Seen on the Subway

   
Earlier this month I wrote a post called Seen on the Bus about books that I had seen in the course of my commute. It was based on a feature that Karen, of the now shuttered blog Bookish NYC, used to do on a weekly basis. Based on all the encouraging comments I got on that post, I thought I would give it a whirl.

Here are my ground rules:

  1. I probably will not post weekly. I am too busy reading on my commute to get a glimpse of what everyone is reading. As soon as I have at least three sightings worthy of a noting, I will post them.
  2. In general I won’t comment on anything to do with vampires, girl with the Steig Larsson books, or on blockbuster authors like Patterson or Koontz or other books too ubiquitous to be interesting.
  3. Even though I am calling this Seen on the Subway, I will post about books I see anywhere on my commute whether it is bus stop, bus, subway platform, or subway.

Since my Seen on the Bus post, I haven’t really seen anything that trips my trigger in the same way that the previous post did. In fact it was hard work coming up with three books over the past 12 days. Just hard to catch titles sometimes. I was probably trying too hard.

So here goes the first installment.


Cutting for Stone by Abraham Veghese
The Reader: Twenty-something blond woman with briefcase and Lulu Lemon bag travelling on the Red Line. I must admit I actually had to follow this reader for a while before I could catch a glimpse of the title. I finally managed to catch it on the escalator. (We were both making the same transfer to the Green Line, so it isn’t like I went out of my way. I am trying hard not to be a book reader-stalker here.)

The Book: Publishers Weekly summarizes: “Lauded for his sensitive memoir (My Own Country) about his time as a doctor in eastern Tennessee at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, Verghese turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations.”

The Verdict: It sounds interesting especially since I am feeling a bit more international these days. But I don’t think I will go out of my way to find this one.

All Other Nights by Dara Horn
The Reader: Rather nattily dressed man with round spectacles, tweed jacket, sweater, and a rep tie waiting for the Yellow Line at Gallery Place.

The Book: A novel about the U.S. Civil War from a Jewish perspective.

The Verdict: A fascinating topic (and one I had never before considered) but not one I am likely to want to read. I would however watch a documentary on the topic or see the film adaptation.

State of Fear by Michael Crichton
The Reader: Stocky guy with a Federal Highways Administration lanyard waiting for the Green Line.

The Book: This one appears to be a novel about how wrong the scientific community is about global warming.

The Verdict: I liked Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, and long before the disappointing films I liked Jurassic Park, but this one seems to be an attempt to discredit the notion of global warming. Certainly helps explain why he was a “science” confidante of George W. Bush. I have no interest whatsoever in reading this one.

13 thoughts on “Seen on the Subway

  1. Francine Gardner February 23, 2011 / 4:23 pm

    love catching up with your readings…Cutting for stone was actually the inspiration behind a furniture collection I just designed and produced. I have a deep affinity for Ethiopian culture and artifacts.

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  2. winstonsdad February 23, 2011 / 4:38 pm

    some great observations Thoams ,I love seeing what people are read ,all the best stu

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  3. Karenlibrarian February 23, 2011 / 4:51 pm

    I ALWAYS look at what other people are reading. I'm extremely nosy and will walk up to strangers and ask, especially on airplanes and in airports. I saw tons of people reading on the beach at Rehoboth a couple years ago and I wish I'd written down all the different books I saw, it was amazing. I wasn't blogging back then but I'll have to pay attention next time I travel somewhere.

    And I thought I was the only one in the blogosphere who hadn't read Cutting for Stone. It's on my TBR list but it's so darn long. I'll get to it someday.

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  4. Ti February 23, 2011 / 5:18 pm

    I pitched Cutting for Stone to my book club last year but it didn't make the cut. Someone else pitched it this year and it was chosen. I'll be reading it in July. It is supposed to be very good.

    I try to see what people are reading but I may not be very good at it because they always turn away from me. Enough for me not to be able to read the title.

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  5. ramblingfancy February 23, 2011 / 5:31 pm

    I'm really enjoying this Thomas! I too love to sneak a peak at what others are reading on the train or tube. Always carefully make sure my own book's title is fully visible *just in case*, but have never yet noticed anyone remotely interested. Still I'm always ready!

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  6. motheretc February 23, 2011 / 5:31 pm

    I laughed at the image of you book-stalking. Sometimes when I crane my neck or stare too hard at other people's books I feel like I am doing the same thing! I did love Dara Horn's book The World to Come and hadn't realized she had written another one. Thanks for the heads up!

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  7. Susan in TX February 23, 2011 / 7:13 pm

    I love these posts. I don't have the opportunity for these sorts of observations very often since I “work from home.” It doesn't help that more and more people are using e-readers. That said, I always take a book with me when I have to be in a waiting room (as do the kids) and people ALWAYS come up to us and ask us what we are reading – esp. the kids (usu. grandmothers looking for recommendations for grandkids). As I was thinking about that I realized that I've never asked anybody with an electronic gadget what they were reading. I guess I don't assume they are reading a book? Fun topic! Thanks for sharing with us.

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  8. Aarti February 23, 2011 / 8:29 pm

    Have you ever seen the blog Seen Reading? That's exactly what she does over there (though I don't think she she does any more) and it's really cool 🙂

    Good work!

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  9. Nan February 24, 2011 / 12:27 pm

    I LOVE the way you are presenting this: the reader, the book, the verdict. I'm just smiling with pleasure, Thomas. Tom's mother gave me the Stone book, but it's not for me. 'magical' is an adjective I run miles away from. I love your 'nattily dressed man.' And a perfect book for him – fiction but with a new and fascinating twist. Maybe we can judge people on what they wear and what they read. :< )

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  10. Carol February 25, 2011 / 12:23 am

    Glad you are doing this now Thomas. I love your very detailed descriptions of the readers, especially the “nattily dressed man with round spectacles…”. I'll be looking forward to this!

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  11. Biblibio February 25, 2011 / 5:40 am

    The funny thing is that I often try to glimpse what others are reading on buses, but I rarely pull out my own book on the bus myself. More often than not, I just listen to music and prefer to book-stalk everyone else.

    Regarding All Other Nights, I read a book about the Civil War from the Southern Jewish perspective as a child and I recall how even though the book itself wasn't all that good (or particularly memorable), I thought the subject matter was just so fascinating and original that I wanted to find other books like it. I never did. Looks like I now have the grown-up “sequel”.

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  12. Ash February 27, 2011 / 3:12 pm

    That last book sounds awful. I agree that the Civil War from a Jewish perspective sounds like a fascinating topic. I might read a book about that, definitely watch a movie.

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  13. Thomas at My Porch March 1, 2011 / 11:56 am

    Francine: Thanks.

    Stu: I have a bonanza for my next post.

    Karen: You go from San Antonio to Rehoboth? Or did you used to live around DC?

    Ti: So what was your pitch missing that made them pass on it?

    Donna: I must admit I tend to show off my covers as well.

    Mother: I know I am torn between enjoying it when someone asks me about my book and annoyed that they are interrupting my reading.

    Susan: E-readers really take the fun out of it.

    Aarti: I think I have seen that blog.

    Nan: I agonized quite a bit over how to present the information. I even contemplated starting a nother blog. I am averse to the word 'magical' myself.

    Carol: The natty reader stood out because he looked like he should have been on a rural train platform in England, not here in DC. Maybe he is attached to the embassy.

    Biblio: I never listen to music on public transport. I feel too disconnected.

    Ash: I'm waiting for the movie.

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