Reading While Riding

By way of today’s article in The New York Times  about reading on the subway, I’ve discovered The Subway Book Club, which started in July with one man’s idea of choosing what to read next by looking around the subway car at fellow riders’  book choices. So far those have included, among others, The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud, The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  

Here in Chicago, I take the El to and from work every day. That’s where I get most of my reading done–my New Yorker, any books I happen to be reviewing for Booklist, and any other reading I can manage to squeeze in. This week it’s been The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, which I started a few days ago on a long train ride back from Birmingham, Michigan.

images1Though riders on the subway, or the train, or the plane,  may all be reading something different, and don’t generally talk about it (in fact, one reason to read is to avoid talking, especially on a plane), I’ve occasionally gotten involved in book discussions on my commute. This tends to  happens during a delay, when privacy zones break down. Once, I had a conversation about Anthony Trollope with a  man sitting next to me. Since I’m usually the only person reading Trollope on the El, it was surprising to encounter another enthusiast. And sometimes I can’t resist asking the person next to me how they like what they’re reading  if it’s something I’ve enyoyed. Little book groups on the fly.

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About the Author:

Mary Ellen Quinn is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Librarianship (2014), the former editor of Reference Books Bulletin, and a long-time contributing writer to Booklist.

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