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up in the airTitle: Up In The Air

Writer: Walter Kim

Publisher: Anchor Books (2009)

Pages: 362p

Rent at: ReadingWalk

Ryan Bingham had a weird job as a career transition counselor (or for common ears: firing people). But one of the benefits of his unpleasant job was to travel across USA with his office’s expenses, so he could collect the miles from his frequent flyer program. Between his lonely traveling days, Ryan’s obsession was only one: to reach one million frequent flyer miles, and become the 10th person who could do that for Great West Airlines.

To make it more time pressing, Ryan had submitted a resignation letter to his boss (who was currently on vacation) and pushed himself to fulfill his dream before he quit the job and lost his chance. And on his last traveling days, Ryan met several people who could change his view of life: a girl with mysterious background and motives, client who was in the brink of failure, his little sister who wanted to runaway from her wedding, and some vague people in the background whom he thought were from a prestigious company that wanted to hire him.

Up In the Air was not really a hit, until it became a movie with multi award nominations, including for the Oscars. I haven’t watched the movie so I don’t know for sure what made it award worthy. The book itself, for me, was too dark, gloomy and in some parts, absurd. The only thing I love is Ryan Bingham himself, with his witty opinion about the “Airworld” , or the culture of traveling by plane (including the special atmosphere and luxury).

The exclusive lounges in airport, the pretty but tired flight attendants, the satisfaction of being upgraded, all those things that I’ve never really thought about before,  were becoming very vivid in Ryan Bingham’s story. The loneliness of his traveling days and the sad nature of his job gave this book some sort of tragic feeling. This book is actually not really my thing, but I guess George Clooney made it worthy for me to look for the movie. (tee hee!)

ps: I just read in a website that the story in the movie is actually quite different from the book. Anna Kendrick’s role for example, who got several award nominations, was not in the book. And the ending is slightly different too. Maybe that what makes the movie award worthy? Not to mention that the script was rewritten by the famous Jason Reitman (hint: Juno).

Do you know?

  • The current record for the largest number of frequent flyer miles in one account is just over 23 million miles
  • It is estimated that some 307,000 frequent flyers have earned at least 1 million miles in their programs. (including Ryan Bingham?)
  • American AAdvantage is the largest frequent flyer program in the world

This book is counted for What’s in a name 6 challenge, for category: Book with “Up or Down” in the title.