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12 Great Books for Incredibly Long Business Trips

Even the most battle-hardened road warriors need distractions. Here are plenty.
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I don't care how focused and disciplined you are. Fly from Washington to Melbourne, or Newark to Mumbai, or Atlanta to Johannesburg (don't know why but that flight seems really long)--and you need more than work to distract you.

Movies can pass time, but it's hard to watch five or six in a row. (It is for me, anyway.) Music can pass time, but even Zeppelin's Complete Studio Recordings from start to finish won't get you there. (Sorry, Jimmy Page.)

Sometimes what you need is a book to lose yourself in--one that will make time fly and transport you through the otherwise interminable hours. Of course, that means the book can't be too heavy or require too much mental effort. It needs to be a true page-turner in every sense of the cliché.

So with that in mind, here are some great book options for distraction-desperate road warriors.

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles

All Greg's novels featuring Penn Cage are great. Whether you begin with the most recent one, Natchez Burning, or from the beginning with The Quiet Game won't affect your enjoyment. (I unintentionally skipped around and loved them all.)

But Natchez Burning is long enough to lose yourself for a few hours…and good enough to make you wish it was even longer.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Creepy, but in a really good way, with lots of layers, plenty of twists and turns, a healthy helping of suspense. And if you enjoy the craft of writing, you'll appreciate that Gillian pulls off a narrative approach most writers could not. (I definitely couldn't. Wouldn't even try. If I could write fiction. Which I can't.)

Rise to Rebellion byJeff Shaara

The first in a two-part series about the American Revolution: history, action, character studies. Just one of a number of great books by Jeff Shaara. Whether it's the Civil War or World War I or II, Shaara's historical fiction is consistently superb.

London by Edward Rutherfurd

Awesome if you're off to England. Read Edward's Paris if you're heading to France. Or New York if, well, you get it. Each is great and will give you a deeper appreciation for your destination.

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Texas. Family. Success and failure. Sacrifice. Redemption. Incredibly good story, extremely well told.

Winter Prey by John Sandford

I just randomly picked one of John's books. I've read them all: every Lucas Davenport novel, every Virgil Flowers novel, every Kidd novel. Just grab one. Or two. You'll be set.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell

I randomly picked a Cornwell book too (although I do really like his Saxon Chronicles; this is the first in that series). Cornwell made his mark with his Sharpe's novels, but since then has written novels set in Arthurian England and in the Hundred Year's War and the Civil War.

And while his heroes do always tend to get the girl, I'm cool with that. A guy can dream, right?

Both Sandford and Cornwell have extensive back catalogs, so if you like one, don't worry--there are plenty more.

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Awesome book. Take my word for it.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

If fiction isn't your thing, here are a few nonfiction picks. Daniel's book tells the story of American rowers who won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics. Sound like a boring subject? Daniel brings it to life--and proves that athletic excellence is only one factor in the medal-winning equation.

Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King

The story of Thurgood Marshall's defense of four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman will ensure you never think about people who are different from you--whether in terms of race, religion, beliefs, or simply because of how they look or act--the same way again.

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

Okay, okay, here's one business-related book. At a surface level it's the story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Look deeper and you'll find a number of different ways to think about your business--and how you run it.

Or just read it because it's really good. Win-win.

What about you? What books do you recommend when sleep isn't an option--and neither is work?

Last updated: Jul 21, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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