Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel

Catapult. Dec. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781646220151. $27. TRAV
Writer and translator Habib’s first book is an insightful travelogue filled with her own stories of travel as a woman of color from a third-world country—a term she doesn’t shy away from. Growing up in the South Indian state of Kerala, the author discovered an early taste for travel writing in the stories of the Queen of Sheba and other ancient explorers whose curiosity led them to new adventures. This book highlights the inherent inequities in privileges between those who can easily globetrot versus others who frequently encounter difficulties while traveling. This work shows that militourism, colonialism, capitalism, and climate change shape how and where people travel. With a sharp wit, the book unearths travel truths with a humorous bent that delivers several laugh out loud moments. From a history of guidebooks to the obscure history of carousels, there are compelling stories and insights that will expand and alter most readers’ view of the world. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are references to works in which one can further investigate some of the book’s briefly mentioned topics.
VERDICT Fans of travel writing, history, and travel writing itself will find this quick read a delightful, eye-opening one that fuels more insatiable wanderlust.
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