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Up in the Air

2.84 of 5 stars 2.84  ·  rating details  ·  3,531 ratings  ·  584 reviews
Ryan Bingham’s job as a Career Transition Counselor–he fires people–has kept him airborne for years. Although he has come to despise his line of work, he has come to love the culture of what he calls “Airworld,” finding contentment within pressurized cabins, anonymous hotel rooms, and a wardrobe of wrinkle-free slacks. With a letter of resignation sitting on his boss’s des ...more
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Anchor (first published July 1st 2001)
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I hate flying. It’s been a while since I traveled by air, the last time was when there were a bunch of little start up airlines that undercut each other for the cheapest fares. These were the airlines that would get you to your next destination, but wouldn’t/couldn’t tell you when exactly your return flight would be. “Just call us when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City, a few days before you leave. We should know by then.” The plane, I believe, was an old converted army cargo plane. The inflight meal w ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 10, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Po
Shelves: drama
Since graduating from college in 1984, I have been working for 27 years. 8-5 M-F without letup except for the allowed vacation leaves. I rarely take sick leaves since I am a healthy person (except the knee sport-related injury two years ago). I spent all of these 27 years working in multinational companies and I left all the 3 earlier companies around the time of their acquisition by bigger companies. I was in those acquired companies so I knew how it felt to be told that my position was no long ...more
Saw Jason Reitman's film adaptation in the theater, which I rarely do (see films in the theater, that is... though oddly I've seen all of Reitman's films in the theater), and was intrigued enough by the premise (if not the film itself) to give the book a try.

It's weird reading a book after you've seen the movie version of it. Our modern cinematic minds make it difficult for us to strip away all visual and aural context and experience the story in its pure narrative form. Kirn's book is pretty we
The whole premise of the books is Ryan Bingham travels for TRAVELING is his job...he goes to companies, fires people for them, and then counsels them on how being fired is just an opportunity to find your passion. He's thisclose to acquiring 1 million frequent flier miles, and wants to attain that goal before his boss comes back from vacay and finds Ryan's resignation on his desk

I hate being confused by the ending of books, because I generally think I am en excellent reader. But this
I had a hard time determining whether to give this more than one star. While I haven't read enough books that have been reconceptialized via Hollywood, it has always been my understanding that the book is superior to the movie. In this case, I was prompted to read the book after thoroughly enjoying the movie.
To my dismay, the book and the movie share fundamental elements and nothing else. The characters have mostly changed (though Ryan Bingham has a similar wit, yet is not as likable), the rela
Up in the Air is not a novel that I would have picked up, had it not been for my desire to see the movie. I seem to cling to an OCDish need to read the book that the movie is based upon before I will allow myself to see it. I can only assume that this is a story preservation tactic, as I trust my imagination and interpretation over some Hollywood producer, and have witnessed the butchering of one too many great books. That being said, I have heard from countless people that in this case, the mov ...more
For those thinking of extending a pleasant movie experience, put this book away.

The only thing that kept me from giving this book less than 2 stars were imagining George Clooney as the main character and the ending which somewhat ties things together. Otherwise this book is everything the movie is not - it doesn't put any energy into the main character's career, the main character is not happy, the main character is not mentoring anybody, much less a pleasant and spunky young go-getter. Perhaps
When I picked this up at the library, I was thinking of another book, and I also maybe didn't realize it was fiction, even though I was in the fiction section. (The sections in my local library branch aren't hard and fast rules so much as general suggestions, largely ignored.) I was already a chapter in when I realized it was written by Kirn, who also wrote Thumbsucker, which I also disliked. For me, he's trying way too hard to be Chuck Palahniuk, and since I can barely tolerate Palahniuk actual ...more
This book is super, super oddball. Half the time it is like, breathless slalom race to crazy! And to be honest that is kind of fun, and things open up a whole lot in the chapters Ryan spends with his sister. Like, a lot, like, if at that point the book had morphed into a road-trip novel, no complaints here. But overall there is so much noodle-throwing at the direction of an over-corporate America, you know, that kind of thing is really exhausting. Really wears on a reader, particularly because K ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Before you ask, no, I haven't seen the movie version that came out recently. I will, but as of this moment I haven't. I have had several people telling me about it though, and they made it sound so interesting, like such a clever satire of American corporate life and the emptiness of the modern business world, that I knew I wanted to read it. I was thrilled to find a copy of the pre-movie edition - I'm one of those people who really hates to get a book with a movie-poster cover. I really don't l ...more
It took me several days to read this book, although it could easily be done in one sitting, which might have been better (many characters, many plot threads). I cannot say this a book that will delight the reader, but I will say the anxiety it begins to create is palpable as you press on toward the end.

