I really, really enjoyed Alain de Botton's book A Week at the Airport.
The book is based on such an enjoyably weird premise that I couldn't help but be charmed by it. De Botton, best known for his nonfiction books How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Consolations of Philosophy, and The Art of Travel, was invited by one of the owners of the newly refurbished Heathrow Airport* to hang around the airport and its connecting hotel for a week and write a book about the experience, as a sort of airport "writer in residence."
The result is a slim narrative divided into the sections of Approach, Departures, Airside, and Arrivals; and containing fantastic photographs by Richard Baker.** De Botton describes the airport, shares the stories of travelers and airport workers he interviewed, and muses a bit on the nature of travel and transience in our modern world. As always, his text is just a little bit full of itself ("The mighty steel bracing of the airport's ceiling recalled the scaffolding of the great nineteenth-century railway stations, and evoked the sense of awe--suggested in paintings such as Monet's Gare Saint-Lazare--that must have been experienced by the first crowds to step inside these light-filled, iron-limbed halls pullulating with strangers, buildings that enabled a person to sense viscerally, rather than just grasp intellectually, the vastness and diversity of humanity"), but his text isn't what I really enjoy de Botton for. I really just enjoy his ideas and the way his prose is a little bit ridiculous but still does a great job of making you feel you're in the situation he's describing.
So yeah, I liked it. Mainly I liked it because just looking at it made me remember the few airports I've had the good luck to visit,*** and the excitement I felt at being there and going on trips. I'll never forget Mr. CR's and my first morning in London--we got off the plane at Heathrow and stumbled our way, exhausted, to the attached Underground station to King's Cross, where we were going to have to catch a train for our five-hour ride to Edinburgh (on pretty much no sleep, mind you). Before we got on the subway we popped up to a surface exit where we could use the restroom, and London was waking up, with the sky just lightening, traffic starting to move, a bit of a brisk nip in the fall air, and airport and Underground workers taking a smoke break. It was all so different and sensually overpowering and I felt so untethered, what with being off my home continent and all. And I felt ALL of that again when I read this book. Fantastic.
*in London, England, another reason I was destined to like this book. And: it's only 107 pages long. Sweet!
**I love his photography, and it makes the book so much more enjoyable. Tons more adult nonfiction books should include pictures or photographs.
***I LOVE airports. I'd feel differently about them if I had to travel for a living, but once I had to kill like five hours by myself in the Detroit airport, and rarely have I had such fun.