10 Page Turners for Travel Delays

Stash one of these gripping reads in your carry on and those extra hours in the airport will fly by 

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"The Goldfinch"

by Donna Tartt; Little, Brown


A summary of Donna Tartt’s marvelous third novel must be brief and oblique in order to avoid spoilage: 13-year-old New Yorker Theo Decker blames himself for the death of his mother in a startling tragedy, one that connects him not only to the people who will foster and form him but also to the art world—particularly a lovely 17th-century Dutch painting of a captive goldfinch. Whisked away to Las Vegas by his weasel of a dad, Theo harbors a secret and makes a lifelong best friend, a Ukrainian classmate with secrets of his own; their lives will entwine in unexpected ways. Tartt (The Secret History) deftly surfs the zeitgeist (teenage druggies, the foreclosure crisis, international crime). But The Goldfinch is also deliciously Dickensian in scope and themes (loss, class, redemption, the power of art) and in its lovable, hateable, memorable characters. Though judicious pruning might have given the most brilliant passages more room to shine, the book is never less than a pleasure. As the artist Mae West is said to have purred, too much of a good thing is wonderful.  —Judith Stone


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"Kind of Cruel"

by Sophie Hannah; Putnam


Testy and sleep-deprived Amber Hewerdine visits a hypnotist for help with her insomnia, blurts out three little words and finds herself in the middle of a mystery so intricate, it could keep you up nights. What does a stranger’s seemingly random murder have to do with the sudden and suspicious death of Amber’s best friend or the baffling disappearance, 10 years earlier, of her sister’s family on Christmas Eve? Hot on this convoluted trail we have our insomniac heroine; a pair of un-easily married detectives; and a hypnotherapist who dispenses shrink wisdom, messes with our heads and ultimately provides the byzantine “why” to this crafty psychological whodunit. —Amanda Lovell


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"The Asylum"

by Simon Doonan; Blue Rider Press


For those of us who adore the word fabulosity and the men who use it—and really, who doesn’t?—Barneys’ legendary creative light, Simon Doonan, has put together what he calls “a collage of couture reminiscences.” Fashion, he writes, “has always given a hearty willkommen bienvenue welcome to all the misfits, kooks and original thinkers of the world.” These people make good copy. In vignettes as witty and outré as any Barneys window, Doonan brings us dictatorial doyennes with their goofy why-don’t-yous, persnickety designers, wildly superstitious models, bizarre cleansing beverages, catwalk catastrophes (falling ceilings! rampant goats!) and gritty roots (he keeps a running tally of how many fashion stars are escapees from the “bleak naffness” of “crap towns”). Along the way, he doles out his own brand of advice. For the plus-size: leopard prints “and a damn good pedicure.” On choosing a career: “When you are young, you simply need to throw a bunch of fabulosity against the wall and see what sticks.” —Amanda Lovell


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"Night Film"

by Marisha Pessl; Random House


Noirish, impish and stylish, this literary thriller delivers twists, kinks and characters to care about. Investigative reporter Scott McGrath is still smarting from an ugly, career-wrecking libel case involving reclusive director Stanislas Cordova, whose shockingly dark movies have rabid cult (and perhaps occult) following. When Cordova’s beautiful 24-year-old daughter, Ashley, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse, an apparent suicide, McGrath digs into what he thinks may be a gothic murder plot set in motion by her father. Accompanied by a pair of unlikely assistants—a teenage coat-check girl and a drug dealer with a murky connection to the departed girl—McGrath descends deep into creepiness. The chills are offset by Pessl’s wry observations and the fun of encountering artifacts she has convincingly created on the page—police reports, journalist’s notes, magazine articles. Night Film gets two thumbs up. —Judith Stone