It is certainly a timely book, given the main character's career path and I felt it depicted the world of corporate self-help perfectly. It was both sad and disturbing. I remember thinking that it
Serious displacement occurs when main character Ryan approaches his millionth-mile mark flying with Great West Airlines. Suddenly that goal seems the only thing within reach--more important things slip out of his grasp in inverse relation the closer he comes to his millionth mile. Very funny look at the modern corporate sensibility. Author Kirn implicates us all, but with good humor, and since he skewers everyone, with fairness. To laugh again, at these things that drive one mad, is worth the pr ...more
Like most, I'm assuming, I have both read and watched the movie adaptation of this story. They are two incredibly different experiences, and I'm surprised to find that I prefer the visual interpretation of Kirn's novel than the actual text. That's not to say, however, that I didn't enjoy this book, although I must assert that it's not for everyone. It's so subtly satirical and has several moments of brilliance. The protagonist (Ryan Bingham/George Clooney) is such a bitter and inwardly wizened c ...more
Ms. B
I’m not sure what to say about Up in the Air. I think I expected a lot or maybe I just expected something. Mr. Kirn writes amazing well- but that is it. It wasn’t an amazing story, the characters weren’t very compelling. Everything, but the writing was just sort of “ehhhh.” And I’m going to be honest, when I read a depressing story – I don’t want ehhhh. I want dramatic, compelling, intense and interesting – and well, Up in the Air wasn’t that. There are many people who seem to love this story an ...more
Larry Buhl
I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I love the idea of it, but hate the execution. I guess that means I should hate it. I'm giving it three stars anyway.

Brave of Walter Kirn to telegraph, through the narrator, that the book has no plot. He says this as he's leaning over to comment on a seatmate's choice of reading material on one of his many flights.

I like bleak, black comedies, though I'm not sure this qualifies as a comedy. More of a stream of unconsciousness musing from a lost,
Yves Gounin
Enorme déception à la lecture de ce roman dont j'avais pourtant ADORE l'adaptation au cinéma.
Le film a repris au livre son personnage principal : Ryan Bingham, consultant en management, passe sa vie "up in the air" d'un avion à l'autre.
Spécialiste en CTC ("conseil en transition de carrière" un euphémisme pour gestion du licenciement), il est écoeuré par son travail mais n'a pas le courage de le quitter.
Sans logement, sans épouse, essayant de réduire à néant ce qui lui reste de relations famil
The Ryan Bingham portrayed in the movie by our hero George Clooney--his confident, airy presence, his attractiveness, pursuits and un-ordinariness--are nothing like the Ryan Bingham in this book. The two seem to be completely separate people.

The voice of this novel is a guy you’ve seen a hundred times, and never once noticed. He’s the guy who chats with you during your Minneapolis to Wichita flight, the guy you see at the hotel bar sitting by himself, talking to the bartender. He’s the guy eatin
Mmmm.... I listened to this book on CD in the car and maybe it was because it was an audio book or maybe it's because I'm unsophisticated but there were a lot of parts where he lost me. I wasn't sure who was saying what at some points, I couldn't quite understand what the main character was running to or running from. Did he enjoy the rat race and was running for higher status in it or was he running away from it? He was focused on making a certain number of flying miles but I was never sure why ...more
I picked up this surprisingly good book because it was in the thrift store, I was about to go on a trip, and I thought the movie was okay. What I liked most about the film were the constant mundane details of business travel. I like cozy little details. I like familiar situations. I like airplanes. All those things are in the book. But if you liked the movie a lot, don't bother with the book. If you loved the goopy (yes, goopy) adult comedy-drama that made it to the screen, you'll hate this inte ...more
Given the amount of buzz the film version of this is generating, I was moved to read it again over the weekend. Sadly, its original 3-star rating didn't hold up - it's even more of a mess than I had remembered. And considerably less fun. Spending 300 pages inside the head of a main protagonist who is undergoing a mental breakdown, and who amounts to little more than a not very interesting caricature, is a dubious pleasure at best. Sure, Kirn gets in a few well-placed zingers at the weirdness tha ...more
First things first. If you enjoyed the 2009 film that starred the dapper George Clooney, and picked this novel up to see how faithful the film is to the original material (or otherwise), you're in for a disappointment. The original material is more haphazard and less stylistic than the silver screen adaptation. And the protagonist is definitely no George Clooney.

