A book is a wonderful travel companion, especially when those inevitable delays happen. The top books I recommend to travelers are long enough to keep you entertained through hours of layovers. For reading on the plane or in a waiting room, the following are novels and nonfiction that will refresh your mind, spirit, or both.
For an especially long flight, say Los Angeles to Sydney or New York to Hong Kong, take along a copy of the paperback, 50th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This classic novel explores what happens when the productive people in a society disappear and those who mooch off them have to cope. The greatest musicians, philosophers, industrialists, and engineers are disappearing and the government is running out of wealth to confiscate. Men are destroying their wealth or leaving it to rot, then the men vanish without a trace. Can society cope without all those "greedy" men who provided jobs, transportation, and solutions to their problems? If you are a successful person who feels unappreciated, this book will make you cheer. Do take your reading glasses, though, because this paperback version is nearly a thousand pages of fine print.
For fans of J.R.R. Tolkein, an airplane trip is a great time to read The Silmarillion. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, this book is not a straight story; it is rather a "history" behind the story. Tolkein did not merely write a trilogy; he created an entire world, with languages and culture and history. The Silmarillion tells of the creation of Middle Earth, explains why elves and dwarfs don't usually get along with one another, and gives the genealogies of our favorite trilogy characters. Don't read this until you have read The Lord of the Rings, which is my third recommendation for travel reading. The trilogy is available in paperback and will last you through the longest of trips.
Always interesting is The Holy Bible. For history buffs, read I and II Samuel and I and II Kings for a survey of all the kings of Israel, or read Luke and Acts for a history of the early Christian church. For romance, read the book of Ruth for a sweet love story or the Song of Solomon for love poetry of the highest order. Esther is a story for those who want romance, intrigue, and history all in one package. Compact Bibles fit easily in a carry-on bag.
Finally, if you have a Vietnam veteran in your family or would simply like to have a better understanding of what some of those young men went through, you must read We Were Soldiers Once...and Young by Lt. General Hal Moore (USA-Ret.) and Joe Galloway. If you saw the movie starring Mel Gibson, you probably found yourself wondering about some of the characters and found yourself moved to tears by the suffering of the men and their families-and amazed at their heroic attempts to save one another. The book explores what went wrong, gives deeper insights into the lives of some of the men, and tells us what some of the survivors did after the war.
May all your travel be delay-free! However, these books are good enough that you might want a delay or two. You'll be glad to have any of these books in your carry-on bag, and your life will be richer for having read them.