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"You Are One of Them"

by Elliott Holt; Penguin


Like a matryoshka doll, Elliott Holt’s bold, electric debut novel artfully unpacks its secrets. In the early I’d-rather-be-dead-than-Red ‘80s, two 10-year-old girls—wan, pensive Sarah and her best friend, sunny, wholesome Jenny—write letters urging Soviet leader Yuri Andropov to end the Cold War. Sarah’s message suspiciously disappears; Jenny’s makes her an international celebrity. By seventh grade, the two friends aren’t speaking. A decade later, after Jenny’s plane mysteriously crashes en route to a speaking engagement, Sarah travels to post-perestroika Russia to find out what really happened. This is an unflinching tale of self-deception and the struggle to lead an authentic life. —Kristy Davis


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"The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls"

by Anton DiSclafani; Riverhead


What would 15-year-old Thea Atwood have done that would get her banished form her family home—a 1,000-acre Florida paradise complete with an orange grove, ample room to ride and, let it be said, serpents—and hustled off to a sequestered girls’ school in the mountains of North Carolina? (At least until, her father says, “all this mess is settled.”) That’s the page-turning question at the heart of this immensely readable debut novel. Set against the gathering clouds of the Great Depression, it’s part horse story, part boarding school adventure, part coming-of-age/falling-from-grace saga, with a hot-blooded, hard-riding, not always likeable heroine. “I was fearless,” Thea says. “It was a trait that served me well in the ring, but badly in life.” —Amanda Lovell


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by Sonali Deraniyagala; Knopf


Imagine yourself on a seaside vacation in Sri Lanka, with your husband, your young sons and your parents. It’s the day after Christmas, and life is rich and good, you and your husband are still in love, your parents still healthy, your boys bright, interested, loved by all. And then imagine, out the window, a wave where no wave should be and the dawning realization that you must run, must leap with your family into a jeep, which speeds toward safety until the wave swamps it, tumbles it, tearing from you your husband, your boys, leveling the hotel where your parents wait, leaving you clinging to a branch, alive when the wave recedes but stripped of everything. How do you, left utterly alone, go on? Deraniyagala’s unmitigatedly honest, immeasurably potent memoir recounts the eight dark years since the 2004 tsunami erased her life, and her reluctant progress toward rejoining the living. Relentless in its explication of grief, this massively courageous, tenaciously unsentimental chronicle of unthinkable loss and incremental recovery explodes—and then expands—our notion of what love really means. —Pam Houston


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Next: 6 Fall Books to Devour

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The Valley of Amazement


by Amy Tan; Ecco


In her new novel,Tan uses the exotic (and brutal) world of an early-20th-century Shanghai courtesan to explore long-standing literary passions: mother-daughter love and betrayal, female friendship, how family secrets shadow multiple generations. The book’s heroine, Violet, half Chinese and half American, is forced to become a courtesan at 14 after she’s separated from her mother. Rage and grief shape her life—until she, too, becomes a mother who knows loss. Neither the characters nor the sprawling story is as sharply drawn as Tan’s best. But her fans will appreciate the book’s multi-generational narrative and compelling look at a society in which men held the power but women gave each other strength. —Carol Mithers


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Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

by Dana Goodyear; Riverhead


I don’t think I’ve ever used the word disgusting as a compliment, but here goes. Goodyear’s riveting, hilarious, disturbing and downright disgusting new book is the perfect antidote to a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving. This journalistic thriller, set among the culinary avant-garde, is all about dangerous eating. A rose-haired tarantula spider roll. Frog fallopian tubes. And the most extreme: an unhatched chick, eaten whole. But this story isn’t meant to gross you out; it’s a window onto a world of chefs, purveyors, farmers, scavengers and gonzo foodies. —Dani Shapiro


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A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York


by Anjelica Huston; Scribner


Part one of Huston’s autobiography stops before her Hollywood years, offering a languid, lyrical look at a childhood dominated by the presence and (more often) absence of her father, thelegendary director John Huston. She brushed shoulders with stars (Marlon Brando, Deborah Kerr, Peter O’Toole) but also struggled with loneliness on the Hustons’ remote Galway estate. Once she overheard her parents fretting that she would never be a beauty. Yet she grew up to be a model—for Avedon, no less—and actress, emotionally bruised but on her way to becoming a film force. —Susan Toepfer


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