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?