Well: People can no longer call the Emirates a “non-producing, non-creative” nation. (Utterly unfriendly to workers, slave-driving. You can still say that.)

But let’s not get me down! When it comes to promoting literature, they’ve come up with some great new ideas: a poetry TV channel and a televised poetry-talent contest, a “book of excerpts” of the Arabic Booker shortlistees free to certain newspaper subscribers, and now: free novels with your flight.

Emirates Airlines apparently marked World Book Day by “taking passengers on a literary journey.” (Shame on me, I entirely forgot about World Book Day.)

According to the Dubai Chronicle:

Starting with the one am flight to Bahrain, they distributed books on more than 150 aircraft, until the last flight to depart Dubai on World Book Day – a Boeing 777 to Bangkok at 11pm.

Numerous titles, by leading Arab and non-Arab authors, were also distributed Emirates airlines lounges around the world. But the project doesn’t stop there:

In addition, each book has an individual serial number and readers are encouraged to log on to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature website – emirateslitfest.com/literaryjourney – to share their views on the initiative, as well as comments on the novel they read.

Now, a trip over to the site isn’t nearly as exciting as it could be: Why can’t I see the reviews and comments of other fliers? Why can’t we discuss these books with one another? Why should I simply tell the airline what I thought of a book? Still, an interesting enterprise.

Even more interesting if we could somehow create a mass book-trading system among fliers: How about I bring a few books and leave them on the seat, and someone on the next flight can pick them up? Or they could be distributed with the newspapers?

Perhaps the airport booksellers wouldn’t like it.

The selected titles:

  • The Rachel Papers – Martin Amis
  • I See You Everywhere – Julia Glass
  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières
  • The Other Hand – Chris Cleave
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Blindsighted – Karin Slaughter
  • My Secret Diary – Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Roman Mysteries (The Thieves of
    Ostia) – Caroline Lawrence
  • Wolf Brother – Michelle Paver
  • Attachment – Isabel Fonseca
  • Slumdog Millionaire – Vikas Swarup
  • Ask Alice – D.J. Taylor
  • A Simple Act of Violence – R.J. Ellory
  • The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
  • Labyrinth – Kate Mosse
  • Centipede’s 100 Shoes – Tony Ross
  • In Search of Fatima – Ghada Karmi
  • Sunset Oasis – Bahaa Taher
  • The Sand Fish – Maha Gargash