Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading horse books on the subway

I get two hours of reading time to myself per day, which is more than most parents with a full-time job and a writing life can boast of, and I owe it all to the subway. I know I’m lucky, but then again, that’s also one of the reasons I live in New York City—no matter where I live, I have to commute, and being able to read a book and let someone else do the driving every day makes a heck of a lot more sense than my driving myself everywhere! 

I love peeking at what other people are reading, but it's getting harder and harder to do. E-readers are insidiously making my book-peeping more difficult, although I’ve been known to read them from over other people’s shoulders on crowded trains. (OMG I totally read a page out of Fifty Shades of Grey the other day and I still feel dirty. On the other hand I got to read a page out of High Fidelity the other day that I just loved: "She loved me. She loved ME. SHE LOVED ME.")

E-readers are making it more difficult to get a grasp of the amazing cross-section of people and the books they choose to bring with them on their commutes, but there are still a lot of titles being clutched in one hand (or two, if you’re one of the other hardy folks like myself who dragged a hard-cover of A Dance With Dragons around for a week) and so book-peeping remains a viable hobby.

This is totally what I look like on the train. Photo: wvs/flickr
Sometimes you really can match a person up with the book they’re reading. Guy with skinny jeans and relevant indie band t-shirt, how is that David Foster Wallace working out for you? Chick with the long bangs and the oversized vintage glasses, I like your glasses and I like your Brooklyn Bridge totebag and I loved A Visit From the Goon Squad, so I know you’re going to love it, too. 

And you can usually match me up, too. I’m the girl with the thick Bavarian braid, dressed in jeans, paddock boots, and a Saratoga ball-cap, reading a horse book.

I’ve read so many great horse books on the subway lately. I was prepping a reading list for Dappled Grey and the subway was my primary research site. The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. A Year at the Races by Jane Smiley. Falling for Eli by Nancy Shulins. I’m a little book-proud over them. I know my fellow book-peepers (they’re all around us, you know!) are glancing over and seeing the fabulous covers: the galloping cowgirl silhouette on the first, the bright-eyed racehorse on the second, the adorable begging chestnut on the third. 

And maybe it gives me a little validity, too, reading a horse book on the subway on the way home from work, wearing my dusty Ariats and my lime-smudged jeans and smelling of Bigeloil. I feel like I’m holding up my horse book like a sign: “I swear I’m not a dirty smelly person all the time; it’s just for work.” 

But let’s admit it, my ultimate dream is to end up on Underground New York Public Library, the fabulous Tumblr that was written up recently in the Wall Street Journal, where a book-peeping photographer goes to extremes profiling the reading habits of the subway-commuting public. Just imagine, a horsey girl in horsey clothes reading a horsey book on the subway! I wonder which illustrious equestrian author I shall make famous with this achievement?

Maybe I should just always read a copy of my book on the train, come to think of it.

Which book would you most like to be photographed reading? Relevant literary buzz book, horse book, or would you hide your dirty secrets on your E-Reader?


Dreaming said...

I'm not sure what book would match me - I'll have to think about that for a bit. But I do want to share the time I took a train into NYC (From Poughkeepsie) and reread the same line for close to 30 minutes!
I was taking a midday train. I was the only person on the car. Somewhere around Ossining a group of thugs got on the train. They were noisy and obnoxious. They were using foul language. I felt threatened. I tried so hard to forget them, but ended up just reading and rereading the same line. I shudder, even now, just remembering the trip!

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Two words (or maybe one word?):


Life just isn't bearable without them. Not on mass transit, anyway.

Linda Benson said...

I can't imagine riding mass transit. But I do relish uninterrupted reading time. As for me, I'd probably take my Nook, because not only would I have so many different books at my disposal, but I'd look ultra-cool. ;-)

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Hah! Lin, PEOPLE DRIVE ME AROUND. For a hundred bucks a month! Imagine that!

A Nook would totally not set you apart here, I'm afraid ;)

Christine said...

Think I'd go for my childhood favourite - The Silver Brumby :)
I'm with you on taking advantage of transit time on a train - used to love that when I taught in the city!
It'd be the latest book, or a chance to catch up on (equine) university texts :D

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

I have NEVER READ The Silver Brumby!! Should I? Tell me about it!

Alison said...

Where are you riding to in the subway wearing your paddock boots? For some reason, I thought you weren't able to ride anymore. I do recall a post about Central Park.

You need to read CHOSEN BY A HORSE and the one after it that's even better (can't remember the author's name or the title to the second one. Yeah, the mind is the first thing to go.)

Laura Crum said...

Maybe I should read one of my own books--good publicity, don't you think? I'd probably choose Slickrock--its maybe my favorite. Or Barnstorming, the latest one, cause its about the themes I'm dwelling on now. Lots of horses in both.

Seriously, the book I read most recently, and would have carried on the subway if I was riding it, is called "Lets Take the Long Way Home" by Gail Caldwell (I think). Its a memoir, and features not horses, but dogs. Very well written, very moving.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

@Alison: I work with horses again! It's so wonderful.

@Laura: Interesting! Dog books and I usually don't get along.. mostly because I don't have a dog right now and I WANT ONE. Must get on that...