Planes, Trains and Automobiles

June 23, 2014

“Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
Anna Quindlen

I picked up Agatha Christie’s Death in the Air last week because I had a sudden urge for one of her books (and I can use it for the Vintage Mystery Challenge). That got me thinking about books in which planes, trains and automobiles figure as settings or are otherwise integral to the story. Below is an incomplete list of transportation-related titles. Given my love for mysteries, crimes figure in many of these stories (and trains seem to be especially lethal!). Some of these I’ve read (in bold), and others I discovered in my research for this post. Many of these books have been made into movies, if you prefer your transportation stories on the screen.

Death in the Air (alternate title, Death in the Clouds), Agatha Christie. Poisoned darts and Hercule Poirot.
The Flight of the Phoenix, Elleston Trevor. A plane crash in the Sahara—how will the surviving passengers make it out alive?
I Was Amelia Earhart, Jane Mendelsohn. A “brilliantly-imagined” telling of what happened after Earhart and her navigator disappeared near New Guinea.
“The Langoliers,” a novella found in Four Past Midnight, Stephen King. And you already thought airplane travel was nightmarish.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint Exupery. Described as “a fable of love and loneliness,” this involves another plane crash in the Sahara.
Non-fiction bonus: Listen! The Wind and North to the Orient, Anne Morrow Lindberg
When I Fell From the Sky, Juliane Koepcke

The Lady Vanishes, Lina Ethel White. Where is Miss Froy? And why does no one except Iris remember her?
Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith. Explores the dark psychological forces under the surface of everyday life.
Murder on the Orient Express and What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! (Also known as 4:50 From Paddington), Agatha Christie. Two lethal train rides.
Murder on the Ballarat Train, Kerry Greenwood. Yup. Stay off the train.
The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars, Maurice Dekobra. More adventure on the Orient Express.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, John Godey. Peril on a subway train.
Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne. Boats, trains and hot air balloons!
Non-fiction bonus: The Railway Man, Eric Lomax

On the Road, Jack Kerouac. “The Bible of the Beat Generation.”
Christine, Stephen King. A boy’s first car, as imagined by Stephen King.
Sideways, Rex Pickett. A wine country road trip.
The Pull of the Moon, Elizabeth Berg. Who hasn’t wanted to get in her car and just go?
The Long Way Home, Karen McQuestion. Four women on a road trip from Wisconsin to Las Vegas.
Non-fiction bonus: The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson
Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck.

I see several titles here I want to read (I can’t believe I’ve never read Around the World in 80 Days or Travels With Charley, for example). As I said, I know this list is incomplete—have I left out your favorites? Please share!

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  1. I can't believe you've never read The Little Prince! It may just be my favorite book of all time. You really must read it! It's a quick read. I'm not a big mystery fan, but I did enjoy the Dorothy L Sayers book I read for the classics challenge, and my brother sent me a few more of them for my TBR pile (just what I needed!).

  2. Oh yes, I also read I Was Amelia Earhart a long time ago, and if I remember right, I enjoyed it. I'm fascinated with her story.

  3. Cheryl--No, I've never read The Little Prince, either! With that recommendation, I'm putting it on my TBR list. I think I'll read it and Around the World in 80 Days for the classics challenge.

    I'm glad you liked the DL Sayers mysteries. I like them a lot. (I know what you mean about the TBR pile, though!)

    I liked the Amelia Earhart book, too. I'd like to learn more about her, as I don't know much other than the a couple of the major events in her life.

  4. I so enjoy people's reading lists. Yes, The Little Prince, I can see where you would like it as it is more than just a story...I love The Pull of the Moon & Travels with Charley. I read On the Road years ago & it was back in the day when we took our own cross country road trips...Not sure I would relate to it today as much...I wish I liked mysteries...oh well...A nice non-fiction book you might like: The Art of Pilgrimage. And The Unlikey Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, though his journey is on foot, not by car...

  5. We'll let me know hoe you like The Little Prince. After my recommendation, I certainly hope you like it! Although it is a pretty quick read, so at least you won't have invested a great deal of time with it.

  6. Sometimes I hate auto correct! First word in my comment should have been well, and then it should be how not hoe! LOL!!

  7. Rita--I'll look up the books you mentioned--they sound intriguing. Thanks for the suggestions.

  8. Cheryl--I put The Little Prince on reserve at my library, so I'll let you know. I'm expecting to like it--it sounds like a book I'll enjoy.

  9. Thanks for sharing this link (will have to bookmark this page) as it has some great ideas! It is a fun prompt and I know it will be a hard one to choose just one book for! I have read a few from your list--the Ethel Lina White was a great read (and a great movie--have you seen it?).

    1. Yes, I've seen the movie, too. In fact, I might have seen the movie first, because it took a little while for me to locate the book and the library had a copy of the movie.