The tragic crash on Saturday of an Asiana Airlines flight at San Francisco/Oakland International Airport, where two girls were killed and dozens injured, has many discussing airline safety. But instead of obsessing on the news reports coming out of SFO and Washington, The Atlantic's James Fallows says two books will give you a more astute understanding of the risks you're taking when you get on a plane.
Fallows swears by Patrick Smith's Cockpit Confidential, Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel. Smith is the man behind AskthePilot.com, an 11-year-old blog on airlines, airports, and flying. Smith provides no-nonsense talk about the realities of modern travel on both the blog and the book. To see how pilots view the world, check out both.
Another must-read, according to Fallows, is The Skies Belong to Us, a chronicle of the days when hijackings were way too commonplace; during the Vietnam War days of the '60s and '70s. Brendan Koerner's nonfiction account of a plane taken to Algeria is tense and engrossing and gives a sense as to how airline staff handle emergencies (it was also recommended by Smith). Compared to the exhaustive crash updates on cable news, these books will provide a deeper understanding of the complicated business of moving people around the world.