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Up in the Air

2.87  ·  Rating details ·  4,746 ratings  ·  690 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
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 24th 2002 by Anchor (first published July 1st 2001)
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Jack Simmons This character was added to the movie as a foil to Ryan Bingham. The narrator speaks directly to the reader which would be difficult to translate to t…moreThis character was added to the movie as a foil to Ryan Bingham. The narrator speaks directly to the reader which would be difficult to translate to the screen.

The movie is a much different story than the book--better, certainly more surprising. (less)

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Average rating 2.87  · 
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 ·  4,746 ratings  ·  690 reviews

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Nov 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Early on in "Air," Kirn feebly mentions something about a novel having no plot. Obviously, it's made clear soon enough that what you carry in your very hands is one such novel. "Plotless" to me is an intriguing adventure (heck, I've tried my hand at this type of experiment for my thesis)-- & even Snow White in the Black Woods-scary. Perhaps a truly ingenious & novel form of the Novel. Then disappointment strikes. Hey, wasn't there some, like, Oscar-nominated film by the same name with George Clo ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I liked it a lot. It is hard because I kept wanting to compare it to DeLillo's best. It isn't DeLillo's best, but it isn't embarassed by the comparisson to good DeLillo. In someways it reminds me of 2001's answer to Americana (travel, corporate America, the West, relationships, etc). I'm fascinated with Kirn and this won't be the last of this review. However, it is late. I'm flying tomorrow (Ironically) and only half my flight will give me miles. ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Tuklas Pahina (TP)
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
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How is difficult, hurtful, and rude to fire someone!
Mar 31, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 02, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 is 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
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
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
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, cover-love, 2010
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
Ms. B
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
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
Mary Schwenk
Feb 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
I've got to say that I was really excited to read this book. In almost all previous experiences when a book was turned into a movie, the book was SO MUCH BETTER than the movie. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

I actually couldn't finish reading it. The character development was so poor that I found myself getting restless as I turned the pages...where was the plot? Where was the relationship progression with other characthers? There was a small section about a woman he sleeps with
Madi Smith
Aug 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Started off promising, but quickly lost momentum.
Jun 30, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
*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
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: escapism
I start my review with a digression. I read and saw the movie "Up in the Air" (in that order) around the same time as the release of the Hindi movie "3 idiots" which is inspired from Chetan Bhagath's "5 point someone". The professionalism with which the book to movie adaptation has been done with "Up in the Air" puts the Bollywood junta and Bhagath in bad light. I think the respective movie makers' approach to the material has been similar. They have taken the essence of a novel and spun their o ...more
Larry Buhl
Jan 20, 2011 rated it liked it
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,
Aug 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Brent Legault
Dec 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
I don't normally pick up a book that has been used as a script for the script of a new movie but I've never, until now (to my knowledge), read a book that has been used as a script for the script of a new movie after only seeing the trailer for that film.

This novel is slick in the way that Chuck Palahniuk's novels are slick and like Chuck's books this one was probably optioned by a movie studio while it was still being blue penciled by its editors. Why mention Palahniuk? I think it's because Up
Jan 23, 2010 rated it liked it
First 200 pages, five stars. Rest of book, two stars. I rarely buy books because of movies, but considering I was browsing this in the airport after having just booked a 4-city itinerary eerily similar to the intro in the book, I thought there just might be something here I could relate to.

And there was... to a point. Kirn's "Airworld" is dead on, as are his characters' interactions with it and their consultants lifestyle. There were many things I could relate to in protagonist Ryan Bingham, and
Kristien Kellens
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
The book starts off great but somewhere halfway, the story gets a bit too chaotic for my taste. Half of the time I lose track of where the protagonist is going or who he's meeting (or trying to meet).

I partly wanted to read this book because the summary on the cover made it sound like it was about the world of air travel and the people in it (I'm an aviation geek), but in fact it has nothing to do with air travel. Not really at least, the whole Airworld thing is just a backdrop for a character
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One of those rare instances where the movie is far better than the book.

The story has little depth, the characters are one-dimensional, and the author rambles constantly. Luckily, the quick bullet-style statements followed by a few sentences of nothingness is patterned so frequently that skimming just becomes part of the process.

When a book makes you a better skimmer, it should just be skipped all together. I've read worse books, and there is definitely something here to this story, but the comp
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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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