Up in the Air sets the premise of Ryan, a career-transition counsellor who spends many of his waking moments in-transit and fraternisin
*Spoilers ahead for the book and film!*

“To know me is to fly with me.” With an opening line like that, who needs the subsequent 300 pages of pontification?

While I read Up In the Air earlier in the year, I only watched the film this morning, and figure now is as good a time as any to write a well-informed review.

I knew there would be differences. The screenplay was adapted about eight years after the book was published and the world has obviously changed since then; new issues have taken center
Unlike apparently everyone else on GoodReads, I liked this novel. Kirn has a smart, witty prose style, and the novel is an interesting combination of Bildungsroman and corporate satire, with a dash of thriller as well. There seem to be very few excellent books about the corporate world, and while I wouldn't call this one excellent, it's thoughtful and provocative, as well as a fun read. The surface snark, including some good material about the nonsense of business books and management consulting ...more
Though it shares only a few plot points with it's movie version, the original book version of Up in the Air is also unique and mesmerizing. It is an incredibly well-molded character study more than it is a cohesive story that heads in a specific direction. And I am alright with that.

The opening of the book begins with the narrator and central character speaking to the reader as if we had the unfortunate luck to be seated next to him on a flight. And, as the narrator begins to expound upon the un
This is one of those rare times when I am grateful tht I saw the movie before reading the book. Had I read the book first, I probably would not have gone to see the movie. Having seen the movie first, I HAD to read the book!

As someone who was on the road for 40 weeks out of the year for more than five years, I could identify with the Ryan Bingham character, the choices he makes, the way he lives his life, where he gets his mail, his rental cars, the whole enchilada. I loved the movie. Thus, I ha
*From: *
Rare case here, I liked the movie better than the book. To tell you the truth, I couldn't finish this one. Not saying that it was BAD or anything, the writing was really good and all, it just never engaged me. After page 100, even Ryan started to annoy me with his opinions about every single little detail and every single person and that bugged the hell out of me. Since there was no Natalie as there was in the movie, knowing that he never gets the chance to redeem himself or think differ
You know me, if I see a movie I am even remotely interested in, I'll pick up the book. And hello, George Clooney and Jason Reitman (have actually seen all his movies and really like them a lot), how wrong can you get? I doubt I'll see this movie in the theatre because of my non-movie kick at the moment, but I am sure I'll get to it eventually. Anyway, so I picked up the book. I actually read something from this guy just a few weeks back and I hate it which should have been the first sign for thi ...more
The story of Ryan Bingham (no relation to the alt country singer) criss-crossing the United States to achieve his goal of 1 million frequent flyer miles, is frantic, funny, and seemingly pointless. But a closer look reveals a man with a mission. Throughout Ryan's journey Walter Kirn provides sharp commentary on corporate america, motivational speakers, and consultants (to name a few). His writing is smartly fast-paced like a good Howard Hawks or Preston Sturges screenplay. Pay attention or you' ...more
Hmmm. A tough one to rate. First off, I should say that Kirn is a master of rhythm. This book flows along so well, on the strength of so many good sentences, that I could almost give it another star. But I won't. And this, I guess, is where the subjectivity comes in. As a reader, I need to deeply care about my characters. I'm all for satire, but I need to care. Kirn skates around the edges of empathy for his characters, but I think he'd rather just lampoon the ridiculousness of corporate culture ...more
I watched and enjoyed the movie version of this story. Ryan Bingham--in the movie--was a frustrated businessman trying to navigate Airworld and Real World. He experienced joy, pain, and had the ability to grow and change. He is able to find context and meaning from his interactions with other people. He falls in love and finds out that it wasn't real. His character has an arc.

Ryan Bingham in Walter Kirn's book has no arc, only the downward trajectory of a crashing Boeing 747. His character spir
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Walter Kirn is a regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review, and his work appears in The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, Time, New York, GQ and Esquire. He is the author of six previous works of fiction: My Hard Bargain: Stories, She Needed Me, Thumbsucker, Up in the Air, Mission to America and The Unbinding. Kirn is a graduate of Princeton University and attended Oxford on ...more
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“Just breathing can be such a luxury sometimes.” 33 likes
“He knows, as all the cleverest ones do, that no human being is so interesting that he can't make himself more interesting still by acting retarded at random intervals. ” 11 likes
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