Subway Reading

One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to take the train more often to work. Aside from being better for the planet and my health, I’m realizing that my reading life depends on it, too. Seriously, if I took the train to work twice a week, that’s two hours (and more, some days) of extra reading. Not surprising, I always feel better on days I take the train, probably because I’ve started my day with two healthy activities: exercise and reading. To encourage myself in this goal I’ve put together a Can’t Fail list of must-haves for subway reading. Of course, at the end of the day, all you really need is a book, but the other items will help to get me excited about waking up that little bit earlier on train days.


A book, preferably a paperback (it’s lighter and can be held in one hand when you’re forced to stand and read). I contend that subway reading is the perfect time to tackle that ‘serious’ book you’ve not been able to get into so far. There’s nothing like sitting (or standing) for 30-45 minutes with nothing to do and no signal on your phone to give you that extra push into a tricky novel. Plus, 30 minutes (heck, 10 minutes) of steady reading is usually all it takes to get drawn into a book. Sure it’s a good time to get sucked into a mystery, too, but I say, go literary. messengerbagA good bag: Not a necessity, but when you travel on the train enough times with inappropriate baggage (canvas market bag, I’m looking at you), you appreciate the ease that comes from having a well-made, perfectly proportioned, compartmentalized, and comfortable-for-carrying bag. I like a sturdy (but not heavy), squarish messenger bag or large satchel, myself. It’s the perfect size to fit a book, a notepad and an iPad, if you carry one, not to mention all the other bits and bobs.

featherbookmarkAgain, not a necessity, but a bookmark makes life a little easier when you’re reading right up until the second the door opens to your stop. Sure, you can jam a finger in there and pick up where you left off once you’ve found your next train platform. Or you can look like a pro with a gorgeous, handmade feather bookmark. Plus, since these little guys are often given as gifts, I love being reminded of the person who gave it to me whenever I open my book. It’s the small things.

herringbone_papaya_grandeA scarf for nestling down into your reading. Maybe this is just a female thing, but I love to create a nest when I read. Nests are not all that socially acceptable in public. However, a soft colorful scarf makes a great simulation of the reading nest. Not to mention, a colorful scarf is an essential piece of anybody’s walking-to-work uniform. I love these hand-printed scarfs from the Block Shop, no less because they support an entire community in India who make them.

helicopteralarmAn effective alarm clock. This Flying Alarm Clock sounds horrible, but it would certainly do the trick. When the alarm goes off, the helicopter flies off into part of your room. The off switch is on the helicopter, so you have to get up and find the helicopter wherever it’s crashed and turn it off.

On that note, I’m off to catch a train. What is your relationship with train/bus/taxi reading? How do you incorporate reading into your daily life? I’d love to hear any of your tips!


  1. I noticed you mentioned bookmarks and an iPad. Do you use the iPad as an e-reader as well as read books? I ask because I got one for Christmas and I’m having a hard time using it to read. I can’t imagine not having a book with me. Do you find e-reading easier on the train/bus/taxi?

    • Erin said:

      Hi there! Thanks for commenting. Like you, I was gifted an iPad last Christmas and I have yet to read a book on it. I’ve talked about this dilema a few times on the blog before, but what I’ve basically decided is I read books when I don’t want to look at a computer screen anymore. I think of my iPad as a small computer: it’s great for surfing the web, checking email, doing blog stuff, tweeting (I don’t have a Smart phone!), but reading? No. Not my gig. When I want to read, I read a book. They’re two very different tools in my mind and I’m not all that interested in integrating them.
      I should add, another reason I don’t read from or use my iPad on the train is because I live in the kind of city where iPad’s get snatched on public transport. :P

      • Hmm…interesting. I have a smart phone so I don’t know what I’ll end up doing with the iPad. Lol! Right now I’m with you and still reading books.

  2. Re3ecca said:

    It definitely seems like to one of the advantages of public transport. I used to have to spend to hours each way on busses to get to school so I could listen to about 4 albums a day. I always found it harder to read there though because I liked gazing out the window at the countryside. Less of an issue on a subway I guess! Sounds like a good resolution.

    • Re3ecca said:


  3. saramalisa said:

    I borrowed a book on CD from the library last month. I have a long commute to work every day so I thought I could take advantage of my drive by getting into a good book. I listened to Private Life by Jane Smiley. The book was incredibly mundane and I didn’t connect to the main character at all. But the lovely voice of the woman reading the book really helped to calm my road rage. :)

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