read. This time the plane was full. And during the multiple meals and snacks that keep us from going crazy on planes, the old paperback became more and more brittle. I tried holding it on my knees under the tray. It emerged bent. During a later snack, I stuffed it into the pocket on the back of the chair. A corner of the cover tore off.
Turned out this book was no longer meant for reading. The type was dim against the tan, crackling pages. I alternately had to hold it close to my face or at arm’s length. That’s the beauty of bifocals: you are both near-sighted and short-sighted at the same time.
I finally read my mystery, which was perfect for the plane. I can’t recommend Patricia Moyes’s The Curious Affair of the Third Dog too strongly. I am so thankful I didn’t bring Proust, which I had originally considered the ultimate vacation reading. (Not on this plane.)
The Bowen fell apart completely the next day in a cafe.
Anyone have good travel tips for plane reading (and for keeping books in one piece)? I’m thinking about buying a tablet case, which would give the books some extra protection. And it would fit in my bag.
I returned home with some new sturdy paperbacks. They were unharmed by travel.