Most people would agree that public transportation, while convenient (ostensibly), is not always the most pleasant of experiences. Trains are late, buses break down, there’s traffic, people rushing and smushed together all at once. My favorite way to start the morning, hard as it is to believe, is not with my head practically cradled in a large sweaty man’s armpit while trying to remain upright with my hand on the ceiling because I’m not close enough to any poles to hold on to.
These are, of course, the worst case scenarios, and there are some nice things about commutes, too. As I was bragging about this morning, my commute actually isn’t very long and half of it is on bicycle, but for many, it’s a good chunk of time spent sitting on a bus or subway car. Could be endless boredom, or it could be the perfect time to get some reading in.
I came across this lovely little blog the other night, Underground New York Public Library, and promptly spent an hour or so combing through the photos and comments, because that’s what happens when the internet, people watching, and books get combined. Comprised almost entirely of photos of people reading on the subway or waiting for the train to arrive, the pictures are captioned only with the title and author of the book, perhaps a description of any interaction the photographer had with the reader.
The community of traveling readers is all-encompassing. People from all walks of life are riding together, reading books and it’s so fun to look through the photos and see the various types of people reading the same books I’ve read or want to read. Seeing the titles underneath each photo really shows how much diversity there can be in the audience for a particular book, highlighting my own preconceptions about both books and people.
Sometimes the reader and their book seem so incongruous to my first impressions, like the no-nonsense security guard engrossed in a recent Anna Quindlen, and others are delightfully appropriate—like the quintessential businessman in a sharp suit, accent tie and stately umbrella absorbed in Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.
We’re reminded again and again, yet we all still seem to forget how books can and do bring us together. Everyone who has read the same book, or who has even read a book, is part of something. No one comes away with an identical mindset to another after reading a piece of text, but we can all share in the camaraderie that comes with the experience.
So read what you want to read—it doesn’t matter if it’s “good literature” or the books you’re “supposed” to be reading. Don’t stress about your commute, either. Just bring a book and join the thousands of people doing the same.