Mile-High Library

Or The Airport Book Rack

Recently I had the pleasure of traveling by air again. Granted, it’s not the pleasure it once was, but I still enjoyed it. Except for one thing.

A serious bout of nostalgia hit me when I passed the shop with newspapers and magazines ... and the revolving rack of books. Those cheap paperbacks that can be crammed into a small corner of an already over-full carry-on bag.

I realized that this was the first time I actually walked right past the book rack. An e-reader crammed with books to read had taken the place of the paperback. It’s sleek and handy. If I really want to I can take at least ten different books with me, from a trashy novel to the latest bestseller to an old classic. I can even load a 1000-page James Michener or Neal Stephenson tome, if I so choose, without risking running afoul of the weight limitations for luggage, or what my shoulder can carry.

Why was I so nostalgic for a simple, cheap paperback? Well, I’ll tell you. Many years ago (no not that many, I'm still young) I traveled far more than I do now, and would cross from Europe to the US and back with some regularity. I would always stop off and buy a paperback to read on the plane, especially if the movie listed didn’t appeal to me. This was before in-seat entertainment as you find on long international flights today.

I’d often pick something easy to read, but entertaining, knowing I would leave it in the seat pocket in front of me once I reached my destination, where it could be found by a future traveler. It seemed to be an unwritten rule of travel to leave a book on the plane once read, and I’ve found my share of fun books on my travels that way. A sort of mile-high library.

I doubt anyone will leave a Kindle stuffed in a seat pocket, and I’m happy with my e-reader, but nostalgia is inescapable... although ... the imagination stirs and who knows what kind of golden story I can spin out of this straw.